Established facts, by Kolbein Falkeid

Translation

Established facts

To lie tight up against a heart
but with the thin summer curtain of skin between
is to be shut out.

To search around in the eyes
is to hear the echo from the other side of an
insurmountable loneliness.

To love
is to lay the foundation
for a loss.

Original

Kjensgjerninger

Å ligge tett inntil et hjerte
men med den tynne sommergardinen av hud mellom
er å være utestengt.

Å lete innover øyne
er å høre ekkoet fra den andre siden av en
uoverstigelig ensomhet.

Å bli glad i
er å legge grunnsteinen
til et savn.

Notes

  1. The term "kjensgjerning" does not have an exact equivalent in English, but "established fact" is certainly closer, I feel, than, say, "fact" alone. The original is syntatically a compound coming from "kjenne" (roughly "to know" in this context) and "gjerning" (something like a hybrid of "deed" and "task"), but how its present precise semantic sense arose from the combination of these two words is rather subtle, perhaps deriving from something akin to a "truth arrived at through practise of a certain line of work".

  2. The use of the definite in the translation of "den tynne sommergardinen" to "the thin summer curtain", which is the most literal one, is perhaps slightly unusual here in English, but I feel nonetheless that it works better poetically, and is closer to the original in feel, than any other rendering.

  3. There is a choice to be made as to whether to translate "mellom" to "between" or to "in between"; Norwegian does have "innimellom", which would translate more directly to "in between", but its usage is more restricted than in English, and it is sometimes natural to translate "mellom" too to "in between". Both would I think work here in English, but I have gone for simply "between" for its greater abruptness, which I feel leads to the line being closer to the original in poetic feel.

  4. The preposition "innover" is tricky to render into English: it has more of a sense of movement, of inward exploration, than "in" or "into" conveys. I have chosen the slightly looser "around in" to express this aspect of "innover" to a greater degree, and because the rhythm of the line then becomes closer to the original, as does, I feel, its poetic feel.

  5. In Norwegian, there are two expressions to express love: "å bli glad i" and "å elske". The latter is arguably strictly closer to "to love", but is strong and much less frequently used; "å bli glad i" would literally perhaps be closer to, say, "to be fond of", but is widely used in situations (including of romantic love) where "to love" would typically be used in English, as I feel is appropriate here.

  6. The word "grunnsteinen" is literally "the foundation stone" or, slightly less literally, "the corner stone", but either of these translations would, I feel, be awkward here; the omission of "stone" seems the best way to stay as close as possible to the original in sense whilst preserving its naturality of expression.

Sources

The poem is originally from «Redningsforsøk» ("Rescue attempt") from 1983, which can be viewed at the Norwegian National Library's site: «Kjensgjerninger» is on page 33 of the original text (34 of the online text).

Translated on the 19th of September 2022.

Last updated: 03:06 (GMT+2), 19th September 2022