Translators’ voices in Norwegian retranslations of Bob Dylan’s songs

Annjo K. Greenall
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

This paper tackles several questions relating to the issue of the translator’s voice in retranslation: how do others’ voices (including other (re)translations) interact with the translator’s voice in the production of a translation? How does the intersubjectively constituted voice of the translator manifest itself in paratexts, in the translated text and, in the case of singer-translators, in the translator’s physical, performing voice? The case discussed is that of Bob Dylan in (re)translation into Norwegian, and it is concluded that different singer-translators involve others in the process in various ways and to varying degrees; that there are great subjective differences in how and to what extent they take other (re)translations of Dylan into account; and that they choose different strategies for displaying their voices in paratexts, texts and performances, differences that can be explained by reference to the singer-translator’s role and status on the cultural scene.

Table of contents

In Norwegian there exists a synonym for translation, gjendiktning, which is not easily translatable into English. The most literal option is ‘re-poetization,’ broadly understood as ‘re-creation.’ The term is mostly used for the translation of poetry and songs. In these genres, linguistic form (e.g., rhyme and metre) is crucial for the identity and overall meaning of the text, and translators therefore often strive to preserve these aspects. The translation may thus drastically depart from the original on the semantic level. And in song translation, the necessity of fitting the lyrics to pre-existing music (Low 2005) frequently heightens this effect. The term gjendiktning captures these realities, and its use is possibly a way for translators and audiences alike to positively acknowledge the (co-)authorship and inevitable presence of the translator’s voice in these genres.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.


Primary sources / discography

Aadland, Tom Roger
2009Blod på spora [Blood on the tracks]. Embacle EMB 147759 1, compact disc.Google Scholar
Aleksandersen, Åge with his band and Taraf de Haidouks
1997Fredløs. Dylan på norsk [Fredløs: Dylan in Norwegian]. Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD183, compact disc.Google Scholar
Dylan, Bob
1975Blood on the Tracks. Columbia 32235, 33 1/3 rpm.Google Scholar
Vold, Jan Erik and Kåre Virud, with Telemark Blueslag
2009Stein. Regn [Stone. Rain]. Pan PACD 032, compact disc. Originally released in 1981 as PolyGram 6327 053, 33 1/3 rpm.Google Scholar
[ p. 56 ]

Other references

Bakhtin, Mikhail M
1981The Dialogic Imagination. Edited by Michael Holquist. Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
Barker, Hugh, and Yuval Taylor
2007Faking it: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
Barnstone, Willis
1993The Poetics of Translation. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Bassnett, Susan, and Peter Bush
eds. 2006The Translator as Writer. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
Bosseaux, Charlotte
2011 “The Translation of Song.” In The Oxford Handbook of Translation Studies, ed. by Kirsten Malmkjær, and Kevin Windle, 183–197. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Dastjerdi, Hossein Vahid, and Amene Mohammadi
2013 “Revisiting ‘Retranslation Hypothesis’: A Comparative Analysis of Stylistic Features in the Persian Retranslations of Pride and Prejudice .” Open Journal of Modern Linguistics 3: 174–181. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Førland, Tor Egil
1998Club 7. Oslo: Pax.Google Scholar
Greenall, Annjo Klungervik
2014 “Scandinavian Popular Song Translation in the Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-first Centuries and their Skopoi .” In True North: Literary Translation in the Nordic Countries, ed. by B.J. Epstein, 191–209. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.Google Scholar
Gullin, Christina
1998Översättarens röst: en studie i den skönlitteräre översättarens roll med utgångspunkt i översättningar av Else Lundgren och Caj Lundgren [The translator’s voice: A study of the role of the literary translator, taking as a point of departure the translations of Else Lundgren and Caj Lundgren]. Lund: Lund University Press.Google Scholar
Holquist, Michael
1990Dialogism: Bakhtin and His World. London: Routledge. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Kaindl, Klaus
2005 “The Plurisemiotics of Pop Song Translation: Words, Music, Voice and Image.” In Song and Significance: Virtues and Vices of Vocal Translation, ed. by Dinda L. Gorlée, 235–262. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
Loffredo, Eugenia, and Manuela Perteghella
2006a “Introduction.” In Loffredo and Perteghella 2006b, 1–16.
eds. 2006bTranslation and Creativity: Perspectives on Creative Writing and Translation Studies. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
Low, Peter
2005 “The Pentathlon Approach to Translating Songs.” In Song and Significance: Virtues and Vices of Vocal Translation, ed. by Dinda L. Gorlée, 185–212. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
McMichael, Polly
2008 “Translation, Authorship and Authenticity in Soviet Rock Songwriting.” The Translator 14 (2): 201–228. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Moore, Allan
2002 “Authenticity as Authentication.” Popular Music 21 (2): 209–223.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Munday, Jeremy
2012Evaluation in Translation: Critical Points in Translator Decision-making. London: Routledge. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Negus, Keith
1996Popular Music Theory: An Introduction. Cambridge: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Paloposki, Outi, and Kaisa Koskinen
2004 “A Thousand and One Translations: Revisiting Retranslation.” In Claims, Changes and Challenges in Translation Studies, ed. by Gyde Hansen, Kirsten Malmkjær, and Daniel Gile, 27–38. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Pym, Anthony
1998Method in Translation History. Manchester: St. Jerome.Google Scholar
[ p. 57 ]
2005 “The Translator as Author: Two Quixotes.” Translation and Literature 14 (1): 71–81. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Robinson, Douglas
1991The Translator’s Turn. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Smith-Sivertsen, Henrik
2008Kylling med soft ice og pølser. Populærmusikalske versioneringspraksisser i forbindelse med danske versioner af udenlandske sange i perioden 1945–2007 [Chicken with ice cream and sausages: Versioning practices in popular music with a focus on Danish versions of foreign songs in the period between 1945-2007]. PhD diss. University of Copenhagen.
Tahir Gürçağlar, Şehnaz
2009 “Retranslation.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, ed. by Mona Baker, and Gabriela Saldanha, 232–235. 2nd ed. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
Vangsnes, Øystein A
2013Språkleg toleranse i Noreg-Norge, for faen! Er vi nordmenn eigentleg så språktolerante som vi likar å tru? [Language tolerance in Norway, dammit! Are we Norwegians really as linguistically tolerant as we like to think?] Oslo: Samlaget.Google Scholar
Venuti, Lawrence
2004 “Retranslations: The Creation of Value.” Bucknell Review 47 (1): 1–7.Google Scholar
Vold, Jan Erik
1977Damer i regn [Women in rain]. Oslo: Den norske bokklubben.Google Scholar