Thursday 14 July 2016

Villette and The Professor in the Nordic countries

After the 1853-4 Danish Villette there has only been one more translation of Villette. It was published in 1976 by Hernov, in cooperation with the Nyt Dansk Litteraturselskab (552 pp.), and translated by Luise Pihl, who also did The Professor, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, as well as several Jane Austen books. In 1994 it was released as an audiobook, on cassette tapes. Earlier, in 1986, a Danish Villette was also published as an audiobook on cassette tapes, but it’s not entirely clear if this is the Pihl translation too. It’s very likely though.

Cover of the 1976 Danish Villette

The Professor

Charlotte’s posthumously published first novel was quickly translated in Danish. Laereren. En Fortaelling was published in the same year, 1857 (Kopenhagen; 360 pp.). The name of the translator is not given. The title page gives Fr. Waldike as the publisher. It published books until at least 1868.
On the title page it also says ‘Expeditionen af Husbibliotheket’, Expedition of house library, in translation. Two more books are known with this text, both from 1857 too (translations from Thackeray and Hawthorne).

Title page of the 1857 The professor
(with thanks to Ole Henrik Sørensen of the
Denmark Royal Library)

The second translation was published in 1975, again by Hernov, and also done by Luise Pihl (272 pp.), as Professoren.

Cover of the 1975 The Professor (picture from the
Paperback castles blog)
It is remarkable that Denmark hasn’t had new translations of both books since then. Nor seem there to have been reprints of the Pihl translations.

The first Danish translation of Jane Eyre was published in 1850, the first Danish Shirley in 1850-1. Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall had their first translation in 1851, while it took until 1919 before the first Wuthering Heights’ translation was published.


There are two languages in Norway, Bokmål and Landsmål or Nynorsk. For about a century they have been trying to integrate the two into one official language but that is still an ongoing process. Until about a century ago they read their literature in Danish, which helps to explain why it took rather long before translations were published, in comparison with other West-European countries.

There has been one Norwegian translation, in Bokmål (‘book language’), by Ragnfrid Stokke (1944-). She also did Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and other literary works from English, Russian, Danish and Swedish. This Villette was published by Pax in 2000 (528 pp.).

Cover of the 2000 Norwegian Villette

The first Norwegian Jane Eyre was published in 1902, but it took until 1999 for a complete translation, also by Ragnfrid Stokke. The first Wuthering Heights was published in 1945, and this year, 2016, the first The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was published. The other Brontë novels have not yet been translated.



The first and only Swedish translation was published in 2015 by Modernista from Stockholm (592 pp.). It was translated by Anna-Karin Malmström Ehrling and Per Ove Ehrling. It also appeared as an audiobook in that year.

Cover of the 2015 Swedish Villette
(Photo by Nadia Moro)

The Professor

The first Swedish translation was published in 1857 (it appears to have been printed in 1858 though), as Professoren, in  Linköping. The book doesn’t mention the name of the publisher.

The second translation will be published in August of this year, also by Modernista, as Professorn (256 pp.). This translation is also done by Anna-Karin Malmström Ehrling and Per Ove Ehrling, who also translated Ann Dinsdale’s The world of the Brontës. It has a preface written by Thomas Sjösvärd, a literary critic who has published on many authors. The book has a cover which is similar to their Villette, and to a Swedish Jane Eyre.

Cover of the 2016 Swedish The Professor
(Photo by Nadia Moro)

Jane Eyre was first published in Swedish in 1850, Wuthering Heights in 1927, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in 2004, and Agnes Grey in 2009. Shirley has not yet been translated. Recently, in May, a translation of Charlotte’s last unfinished work was published (Emma. Ett fragment).



There has only been one Finnish translation of Villette, by Tyyni Haapanen-Tallgren (1892-1991). She was a writer, literary scholar and translator (from several languges). She also translated Jane Eyre (1915), which was the first Finnish translation of that novel. (For more about her see this article).

Photograph of Tyyni Haapanen-Tallgren

Her Villette translation was first published in 1921, and had its sixth and (as yet) last reprint, remarkably, in 2015. The title of the work is Syrjästäkatsojan tarina, which translates as ‘The helpless viewer. A story.’

The first six editions were published by WSOY (Werner Söderström osakeyhtiö), from Helsinki. The first two are both from 1921 (764 pp.).

The cover of the 1921 Finnish Villette

There seem to be two varying colours of the hard cover of the 1921 reprint.

Cover of the second 1921 Finnish Villette

Cover of the second 1921 Finnish Villette

The third, fourth and fifth editons were published in 1952, 1953 and 1959 respectively, with identical covers. Like the sixth edition they have 497 pages.

Cover of the 1952 Finnish Villette

The sixth and last WSOY edition was published in 1966, this time with a cover illustration.

Cover of the 1966 Finnish Villette

The last reprint, a 2015 paperback, was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (356 pp.).

Cover of the 2015 Finnish Villette

The Professor
In 2009 Professori was published by Tammi (331 pp.), a translation by Inkeri Koskinen.

Cover of the 2009 Finnish The Professor

A new Finnish The Professor was published in the summer of 2016. It’s a second edition of the translation of Inkeri Koskinen, again published by Tammi. It has the same amount of pages (331), but a different, fairly dull, cover.

Cover of the 2016 Finnish
The Professor

The other Brontë novels
The first translation of Charlotte’s Shirley was published in 1968. Emily's Wuthering Heights first appeared in 1927 in translation, while Anne’s novels were both first published in 1971 in Finnish.

An Icelandic Jane Eyre was first published in 1948. The translation of Wuthering Heights was first published in 1951. The other novels have not been translated in Icelandic.

Eric Ruijssenaars

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