Göranson, Birgitta

Birgitta Göranson was born in Lund in 1947. Both parents were first-generation academics and educators. After studying natural sciences in Kristianstad, she went on to study at Lund University, where she obtained a bachelor's degree in 1969 in literary studies and sociology. The next few years were marked by freelance cultural work and international justice issues. During travels on the continent, Göranson came into contact with the Emmaus Movement's efforts at local organisation and then worked on literacy and popular organisation in Colombia from 1970 to 1972. This work was followed by a couple of books on Latin American development issues. Göranson was employed as a teacher of international studies and later also as an education director at the Development Education Board (Sandöskolan) outside of Kramfors 1972-1988. It was during the preparation of the first curricula at Sandöskolan that she began working with Ivo Iliste.

In 1975 they published a book each: Ivo's poetry collection Lergods, Birgitta's diary-based Ett kvarter i Bogotá. In 1977-1980 they worked on local environmental work and peasant co-operation in South India for a local Emmaus organisation. At the same time, they completed their first joint translation assignment: a collection of Estonian Short Stories, published in Tallinn in 1981, containing works by classic authors such as Eduard Vilde and Friedebert Tuglas. They now settled in the countryside just outside Lund, although Iliste's main professional base was in Stockholm.

The political situation in the Baltic States created new opportunities for translations from Estonian into Swedish from the early 1980s. From 1981 to 2002, the Iliste-Göranson couple published 18 titles, three of which were reprinted, and translated some twenty journal issues. They were particularly active during the years when Iliste worked at the Baltic Institute in Stockholm. The pair devoted themselves mainly to the literature of contemporary writers who had emerged during the Soviet era, which was facilitated by the gradual opening of borders, enabling Estonian writers in exile to establish contacts with their colleagues and compatriots on the other side of the Baltic. At the same time, Göranson wrote a number of works on development issues.

The couple's most important translation work was undoubtedly to make Jaan Kross's prose available to Swedish readers. First, Iliste would familiarize himself with the work linguistically and historically and deliver a rough translation, lined with question marks and comments. Göranson would then go through and rewrite the manuscript, fine-tuning the nuances, after which the translators would jointly compare the translation sentence by sentence with the original. Another writer the couple worked on was Jaan Kaplinski, of whom they translated two collections of poetry, a correspondence (with Johannes Salminen) and an art book in 1982-1990. The translations by Kaplinski - one of Estonia's most notable contemporary writers and himself a translator of works such as Tomas Tranströmer into Estonian - constitute a legacy of great importance. In addition to these authors, Iliste and Göranson translated two collections of poetry by Viivi Luik and a series of plays by Merle Karusoo and Paul-Erik Rummo, among others. Poems by Ilmar Laaban, Andres Ehin, Enn Vetemaa and others have been published in journals such as Baltic Review or performed at poetry readings. Their last translation was the collection of poems Nådatid (2001) by Doris Kareva.

Filip Laurits