Collinder, Björn

Collinder, Björn Image 1

Björn Collinder © Upplandsmuseet

Björn (Torbjörn) Collinder (1894-1983), was a Swedish professor of Finno-Ugric languages at Uppsala university and one of the world’s leading experts in Uralic languages. Born in Sundsvall, Collinder lived most of life in Uppsala, but for periods also worked in USA, in Helsinki, Canberra and Vienna. Collinder was publicly well known in Sweden for his linguistic purism and as an advocator of replacing English loanwords with older or dialectical Swedish words.

Collinder is remembered for his popular translations of Kalevala (1948) and Beowulf (1954). He edited and refined both translations continuously, with the fourth and last version of Kalavala being printed in 1970. Later he also translated Old Norse works as the Poetic Edda, Shakespeare and classic Greek drama. Collinders style as translator was influenced by his interest for meter and form, but also by a romantic and archaic perception of the older history of the North, which gave his translations a touch of Old Norse literature regardless the origin of the work. His dramatic translations were mostly useless for the theatres, but his Kalevala and his Beowulf are still published.

For his translations Björn Collinder twice (1950, 1955) received the Letterstedtska Award (Letterstedtska priset). His translations were as well rewarded with the Translation Prize of the Swedish Academy (Svenska Akademiens översättarpris) 1971 and Elsa Thulins Translation Prize (Elsa Thulins översättarpris) 1977.