Half a year has passed since the first proposals for texts to be included in the Baltic Sea Library were delivered. Here is a list of the texts and a brief survey of how far we have come.

Danish Literature:

1.      H. C. Andersen, “Den lille havfru”. Fairy Tale (The Little Mermaid, 1837)

2.      Karen Blixen, “Vinter-Eventyr” (1942)

3.      Martin Andersen Nexø, Tale from Bornholm

Estonian Literature:

   1. Friedebert Tuglas, “Noorusmälestused” (Memoirs of Youth: A chapter about Å land, 1940)
   2. Aino Pervik, “Kunksmoor. Kunksmoor ja kapten Trumm” (Old Mother Kunks: A chapter about an oil disaster on sea, 1973)
   3. Jüri Tuulik, “Tellikaatne”. Short story (“A Delicate Matter”), from the collection of short stories and recipes “Räim, pisike kena kala” (Baltic Herring, a Nice Little Fish, 2008)

Finnish Literature:

1. Aino Kallas, “Lasnamäen valkea laiva”. Short story (from the collection “Lähtevien laivojen kaupunki”, 1913)

2. Pentti Saarikoski, Helsinki-poems (from the collection “Kuljen missä kuljen”, 1965)

3. Volter Kilpi, “Alastalon salissa”. Novel (Chapter XIII: Albatrossi, 1933)

German Literature:

1. Thomas Mann, „Buddenbrooks. Verfall einer Familie“. Novel (Chapters 8- 9, 1901)

2. Simon Dach, 3 selected poems (arias)

2a Treue Lieb’ ist jederzeit / zu gehorsamen bereit ;

Anke von Tharau (in Lower German and translation by Herder), 1642

2b Gesang… (auf Opitz), Der Mensch hat nichts so eigen, 1640

2c Perstet amicitiae semper venerabile Faedus! 1640

3. Theodor Fontane, „Effi Briest“. Novel (Chapters placed in Kessin on the Baltic Sea, 1895)

Icelandic Literature:

   1. Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar (in: Heimskringla, around 1230)
   2. Egils saga Skallagrímssonar (written between early 13th century and 1400. Chapter 46, the “Baltic” chapter)
   3. Bragi Ólafsson, “Sendiherrann”. Novel (The Ambassador, 2006. Chapter about the Druskininkai Festival in Lithuania)

Latvian literature

   1. Livonijas Indriķa hronika (Chronicle of Henry of Livonia, Heinrici Cronicon Lyvoniae), chronicle/poem, around 1227. The opening poem and selected paragraphs mentioning territories of Estonia, Lithuania, Germany, Sweden, Russia).
   2. Alberts Bels, Cilvēki laivās (Men in boats), novel, 1987, selected chapters.
   3. Roalds Dobrovenskis, Magnus, dāņu princis (Magnus, prince of Denmark) novel, 2004, selected chapters.

Lithuanian Literarure:

   1. Kristijonas Donelaitis, „Pavasario linksmybės“ (Kristijonas Donelaitis, „Funs of Spring“, a fragment from the poem „The Seasons“, 1765–1775, publ. 1818 in German)
   2. Sigitas Geda, „Angelas krintantis Palangoj“. Poem (“Angel Falling in Palanga“, 1984)
   3. Sigitas Geda, „Gyvenimas su loke“. Poem (“A Life With The Bear”)

Norwegian Literature:

1.    Knut Hamsun,” Landstrykere” (The Wayfarers), novel, 1927 (Chapter where  the main character, August, is telling an adventurous story about
his days as a sailor and a shipwreck in the Baltic)

2.       Dag Solstad, “Ellevte roman, bok atten”. (“Eleventh novel, book eighteen“), novel, 1992, chapter about Vilnius, where the main character, Bjorn Hansen, pays a Lithuanian surgeon 10 000 dollars to define him as paralysed, which he is not, and place him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life

3.       Two travelogues:

3a       Knut Hamsun, “I Æventyrland” (In Wonderland). Travel letters (three opening pages of the first chapter from St. Petersburg) 1903

3b        Tor Eystein Øverås, “ Til – en litterær reise” (Towards – a Literary Journey), 2005, the eight opening pages, outlining the project of making a baltic journey, and why he wants to make it

Polish Literature:

   1. Stefan Chwin, “Hanemann“. Novel (“Trzciny”, chapter about the shooting of Danzig by the Red Army, 1995)
   2. Pawel Huelle, “Winniczki, kałuże, deszcz“. Short story (“Snails, puddles, rain”, from the collection of short stories about Gdansk, 1996)
   3. Jarosław Iwaskiewicz, “Petersburg”, essay, Warsaw, 1976

Russian Literature:

   1. Alexander Pushkin, “The Bronze Horseman”. Poem («Медный всадник», pronounced as [´Medniy ´Vsadnik]). 1834
   2. Mikhail Lermontov, “The Sail”. Poem («Парус», pronounced as [´Pa:rus]). 1832
   3. Anna Akhmatova, 6 selected poems (1940 to 1964): Ptitsy smerti v zenite stojat… (The birds of death are at the zenith…), S Novym godom! S novym gorem! (Happy New Year! Welcome new grief!), Primorsky park Pobedy (Primorsky Victory Park), Primorsky sonet (Sea shore sonnet), Zapad klevetal i sam zhe veril…(The West cast asperses and held them true…), V Vyborge (In Vyborg)

Swedish Literature:

1.      Tomas Tranströmer, “Östersjöar” Poems (“Baltics”, 1974).

2.      Selma Lagerlöf, “Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige“ (Chapter 14 Two towns: Vineta and Visby, 1906)

3.      Tove Jansson, “Sommarboken” (Chapter “Sophias storm”, 1972)

Let me begin by saying that the technical difficulties involved in launching the website have proved greater than expected, especially the digitising itself, purchasing the rights to publish these texts if they are still under copyright law and the cooperation with the technicians working in the database, who, it seems, speak a language that is very much their own.

Nevertheless, we have made some progress in the case of Finnish, German and Russian texts and have received news that most of the Norwegian texts are on their way. As far as Swedish literature is concerned, we have received permission to publish Tomas Tranströmers “Baltics” and are working on the commentaries. We are also trying to get hold of the translations into other languages―since this is a text that has actually already been translated into most of our languages (although not into Russian). It is also for this reason that we decided to use a line from this poem to introduce our website.

baltic sea libraryBecause Selma Lagerlöf died in 1940, we will not be allowed to publish her “Two towns” before January 1, 2011. In the case of Tove Jansson, we have been denied the right to use her chapter on the website by her estate. The same applies to Thomas Mann’s “Buddenbrooks”, because Fischer Verlag of Frankfurt retains the rights and has denied any online use of the text.

When it comes to Icelandic literature, digitising has been completed but not yet the proof-reading. So a good deal of work remains to be done, as is the case with texts from Danish, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian literature. Financial restrictions mean we do not want to spend the money for this until the end of the year!

Major questions currently facing the project are: how to proceed with new proposals, with research into translations of the chosen texts, and with cooperative ventures with the libraries of the Baltic Sea region.

One very positive aspect resulting from my recent presentation of the project at the Waltic conference in Istanbul was an offer to produce a new translation of an Old Swedish text that has not yet been published: the life story of Agneta Horn, the granddaughter of Axel Oxenstierna, who was painted by David Klöcker: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AgnetaHorn.jpg

Agneta Horn’s story is a true Baltic tale dating back to the seventeenth century, She was born in Riga, grew up in Finland and Sweden and followed her husband to the battlefields of northern Germany. Published for the first time in 1908, this autobiography is eminently suitable for publication in contemporary Swedish, as it is considered to be the first Swedish novel. The original title is: Beskrifning öfver min elända och mycket vedervärtiga vandringes tid samt alla mina mycket stora olyckor och hjärtans hårda sorger och vedervärtighet som mig därunder hopetals har mött alltifrån min första barndom och huru Gud alltid har hulpit mig med ett godt tålamod igenom gå alla mina vedervärtigheter.

Meanwhile I have been invited to speak at the Bibliotheca Baltica symposium in Helsinki 21-22 October, both at the conference itself (see the programme: http://bbsymposium2010.nationallibrary.fi/programme/) and at a reception given by the National Library of Finland.

I think this will provide a good opportunity to stress what we have in common and to invite librarians from all around the Baltic to participate in our work, especially with research into translations of the works we have chosen. Gunnar Sahlin, the chairman of Bibliotheca Baltica, has written to me and said that he wants to intensify our cooperation.

I will stay on in Helsinki for the Book Fair and hand out information about our portal, postcards and flyers to the visitors.

Concerning the homepage, we still have to include the essays based on presentations given in Visby in 2002 and that were dropped when we changed address. However, it still needs to be decided whether they should be included in the database. If so, we would need a thorough survey of which locations are included in them.

In the coming year we will be able to offer 12 scholarships for translators of our texts at the International Writers and Translators’ House in Ventspils, Latvia. We still need to decide on the criteria for selection. I look forward to receiving your proposals and comments and your suggestions as to how we should proceed with the project up until the end of this year!

Dear bloggers,

It’s a great idea to gather and translate literature about the Baltic See. This digital library is very interesting not only for the writers, but also for historians, who will use literature sources for their research. I am especially interested in the topic sea side resorts on the Baltic Sea and want to know who of Russian, Scandinavian, German writers was born in sea side resorts or spent there some time and described these places in their work. It would be very beautiful, if we could exchange our information.

Best regards
Olga Kurilo

PD Dr. Olga Kurilo
Europa-Universität Viadrina
Professur für Geschichte Osteuropas
Große Scharrnstraße 59
15230 Frankfurt (Oder)
Tel.: +49 (0) 335-5534 2689
Fax: +49 (0) 335-5534 2819
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A greeting from our friends Monica and Tomas Tranströmer who gives us his permission to include his cycle of poems “Baltics” in the Baltic Sea Library (the first Swedish text proposed by Clas Zilliacus):

“Tomas tycker att utkastet till Östersjöbiblioteket ser väldigt snyggt ut.

Östersjöbiblioteket är ett så intressant projekt att det vore tråkigt
om det strandar på ekonomin!

Tomas har alltid frihet att skänka bort texter. Citaträtten kan ni ju alltid använda er av och jag gissar att det gäller också översättningar.

Vi kommer just hem från Runmarö där försommaren är ljuvlig!

Allt gott
Tomas & Monica

As English-language editor for the Baltic Sea Library, it’s my job to knock everyone’s commentaries into shape before they are put online. In some cases this has been easy, partly because a few texts have turned out to be remarkably similar to the Wikipedia articles on the relevant authors/books (!), partly because texts have been relatively well-written. For any misinterpretations on my part when commentators’ English has not been equal to their more complex ideas, I apologize―at least a little bit.

Like translation, editing text means working at the level of the single word, phrase and sentence. It’s easy to miss the big picture when a lot of different texts are involved. Recently I began to realize that I was starting to lose sight of what this project is really about. By this, I mean that I was starting to see the Baltic as a body of water rather than a region. As a result some commentators may have received slightly annoying editorial comments from me urging them to somehow relate their texts to the Baltic as a sea. Of course, this is a very limited view of “Balticness.” As an Australian who grew up on the Great Southern Ocean and the Pacific, the image of the sea implanted in my mind is of a vast barrier separating my country from the rest of the world. Of course, the Baltic is really just a puddle compared to these mighty oceans, but that is what makes it so interesting as a “pool” of interconnections and shared aspects of identity. It seems to me that all contributors to the project could give some more thought to this “shared” aspect―because if this site is to become more than just a repository of interesting individual texts, it needs to offer users a greater sense of why these texts are being compiled together and interlinked. In fact, it has become clear to me in the editing process that the “Balticness” aspect commentators have been asked to comment on really is the key category because what it aims to do is embed texts and authors in a cultural-historical process that the BSL is trying to discern on a regional level. This is what the project, to my mind, is really about. However, so far, despite some extremely detailed and in some cases very lengthy analyses of individual works, this “Balticness” section is the one that commentators have contributed the least to.

Some of the questions that occur to me in this regard: Could Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales be related to wider political and cultural developments in Denmark and Scandinavia, the decline of Denmark as a major power, the rise of romantic nationalism and the emphasis on “folk” culture (I’m not a scholar, these are just general ideas)? Could the Icelandic sagas be discussed more in terms of their role as the founding myths of a period of Scandinavian expansionism? And what about the Pushkin and Lermontov as critics of entrenched Russian authoritarianism? Weren’t these authors looking out from Saint Petersburg across the Baltic and drawing ideas from developments in Germany and other countries? What is the resonance of a poet like Akhmatova in Baltic states under Stalin’s fist?

As I said, these are general questions from an outsider, but also a potential, non-scholarly user of the BSL as a resource. I think that a further aspect of the project could involve a series of “bridges” in the form of comparative essays that link texts and authors in the framework of themes of regional relevance. Anyway, apologies for any misleading editorial suggestions. That for now is my two cents/pfennigs/öre/kopeks/groszy worth.

J. O’D
Ritva Hapuli wrote:
“onpa hyvä uutinen. Minusta saksa olisi tärkein kieli.”
on my question:
“mal angenommen, wir bekommen die Rechte für die Erzählung von Aino Kallas – in welche Sprache sollte man sie übersetzen lassen? Dafür könnten wir 1 Stipendium in Ventspils ausloben”.

So Ritva would propose Aino Kallas’ tale “The White Ship from  Lasnamäe” to be translated to German.

And Polina wrote from St. Petersburg that in her opinion Lermontov is too little translated, so we should support different translations of him.

In cooperation with the International Writers and Translators’ House in Ventspils we can now offer 5 scholarships to start with.
The proposed texts to be translated are:
1. Aino Kallas, Lasnamäen valkea laiva (Finnish) → German
2. Theodor Fontane, Effi Briest (German) → Icelandic
3. Bragi Ólafsson, Sendiherrann (Icelandic) → Lithuanian: Jurgita Marija Abraityte
4. Sigitas Geda, Poems (Lithuanian) → Finnish
5. Friedebert Tuglas, Noorusmälestused (Estonian) → Swedish: Heidi Granqvist
6. Tomas Tranströmer, Östersjöar (Swedish) → Polish: Magdalena Wasilewska Chmura
7. Anna Akhmatova, Poems (Russian) → Norwegian
8. Tor Eystein Øverås, Til – en litterær reise (Norwegian) → Latvian: Dace Denina
9. Roalds Dobrovenskis, Magnus, dāņu princis (Latvian) → Danish: Karsten Lomholt
10. Karen Blixen, Vinter-Eventyr (Danish) → Estonian
11. Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Petersburg (Polish) → Russian

We will now ask the 5 translators which names we have on the list if they are interested in a stay in Ventspils. The House will cover their stay, while we pay the travel costs.