Translating National History for Children: A Case Study of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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Mark Twain's classic novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is arguably about the history of the United States in terms of slavery and race relations. How, then, can this be translated to another language and culture, especially one with a very diferent background in regard to minorities? And in particular, how can this be translated for children, who have less knowledge about history and slavery than adult readers? In this article, I analyse how Twain's novel has been translated to Swedish. I study 15 translations. Surprisingly, I ind that instead of retaining Twain's even-handed portrayal of the two races and his acceptance of a wide variety of types of Americans, Swedish translators tend to emphasise the foreignness, otherness, and lack of education of the black characters. In other words, although the American setting is kept, the translators nevertheless give Swedish readers a very diferent understanding of the United States and slavery than that which Twain strove to give his American readers. his may relect the diferences in immigration and cultural makeup in Sweden versus in America, but it radically changes the book as well as child readers' understanding of what makes a nation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-116
Number of pages14
JournalIlha do Desterro
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Literature
  • Mark Twain
  • Translation

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