How can I write a critical analysis on the translation of "Garmann's Summer" (a Norwegian children's story written by Stian Hole) from a cultural perspective? I need to critique any cultural...

How can I write a critical analysis on the translation of "Garmann's Summer" (a Norwegian children's story written by Stian Hole) from a cultural perspective? I need to critique any cultural differences in translation between the Norwegian and English language, like any cultural references that may differ in both cultures. 

Asked on by ummnawaf

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Wow, this was such an interesting question! It caused me to get this children's story back out, and review it from the perspective of an American reading a Norwegian story. Fascinating! You are right, there are many cultural differences in Garmann's Summer (so much so that the discussion lends itself easily to a triple paragraph of comparison and contrast).

Let me begin with America because it is what I am the most familiar with. Further, because I have two small children, I am very familiar with the children's books that comprise reading before a child goes to kindergarten. Quite simply, American children's books dealing with a child's first day of kindergarten are filled with two things: adventure and hope. There are two that stick out in my mind, for some reason. One is from a long time ago, and the other is more modern.

The first American book is called I Love Kindergarten! (from the 1950s), and is basically a story about a little girl who goes through a normal day of kindergarten. It is designed to show a child all the different things that would happen during a kindergarten day. For example, the child goes through snack time, art time, recess, music, drawing, and the coming to school and going home procedures. It is a sweet book, with beautiful illustrations that simply are meant to give a child some security in knowing what will happen. Everything is positive. Everything is fun. Everything is hopeful. Everything is meant to give a child security!

Another American book about the beginning of school that is fairly modern is called Henry in Love. Kind of a strange title, but the same kind of idea. This time Henry is an animal. I believe he is a cat, and he goes to school for the first time. Again, it is about all the things that happen. Henry meets some older children on the way to school, to encourage him about sports. It talks about the desks that Henry sits in and snack time and recess. The main part of the story is about a little girl bunny that Henry meets named Chloe. There is no discussion about love, but he shares a blueberry muffin with her and begrudgingly gets her carrot in return. It is funny that Henry is willing to exchange a blueberry muffin for a carrot, which proves his "love" for Chloe. Again, everything is positive. Everything is fun. Everything is hopeful. Relationships are encouraged!

Now let's contrast this with Garmann's Summer, which has one realistic feeling that is stressed: fear. Garmann is worried and nervous and fearful about his first day of school. He is obsessing about the things that he is unable to do, and he feels the other children can already do. He cannot ride a bike. He cannot balance on the top of the fence. He hasn't lost a tooth. He can't swim. He can't even hold his head under the water and hold his breath. Garmann dwells on his fears by revealing them to his aunts who come to visit. They share their fears as well! The focus here is on the negative instead of on the positive, in order to stress the reality of the situation for children. Even the illustrations show this idea. Garmann's brow is always furrowed. Garmann can be found staring in disgust at his aunts' dentures as he notices how old and wrinkled they look. This is by no means a cheerful beginning-of-school story. 

In conclusion, it is very easy to see the cultural differences between America and Norway in these children's books. Where the American books are meant to provide a positive experience and help a child feel secure in what will happen to them during the first days of school, the Norwegian book is really meant to show what the reality might be, which is lots of fear. Idealism is stressed in the US, while reality is stressed in Europe and Scandinavia. I am reminded of a German exchange student of mine, who remarked in surprise how American children were encouraged to be anything they wanted to be! I remember vividly how she mentioned that children would never be encouraged that way in Germany. Instead, fierce reality was beaten into their heads. It is exactly that reality which is stressed in Garmann's Summer.

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