Translation work

HER novels have taken Scandinavia and Eastern Europe by storm, with more than 170 to her name but Margit Sandemo is still relatively unknown in the western world.

HER novels have taken Scandinavia and Eastern Europe by storm, with more than 170 to her name but Margit Sandemo is still relatively unknown in the western world.

But now the best-selling Swedish author's dreams of breaking into a new audience have come true thanks to the linguistic skills of a Norfolk man.

Spellbound is the first in Ms Sandemo's Legend of the Ice People series, which has already sold 25 million copies in Scandinavia and nine other European countries.

But it has only now been translated into English thanks to the hard work and dedication of Norwich City Council surveyor Greg Herring, who has taken on the enormous task of translating the first six books in the multi-volume series in his spare time.

The humble former firefighter has put in hours of work, poring over the dictionary and thesaurus from his home near Shipdham, to give an accurate translation of the fantasy saga.

Mr Herring, 58, learned Swedish after moving there in his early 20s. “A friend of mine was emigrating to Australia and I had thought of going with him but I met a Swedish girl and moved to her home country instead,” he said.

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He worked as a firefighter in the town of Vallentuna, just north of Stockholm, and gradually picked up the language which he

found quite straightforward. “Whereas in English there are

so many exceptions to the rule, Swedish tends to stick to

the rules,”he said.

“It is a very different language and there are not the number of words as in English so I tend to sit with a thesaurus to find alternatives.”

The stories focus on the Ice People who are a seemingly accursed clan of strange mountain people who live high above a glacier barrier in the mountains north of Trondheim. The saga chronicles the battle between good and evil from their interactions with lowlanders and eventually with other countries.

Mr Herring said: “It follows a historical thread but I don't know if she made up the ice people or not. Margit says they were there but she is a bit of a mystic and I can accept people have different beliefs. She is an unusual character and I am trying to get that across in the books.”

It is a far cry from the naïve translating he did in Sweden for technical manuals and talking books for the blind but he is revelling in the challenge, having been introduced to Ms Sandemo, now in her 80s, by a mutual friend.

“I am by no means an expert but I enjoy doing it,” he said. “It does not have to be too accurate because it is fantasy but it has to be readable. I have to put across how she wrote it. She can speak some English and she has read it and said she likes it.”

Mr Herring hopes that now an English version is available and it can be read by a much wider market, tentative offers to make the stories into films may be realised.

He said: “She has had a couple of approaches, one from George Lucas who had heard about it from a German translation, but as it was not in English at that time he has just held on to it, but who knows where it might lead now.

“It is a long way from doing an instruction book on how to work a fire alarm.”

There are a total of 47 books in the Ice People series so Mr Herring would be hard pushed to translate all those in his spare time but he is taking each day as it comes. “I did not realise how long it would take but I'm just a small cog in a big wheel,” he said.

Spellbound is published by Tagman Press and was released yesterday.

Margit Sandemo will be in Harrods, in Knightsbridge, for a book signing on Saturday.