“English edition of Munch’s texts” by Hilde Bøe

By Lin Stafne / December, 14, 2012 / 0 comments

Members of the staff at the Munch museum have – since January 2012 – worked closely with translator Francesca M. Nichols to translate a selection of Edvard Munch’s texts to English. The result – the English edition – is now launched on emunch.no, the digital archive on Edvard Munch’s writings. The selection of texts is comprised of 68 separate archive objects from the museum’s collection. Together they contain approximately 1100 manuscript pages. The selection is concentrated on Munch’s literary sketches and his texts related to art.


The work has been demanding. Munch’s texts are for the most part handwritten and were never published by Munch himself. Munch’s peculiar style of writing is often fleeting, repetitive and sketch-like. It is often characterised by a lack of attention to grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, and a habitual lack of punctuation – aside from the dash, which is used instead of a period, or to indicate a pause, yet never consistently. Due to the character of his handwriting his texts are often hard to read. It is the museum’s intention that the translations of the texts are as true to Munch’s own style of writing as possible, and for that reason the work involved in this project has been more demanding than is ordinarily the case with translations, where the meaning and content are of primary importance. The primary presentation is a facsimile of the original archival object side by side with the English translation. By presenting this parallel display we wish to remind the readers what type of objects and texts are at hand. Munch wrote throughout his whole life. He wrote on whatever piece of paper he had in front of him. His texts are found in small notebooks and large sketchbooks, on the back of letters from friends and business partners, on the back of drawings, on small torn off pieces of paper. There often exists several versions, written years apart.


Delving into Munch’s written universe as we have done has been a tremendous experience says translator Francesca M. Nichols, and continues, Munch’s ability to convey extreme psychological states, erotic scenes, or descriptive passages that range from morbid obsessiveness to gripping pathos and lyrical heights of passion – not to mention his sense of humour – make for unforgettable reading, which I would recommend to anyone interested in the world of human emotions. – Here’s a taste of what Munch’s texts can offer.


MM N 505, p. 1


    During all that time he had
in fact forgotten that she was
married – Any thought of the Captain had
only fleetingly passed him by.
– It had in fact never
occurred to him either that
things should end this way – not until this moment
sitting in this large dark
cold room with the fluttering
candle flames did he see everything clearly –
He had committed fornication – he had
deceived the tall Captain – he
had thrown himself into something that
caused him remorse – his Father – and the others at home

And the time he felt love
and the time they had been together
until now – lay like a heap of ashes – And she with all
the other lovers


MM T 329, fol. 1rhttp://www.emunch.no/T/normal/No-MM_T0329-00-01r.jpg



Your eyes are as large as half the sky
when you stand near me and your hair with gold dust
your mouth I do not see – see only that you are smiling


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