Bertil Falk: From “A Space Hobo” to “Finnegans Wake”

Bertil Falk. Photo by Ahrvid Engholm

By Ahrvid Engholm: Journalist, author, genre historian (and fan, certainly, from the 1940s and on!) Bertil Falk is acclaimed for performing the “impossible” task of translating Finnegans Wake to Swedish, the modernist classic by James Joyce, under the title Finnegans likvaka. As reported in DAST Magazine:

…He has worked on it since the 1950’s (a little now and then, not 24/7…). He calls the translation a “motsvariggörande” (“making equal/similar”) since the book is a huge maze in several layers difficult to really translate. Falk is known as the one reviving Jules Verne Magasinet in 1969 and recently also published a three part history of Swedish science fiction, titled Faktasin….

A few years ago fan Erik Andersson (a major fanzine publisher and fandom columnist in Jules Verne magasinet in the ‘90s) translated Ulysses, though not the easiest prose still not as difficult as Finnegans Wake. Joyce seems to fit well with sf fandom, maybe because the world of fandom is just as odd and quirky as the world of Joyce…

Then, with that introduction, we can look back to Bertil Falk’s earliest published work.

From Stockholms-Tidningen April 2, 1946. On the 75th anniversary of the publishing of his story debut, Bertil Falk posted the newspaper clip and noted that the pseudonym he picked, “Rymdluffaren” (The Space Hobo), was taken from a short story by Eando Binder published in Jules Verne Magasinet.

The following tale of the future is written by a young man of age 12, and stands well in competition with futurist stories by adults. (Translation by Ahrvid Engholm.):

A Trip in Space

The big rocketship “Stockholm” started with roaring rockets from Bromma rocketfield. “Stockholm” is one of ten Swedish rocketships on the route Earth-Mars.

And now I sat inside this rocketship. It was my first rocket journey, and I was very curious about how it would all turn out.

Thirteen minutes after take off Earth was the size of a plate and you could make out all the continents. While Earth shrank the Moon and Mars continued to grow.

The rocketship made a stop on the Moon. There I made a visit to the big Moon museum that for the moment had an exhibition of Venusian art. After about an hour the rocketship continued again, and now you could see one of the most beautiful sights in the universe. Outside it was dark, and everywhere stars were gleaming and blinking. Wonderfully beautiful comet swarms were visible almost everywhere. But even if the comet swarms were beautiful, they were still dangerous. Every rocket has a comet warner that gives a buzz as soon as a comet swarm is nearby. Without these comet warners it would be almost dangerous to go out in space.

After a trip of three hours and five minutes the rocketship landed on the international rocketfield of Mars. Several atomic cars stood and waited outside the rocketfield to take passengers to the Martian tourist hotel No 157. When I had arrived at the hotel I sat down by the TV-radio to hear the news.

I am very interested in politics and tensely follow the civil war on Venus between the marsh people and sea people. The news reported that the king of the marsh people Kara-mo and the president of the sea people Tola-kar had initiating peace negotiations. So, will there finally be peace, I said with a sigh and turned off the radio…

 –The Space Hobo

[Read Bertil Falk’s full bio here.]

3 thoughts on “Bertil Falk: From “A Space Hobo” to “Finnegans Wake”

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