by Marcus Axelsson
Helen Wells’ novels of the nurse Cherry Ames follow the protagonist through student nursing to her life as a practicing registered nurse. The books, featuring her military service, were soon translated, reaching Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. This article focuses on how the themes of war, patriotism, and nationality are translated in the Norwegian and Swedish translations of Cherry Ames. When comparing these two countries, it is notable that the literature for young girls was somewhat scarcer in Norway in the middle of the twentieth century, where this kind of book had not been highly prioritized during the war. This article also focuses on how the representations of war, patriotism, and nationality are translated into Norwegian and Swedish and how the same themes are depicted on the respective book covers. Bearing in mind that Norway participated in the war, and Sweden did not, it is interesting to investigate whether war and patriotism are rendered differently in the Norwegian and the Swedish target texts and whether the American patriotism is preserved or in some way “domesticated” to make the novels more Scandinavian.
Helen Wells, Cherry Ames, nursing, Scandinavia, translations, Norway, Sweden, patriotism, military service
Between 1943 and 1968, Grosset & Dunlap published 27 novels about the nurse Cherry Ames. Many of these American novels found their way to a number of European countries. Helen Wells (1910–1986) was the author of the majority of the books, and Julie Tatham (1908–1999) wrote some in the middle of the series. In the novels, the reader gets to know Cherry and follows her through her years as a student nurse and later as a practicing registered nurse. Over the years, she works as an army nurse, a chief nurse, flight nurse, veterans’ nurse, visiting nurse, cruise nurse, and so on. There is little she does not do. The books about the impulsive and intrepid Cherry Ames were written for girls, and they could be described as career novels, i.e. novels about young protagonists, often girls, pursuing a career (cf. Finlay 1189). The focus on career and working life could be a reason why the novels became so popular in the United States and were exported to a number of countries in Western Europe.
Cherry arrived in Iceland first, then came to Norway, and some years later, to Sweden (see The Cherry Ames Page). In the Nordic countries, women have taken part in working life for quite some time; it is therefore not surprising that it was in these countries, the first translations of the novels about Cherry Ames emerged. Moreover, in Norway, the books arrived at a perfect time since there was an increasing need for nurses (Nygaard 50). If the novels, among other things, had the agenda of recruiting nurses for the Second World War, this did not stop them from also fulfilling a different purpose overseas in the postwar years. They filled both a practical purpose of recruiting nurses, and, most importantly, a purpose of educating and entertaining young female readers.
The Cherry Ames books fit into the category of popular literature. Previous research (see e.g. Sapiro, “Translation and the Field of Publishing,” “Globalization and Cultural Diversity in the Book Market”) has shown that products of popular culture easily spread from the United States to parts of the world that have a smaller domestic production of popular culture. Iceland, and especially Norway, was marked by the war in the period when the countries imported and translated Cherry Ames, and their domestic literary production of popular culture for young girls was low. There were therefore good conditions for import at this time.
This article focuses on how the themes of war, patriotism, and nationality are translated in the Norwegian and Swedish translations of Cherry Ames. Including all the Nordic countries in this study would have been interesting, but too extensive. This article therefore only focuses on Norway and Sweden. When comparing these two countries, it is notable that the literature for young girls was somewhat scarcer in Norway in the middle of the twentieth century, where this kind of book had not been highly prioritized during the war. In the 1950s, there was hence a need for literature of this kind and it seems somewhat safe to conclude that this demand was a contributing factor as to why Cherry Ames, together with her peer Vicki Barr, and the somewhat younger Nancy Drew, were translated into the Scandinavian languages.
Although there was a need for this type of literature in postwar Scandinavia, and despite the fact that American popular culture products are easily imported into more peripheral European cultural systems, it took 8 years for the first book about Cherry Ames, Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, to be translated into Norwegian, and as much as 13 years for it to be translated into Swedish. One reason for the delay in this translation could be the literary status of the Cherry books. They were products of popular culture of low status (Nygaard 54). In addition, they were novels for girls, and girls were not the strongest buyers in the market in postwar Scandinavia.
Translation research shows that Sweden is the most central and the most closed literary system in Scandinavia (Lindqvist, “Det skandinaviska översättningsfältet—finns det” 77, 79). This means that it is harder for literature from abroad to be translated and enter the Swedish literary market. In general, it also takes longer for books to be translated and published there when compared with the rest of Scandinavia (Axelsson 67–72). This could be another reason why the Swedish translation of Cherry Ames came so much later. Previous research (see e.g. Lindqvist, Översättning som social praktik 217) shows that translations into Scandinavian languages are normally very faithful to the source text. Theories also suggest that literature translated into languages characterized as central, rather than peripheral is generally more adapted to the target culture (Even-Zohar 51; cf. Venuti 21). It is interesting to bear this in mind while carrying out the empirical analysis. A hypothesis would be that the Swedish translations, since Sweden is the most central literary system in Scandinavia, would be somewhat less source-text oriented than the Norwegian translations.
Of the 27 books about Cherry Ames, 21 were translated into Norwegian and 24 into Swedish. This signals that although the Swedes took some time to translate Cherry, they were more eager to hold onto her once they really got to know her. Norway stopped publishing the books after Cherry’s Canadian experience in Island Nurse in 1960, whereas publication in Sweden ended after Companion Nurse in 1964.
Wells wrote the first novels in the series during the Second World War and shortly after it ended, and war and patriotism are recurring themes in the three wartime novels. These are Army Nurse, Flight Nurse, and Chief Nurse, written between 1944 and 1945. The topic of war in the Cherry Ames series has previously been addressed by Finlay (1190), who found that, in the first books, Cherry not only learns her profession, but also about war and sacrifice. Cherry sees the war as a noble cause, and in her role as a nurse, fulfils a “fictional function of being representative of the citizens of the United States […].” The American participation in the war is never questioned. Instead, it seems that Cherry’s decision to go to war is the only way to “preserve the simple, tranquil way of life in her all-American hometown” (Finlay 1194). The topics of war and patriotism have also been touched upon by Simon, who argues that Cherry’s hopes, dreams, and personality always overshadow themes relating to war and her activities in the army (147).
As mentioned earlier, this article focuses on how the representations of war, patriotism, and nationality are translated into Norwegian and Swedish. It also focuses on how the same themes are depicted on the respective book covers. Bearing in mind that Norway participated in the war, and Sweden did not, it is interesting to investigate whether war and patriotism are rendered differently in the Norwegian and the Swedish target texts. It is also interesting to study whether the American patriotism is preserved or in some way “domesticated” (see Venuti 19–20) to make the novels more Scandinavian. For the analysis of the covers, theories from Kress and van Leeuwen’s 2006 Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design are used. The material for the study consists of the wartime novels, namely Army Nurse (1944), Chief Nurse (1944), and Flight Nurse (1945), and their Norwegian translations Cherrys hemmelige reise from 1951, Cherry Ames blir oversøster from 1952, and Cherry på vingene from 1952. The Swedish counterparts are Cherry Ames i fält from 1956, Cherry Ames—översköterska from 1956, and Cherry Ames vid flyget from 1957. The main emphasis on the textual level is on Flight Nurse, since this novel takes place in Europe and, in a geographical context, is closer to Scandinavia than Army Nurse and Chief Nurse.
Firstly, it is appropriate to direct attention toward the translation of the titles. As previously mentioned, Scandinavian translations are usually close to their source text, and this is also the case in the Swedish translations of Cherry Ames, where the titles are close to literal translations of the American ones. The military theme is explicit in the title Army Nurse and this title has been almost literally translated in the Swedish version Cherry Ames i fält (literally “Cherry Ames in the Field”). The Norwegian titles, on the other hand, are somewhat surprisingly much freer and the war theme is less prominent or even omitted entirely. The title Chief Nurse (Cherry blir oversøster) is translated quite literally, but focuses more on Cherry’s becoming a chief nurse, using the verb “blir” (“becomes”). Flight Nurse is translated using the fixed, metaphorical expression “på vingene” (“on the wings”), which could either refer to something having taken off and being airborne, or that something is going well. This title does little to indicate that Cherry is in the U.S. Air Force. Instead, it could be interpreted as Cherry’s career taking off, or more literally, that she works as a pilot or a stewardess. In fact, the cover bears many resemblances to the cover of the Norwegian translation of another of Well’s novels, namely Silver Wings for Vicki (Vicki blir flyvertinne). This novel was published in Norway in 1952, the same year as Cherry på vingene, by the same publishing house and using the same illustrator. There is a clear intertextuality between these two covers.
The Norwegian title that is most different from the American original is Army Nurse. This title has been changed entirely and translated as Søster Cherrys hemmelige reise, meaning “Sister (i.e. ‘nurse’) Cherry’s secret journey.” There is no trace of any war theme in this title, which seems to refer to the plot of the novel, where Cherry is sent abroad on a secret mission for the Army.
As regards the cover images, it could be noted that the Norwegian covers are less naturalistic than the Swedish and American ones (cf. Kress and van Leeuwen 159; Björkvall 114). The Norwegian cover images could be described more as pop art à la Lichtenstein, whereas the American and Swedish ones are closer to real photography. It is interesting to note that the artist’s name, Sten Nilsen, is actually mentioned on the cover that is the most pop artsy of them all, namely Cherry på vingene (see fig. 10). Nilsen created most of the Norwegian cover images for the Cherry books, and during the mid-twentieth century, he also produced a dozen other book cover illustrations.
Cherry is always the focal point of the cover illustrations. Her dark hair and brown eyes are mentioned early on in all of the novels and they are distinctly highlighted on all of the book covers. This is especially obvious in the illustrations that portray her using a medium close shot, i.e. at a distance where the onlooker can see Cherry from the waist and up (cf. Kress and van Leeuwen 124). Her different nurses’ outfits are always highlighted and she is depicted in some kind of uniform on every cover. Most of the time, she is portrayed in her blue dress and white apron, but in some of the material used in this study, she also wears a military uniform, which adds extra symbolic value. The novels often mention how the uniforms lead to respect and admiration for Cherry and her fellow nurses, and this symbolism is carefully retained in the Scandinavian target texts.
In Army Nurse, Cherry has completed her education at Spencer hospital and has returned to her hometown of Hilton, Illinois. She receives a letter from the Army and joins its Nurse Corps. After a short stay at Spencer hospital for some training, she and her classmates are sent to Panama to work at an army base hospital. On the cover of the first American edition of Army Nurse, Cherry is portrayed standing on a boat, probably on her way to Panama, where she is to work as an army nurse (see fig. 1).
FIGURES 1–3. Cover Images of the American, Norwegian and Swedish Versions of Cherry Ames, Army Nurse. Images first published by Grosset & Dunlap (Ralph Crosby Smith), Forlagshuset (Sten Nilsen), and Bonniers (Martin Guhl).
Cherry is wearing a green army uniform in the illustration and is holding a pair of brown gloves in her right hand, while smiling and waving with her left hand. She looks straight at the reader and this eye contact has a communicative function where she asks for attention and that we, as onlookers, take part in her story and enter into an imaginary relation with her (cf. Kress and van Leeuwen 116–18). Another woman is standing next to her, also smiling, and other people can be seen in the background, notably a man in some kind of military uniform. The Swedish cover depicts Cherry standing outside a building, probably Spencer hospital, dressed in a graduation uniform. She is looking to the right with a determined gaze and does not establish any contact with the reader. We are invited to look at Cherry, but she does not necessarily demand anything from the reader (cf. Kress and van Leeuwen 119). Readers are put in a position where they wonder why Cherry looks so determined and what her mission in this book could be. This is a notable difference from the American source text, where it is clear that Cherry is going to the army and that she is clearly happy about this. The Swedish translation, Cherry Ames i fält, was published in 1956 and its cover image (see fig. 3) is very much based on the cover of the second American edition (see fig. 4).
Although there are no overt symbols showing the reader that Cherry goes to war in the novel, Cherry’s posture and determined gaze indicate that she is looking toward a mission that she must accomplish and a duty that calls her. She is looking to the right, which according to Kress and van Leeuwen (64, 181) signals that she is looking toward the future. Cherry needs to go to war to help wounded American soldiers and she knows that this will lead to future peace for her country. Behind her, we see the school building, where she came from, whereas we can only hint the future through Cherry’s determined gaze. Cherry’s face is horizontal to the reader and she is thus depicted as equal to them, signalling to the readers that they can be a part of her world (cf. Björkvall 52), and even join her on her mission.
The Norwegian cover image of Cherrys hemmelige reise (see fig. 2) is entirely different from both the American and the Swedish versions. It portrays Cherry speaking on the phone. Her face bears an expression that could reveal feelings of consternation, worry, or even sadness, characteristics that are not typical of Cherry. She seems to be holding a handkerchief to her chin, which may suggest that she is crying, but this is difficult to grasp. She is depicted at a personal distance, i.e. a distance where the reader can identify with the character (cf. Kress and van Leeuwen 124). She is gazing slightly up and to the side. She does not look at the readers and does not demand anything from them. Instead, they are invited to look at her and wonder what may be troubling her, who she is talking to, what kind of conversation she is engaged in, and whether she is crying. Could the conversation have anything to do with the secret journey mentioned in the title? Although this cover is somewhat stripped of the details that we find on the American and Swedish covers, it may be the cover that engages readers the most since it challenges them to think about what might happen in the novel. Judging from the background, she appears to be in a hospital, probably at Spencer.
As stated above, the most obvious symbols of war and patriotism depicted on the cover of the first American edition of Army Nurse have been omitted from the Norwegian version. Here, there is nothing to signal that the novel is about Cherry going to war. As mentioned earlier, the title of the Norwegian target text is also rather different from the original, namely Søster Cherrys hemmelige reise (“Sister Cherry’s secret journey”). However, the title is the only component of the book cover that could suggest a military theme—the journey is namely secret. It could be hypothesized that the war was still a painful memory in Norway in 1952 and that the publisher has tried to avoid this theme as much as possible on the book cover. In Sweden, the novel was not published until 1956 and its readers had not experienced the war. The war was not a theme that the publisher chose to highlight with any overt symbols, but Cherry’s gaze and posture suggest that she has a mission to accomplish, be it in war or peace. Moreover, it is easy to understand that the Swedish publisher chose to base its cover on the second American edition, which is much less “war-like” than the first edition.
In the second wartime novel, Chief Nurse, Cherry is promoted to chief nurse and she receives an order to set up an evacuation hospital on a tropical Pacific island. She has many responsibilities and is in charge of some 60 nurses. She also faces great challenges under severe attacks from Japanese bombers. The title of the novel does not reveal that Cherry is going to war, but the cover image of the first American edition (see fig. 5) is probably the most war-like of the entire Cherry series, which somewhat compensates for the nonspecific title.
On the American cover, Cherry is depicted crouching besides a wounded soldier. She is using a pair of scissors to cut through his clothes while winding a bandage around his arm. Cherry is dressed in a green military uniform and is wearing a helmet. She is in the jungle, close to a Pacific beach, and another soldier can be seen in the background. In the second edition of Chief Nurse (see fig. 8), the military theme is absent from the cover and Cherry is instead engaged in conversation with a number of nursing colleagues.
It could be argued that the latter illustration is erroneous since the narrator in the novel tells the readers that the nurses are always dressed in khaki uniforms. The nurses’ white uniforms, their calm countenances, and the neat and tidy background indicate nothing of a temporary military hospital on a Pacific island. The cover image portrays Cherry smiling while engaging in conversation with three other nurses. They are all dressed in nurse uniforms and Cherry is, as always, the center of attention. She is positioned somewhat above the other nurses and is looking down on them, which may indicate her superior rank after being promoted to chief nurse. She is smiling complacently and there is no sign of the war to be seen anywhere in the image. The Scandinavian covers are very much based on this second edition, where the war is omitted. This is particularly true for the Norwegian cover (see fig. 6), which is very similar to the original. The only differences between the American and Norwegian cover images are the nurses’ uniforms and the background. The Swedish illustration is somewhat different, however. On the cover of the Swedish edition (see fig. 7), Cherry and two other nurses are standing next to each other outdoors. Cherry is in the middle, and one of the nurses is looking at her, while the other is looking at a document in Cherry’s hand. Cherry establishes contact with the reader with a determined gaze, but this gaze does not reflect her personality in the novel. Instead, she almost looks condescendingly at the reader from the corner of her eye with an undefinable smile on her lips. This could be a signal of Cherry’s superior rank after her advance to the position as chief nurse (cf. Kress and van Leeuwen 118). There is a modern hospital building in the background, which is clearly not the evacuation hospital in the Pacific jungle. The cover of the book does not, therefore, reflect its story, since Cherry is in the Pacific jungle throughout the entire book and does not spend any time at such a modern hospital as depicted on the cover. This is clearly an example of all elements of the war being excluded from the covers of the translated books.
In Flight Nurse, Cherry and her friends complete their education to become flight nurses in Randolph Field, Texas. They are sent to England, where they encounter the harsh realities of the war. At one point, Cherry also experiences a German attack while flying wounded soldiers from the battlefront. The American, Norwegian, and Swedish covers of Flight Nurse are similar, and symbols of both war and patriotism are represented on all three covers (see figs. 9–11).
The Norwegian and Swedish covers are very much based on the American cover image. Cherry is portrayed at a personal distance. According to Kress and van Leeuwen’s theories concerning the grammar of visual design, this distance allows the readers to identify with Cherry and her hopes and dreams (124). The most obvious symbol of patriotism represented on the cover is Cherry’s clothing. She is wearing the U.S. Air Forces’ uniform with the classic wings and the letters “US” on her chest. Cherry is wearing two U.S. broches on the Swedish cover and it is on this cover that the letters are easiest to decipher. On the American version, one U.S. broche is visible, but it is less prolific. On the Norwegian version, it is hard to make out the contours of the letters. It is noteworthy that this symbol of patriotism is actually more conspicuous on the Swedish cover than on the cover of the versions published in the United States and Norway—countries that participated in the war as allies. Cherry’s posture and gaze are two other features in the illustration signalling patriotism. On the Swedish and American covers, Cherry is looking up to the side with a determined gaze. This could be seen as a symbol of determination and hope, where Cherry knows what she has to do in order to keep her country safe. In the American version, Cherry is looking somewhat to the right, which once again may mean that she is looking toward the future. Although Cherry is looking to the left on the Swedish cover, her determined gaze and posture have been retained. In fact, this posture and gaze remind us of political campaigns portraying candidates looking up to the side, as if looking into a future where his or her political agenda has been effectuated and led to a better world. Cherry’s attire and posture display an American patriotism that is retained in the Swedish interpretation of the original cover image.
As regards the Norwegian cover illustration, Cherry’s posture is much less patriotic and determined. In fact, the patriotic determination has been replaced by a romantic theme. Cherry’s head and gaze are still depicted in semi-profile and she is still looking slightly upward, but she is looking into the eyes of a man, most likely the pilot Captain Cooper, who plays a major role in the novel. Her gaze can therefore be more interpreted as one of admiration rather than determination and idealism. The patriotic theme has simply been replaced by a romantic one, by introducing a man into the original picture. This may have been a measure taken by the publisher to make the book more appealing to young girls in the 1950s, for whom the war theme was possibly not particularly enticing. However, romance is only an occasional theme in the Cherry Ames series, and the Norwegian publisher has chosen to highlight a part of the plot that has a rather peripheral position in the novel. It should be mentioned, though, that Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse, is one of the earlier books in the series and the publisher could not know that highlighting the romantic aspect of the Cherry series would be misleading, since they did not know how the complete Cherry series would turn out. It could also be mentioned that a later book in the series, Cherry Ames at Spencer (1949), was translated with the title Cherry og drømmeprinsen, literally “Cherry and the Dream Prince,” also foregrounding a romantic theme which actually has a rather peripheral role in the plot. It is highly probable that also this choice was a measure to make the novels more appealing to young female readers.
In Flight Nurse, Cherry is portrayed very similarly on the Swedish and American covers and more of the patriotic features have been kept, or made even stronger, on the Swedish cover illustration. When studying the background of the images, however, the American and Norwegian images are more similar. The most conspicuous feature signalling American patriotism is actually on the Norwegian cover. Here, there is an airplane in the background, and two men and a woman are carrying a wounded soldier on a stretcher onto the plane. The plane on the Norwegian cover has the classic U.S. Armed Forces’ roundel emblem with the white star in a blue circle painted on it—a symbol not present on the American edition. This could be a compensation for the omission of Cherry’s own patriotism on the Norwegian cover image. The background of the Swedish illustration also has the airplane and people carrying a stretcher, but these elements are much more blurred and distant, and do not bear any major resemblance to the original. Compared to the American and Norwegian editions, a much wider background is depicted that includes an airport and an area of the sky with a plane. The most obvious symbol with an ideological value in the background is the Red Cross, which can be seen both on the tailfin of the plane and on a flag on the control tower. According to Björkvall’s image analysis, it is often the case that the “real world” is situated at the bottom of an image, whereas dreams and ideals are presented at the top of the page, reflecting Western ideas about earth and heaven (90, 96). It is notable that the Red Cross flag is situated in the upper half of the image, symbolizing Cherry’s ideals—helping and caring for the sick and the wounded. The Swedish background is somewhat less patriotic toward America, and instead, the publisher stresses Cherry’s role as a helper by adding the Red Crosses. If we focus on the airport in the background, it seems to bear more resemblance to today’s large international airports than to a wartime airbase, and this is interesting, bearing in mind that the Swedish translation was not published until 1957, compared to the American original, which was published in 1945 and the Norwegian, which was published in 1952. In 1957, the war, in which Sweden never participated, was already quite distant, and even more so for the book’s intended readers.
Moving on from the book covers to the purely textual level, there are a number of passages about war, patriotism, and nationality that are interesting for further study. In the following episode, an omniscient narrator tells the reader of Cherry and her team’s everyday routines:
When Cherry’s team flew to battle areas to pick up the wounded, they would never fly an empty plane but would haul troops or vital cargo. With such military cargo, they would have no right to the protection of a Red Cross painted on their aircraft. Instead, the white star of American combat forces was painted on its broad dark side. (Wells, Flight Nurse 11)
The star in the quotation is the star that we find on the cover of the Norwegian translation and it is obvious that this is where the artist has taken the idea from. The Swedish cover, on the other hand, seems erroneous since the airplane has a Red Cross painted on it. The narrator clearly states that there is no Red Cross on the airplane, but the publisher has still chosen to use it on the cover, and hence indirectly brand the more caring side of Cherry. In fact, the Swedish translations often tone down the war on the textual level. Passages where the war is spoken of in too easy-going terms are toned down or even omitted. At the beginning of Flight Nurse, there is a passage where the pilot Wade Cooper is talking about how he once, against orders, had carried out a one-man attack on a Japanese target. This attack is described as a heroic accomplishment in all of the three translations, but the heroic part is somewhat toned down in the Swedish translation, whereas the fact that it was carried out against orders is emphasized. After having told Cherry about this heroic accomplishment, Cooper then brags about it. This passage is omitted from the Swedish translation: “I guess I was something of a smart aleck. Jeepers, what a time I had for myself! When you fly one of those high-powered bombers, why, you’re just sitting there with a thousand horses in your lap and a feather in your tail” (8). In fact, Cooper’s easy-going way of describing this accomplishment is almost stronger in the Norwegian target text. In the source text, Cooper speaks of the attack in an easy-going manner and that he had a good time bombing Japanese targets alone in his airplane, but he admits that he was a smart aleck then, implying to the reader that things might be different now. In the Norwegian translation, “smart aleck” is translated to “fin fyr” (10), indicating that he was a “good man” in doing this.
There are also other passages in the novel where people nonchalantly talk about the war that have been omitted from the Swedish target text. When Cherry and her friends arrive in England in Flight Nurse, they are ordered to work in a military hospital rather than flying to the front and hauling wounded soldiers as they had hoped. They make moping comments about having “crossed an ocean merely to help out on a ward” (40). These comments have been omitted from the Swedish target text, resulting in a translation that makes Cherry and her friends appear more serious and less “belligerent” than in the source text and the Norwegian target text. As compensation for not being allowed to fly, Cherry and her friends are allowed to take some time off and visit the nearby village. They catch a ride with the postman and are fascinated by the quaint landscape and the English architecture, at the same time as they are depressed by the ravages of the war, and, most of all, thankful for the fact that they live far away from the war in America. On their excursion, they experience cultural differences between the United States and England. They can see the country’s poverty reflected in a window shop where there are “no eggs, no red meat, no oranges” (43). They even see the ravages of war in a house, where one of the walls is missing and they can see straight into a kitchen where a woman stands by the stove. They also wonder if they are allowed to visit a café and eat some of the food that was so hard to come by in England. They are surprised by the waitress’ dialect in the café and can barely understand her. The passage where Cherry and her friends go to this village stretches over almost five pages, all of which are omitted from the Swedish target text, resulting in a translation where the overall American perspective in the novel is significantly toned down. In this passage, Cherry utters a sentence that sums up her thoughts about the war and her feelings of patriotism: “Not very gay, this business of having war in your own front yard,” Cherry summed up. She thought gratefully how lucky she was to be an American” (45), which is a sentence that has been kept and translated quite literally in the Norwegian target text.
Another part of the book where the geographical context, and hence also nationality, has been altered is a passage where Wade tells Cherry and the wounded soldiers where he has flown before. He tells them that he has flown “[i]n China and over the Hump” (13), translated as “[i] Kina eller over dammen” (14) in the Norwegian target text, meaning over “China and the Atlantic Ocean.” As regards “over dammen,” we are no longer in Asia, but still in an area well trafficked by the American army during the war. In the Swedish version, Cooper has flown “I Kina och över Kalotten” (13), where the latter geographical region denotes the northernmost part of arctic Scandinavia. The action has thus been drastically moved away from the Hump and everything linked to the geographical areas where the U.S. Air Force was active during the Second World War. This could be an act of domestication, where the action is set closer to home for the Swedish readers. Geographical names in general seem to have been made less American in the Swedish target texts than in the Norwegian ones. Even the geographical term “New England” is translated literally into “Nya England,” which is not considered correct in Swedish. Geographical names have been made less specific and less American, also making Cherry appear less American. For example, when boarding the vessel to England, Cherry and a couple of her friends are divided into different groups. Cherry and her friends are placed together with three other nurses forming a group of six. They tell each other where they come from (Illinois, Pennsylvania, New England, and Minnesota) and this passage, where metalinguistic comments on the girls’ dialects are made, has been left out in the Swedish translation.
In another passage, Cherry, Cooper, and a couple of fighter pilots drink Coca-Cola and meet some soldiers who express their admiration for the flight nurses. They say, “You flight nurses are our real pin-up girls” (39), which has been translated to “Dere flysøstre er virkelige pin-up girls” (30) in Norwegian, which has almost the exact same meaning as in the source text. Despite today’s negative connotations, this is meant as a compliment. The pilot who utters these words argues that the nurses, who do so many good deeds, are genuine, admirable, and good-looking. He says that when the pilots salute the girls, they do so because they mean it and not only because they follow Army customs. Another fighter pilot joins the conversation and tells Cherry that the nurses can mean the difference between life and death for many soldiers. This passage has been omitted from the Swedish translation, resulting in a censorship of the pin-up section, and an omission of the part where the nurses’ role in the war is mentioned.
When comparing the Norwegian and Swedish translations with the source text, it is clearly the case that the Swedish translations are the least source-text oriented on a purely textual level. This is in line with earlier research showing that translations into languages of central literary systems are freer. It appears as if the publisher wants to protect the reader from the war and to make the geographical contexts less specific. At the same time, it is necessary to mention that the case seems to be the opposite concerning the portrayal of Cherry on the cover image of Army Nurse and, to some extent, Flight Nurse.
In the wartime novels, it is inevitable that the enemies are mentioned. In Flight Nurse, a mother comes with her child to Cherry’s hospital after a bombing. She says: “This time, I thought, the Jerries will have had enough of bombing the Drews. But it seems I was wrong” (58). The slang is toned down in the Norwegian version, rendering the text even more explicit as to whom the enemy is, namely tyskerne (“the Germans”): “Denne gangen tenkte jeg nok tyskerne ville hatt nok av å bombe oss, men jeg hadde nok tatt feil” (43). This sentence is omitted from the Swedish version. In another episode, Cherry’s friend Dr. Joe tells Cherry in a letter what has happened to some people he knows in England. One line of the letter is: “Then the Germans bombed London” (21). This is translated quite literally in the Norwegian target text as “[s]å bombet tyskerne London” (18), whereas the sentence is set in a passive voice in the Swedish translation, probably to avoid mentioning the Germans: “[s]edan bombarderades London” (17). Another, very tart, remark about the Germans is also toned down in the Swedish target text. A character tells Cherry: “[…] I have no daughter—thanks to the Germans” (84), which is quite literally translated into Norwegian as “[…] jeg har ingen datter…takket være tyskerne” (64), whereas the Swedish translator has chosen to phrase it more neutrally: “[…] jag har ingen dotter, för krigets skull” (57) (“I have no daughter, because of the war”). Once again, the Swedish target text provides a more neutral description of events.
In Flight Nurse, the enemy is Germany, whereas in Army Nurse and Chief Nurse, it is Japan. Passages where the Japanese are named as the enemies have not been omitted or made less explicit in either target text. A very clear example of this appears in Chief Nurse, where Japanese bombers attack the island where Cherry’s temporary hospital is located. This attack makes Cherry furious. She thinks of the attackers: “The beasts, inhuman killers” (152), which is literally translated as “Disse umenneskelige morderne” (132) in Norwegian, and “Odjur, omänskliga mördare” (118) in Swedish. However, the parts where the Germans are referred to in negative terms are sometimes omitted or rendered less explicit in the Swedish translations, as shown above. It is possible that this strategy is used in order to avoid perpetuating a grudge against the Germans after the war or transferring any lingering animosity to coming generations, who had not experienced the war. This would not benefit European peace. It is as if the translator has adopted Cherry’s own creed of forgiving and seeing the best in people as guidelines for how to translate the text. The Japanese participation in the war, however, was quite distant for the Scandinavians, and naming Japan as the enemy would not be so great a risk as naming the Germans.
When considering all of the novels in the Cherry series, the Swedish target texts are always shorter than both the American source text and the Norwegian target text. This is the case even when taking spacing and font size into account. Cherry på vingene contains 161 pages, whereas Cherry Ames vid flyget is only 139 pages long. Previous research has shown that literature of low prestige is translated less literally than literature of high prestige (Lindqvist). Lindqvist has studied the translation of Harlequin novels and found that Swedish publishers ask their translators to cut 10–15 percent of the book (78). The Cherry series could be categorized within the segment of low prestige literature, and it is therefore possible that the publisher has asked the translator to make the target text shorter than the source text. If this was the case, then the sections referring to the war would be the easiest to cut down on, since the topic was unlikely to appeal to potential readers. Results suggest that this is what has happened in Cherry Ames vid flyget.
At the textual level, this study has shown that the themes of war, patriotism, and nationality are less pronounced in the Swedish translations of Cherry Ames. There is a tendency that nationalities and geographical names are rendered less specific or omitted entirely. The omission of nationalities is especially clear concerning the German enemy. The fact that there are more changes in the Swedish target text could be linked to the fact that Sweden never participated in the war, and that it is a country that has remained neutral for a long time. It could also be linked to the fact that Cherry was introduced in Sweden quite a long time after the war. Another reason why the Swedish translations seems to be less faithful to the American originals could be that Sweden, with a more central literary system, uses less source-text oriented translations than Norway. As regards the book covers, however, results are inconclusive as to whether the Swedish or Norwegian covers are farthest from the originals. The war seems to be less salient on the book covers of the Norwegian target texts, especially concerning the titles, which are much freer in relation to the American source text. It could be argued that the war was still a painful memory in Norway at the time, and that the publisher has tried to brand the novels differently in order to attract more readers. It is clear that certain elements appear to have been omitted, highlighted, changed, or even added to the cover images by the Norwegian and Swedish publishers in order to make the books more appealing to their readers.
Bearing these results in mind, one must still note that although Cherry is in the army and the war is a major theme in some of the books, Cherry is first and foremost a nurse. In fact, she has to remind herself on several occasions that she is also a soldier. There is never any sign of the war being portrayed as something good. Cherry goes to war because she has to. In the military, Cherry often finds it hard to adapt to the strict rules and to make her superiors listen when she has something important to say. She is always guided by her sense of right and wrong and, ultimately, she always makes the right decisions—decisions that her superiors also approve of. These aspects of the Cherry books, namely her desire to care for the sick and wounded, and her sense of right and wrong, are always translated in full in both the Norwegian and Swedish target texts. It is clear that Cherry’s own identity and aspirations always transcend the topics of war and patriotism.
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