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Hans Künzel Discovered The Lord of the Rings?

TolkienPosted by Morgan Thu, March 22, 2012 20:45:29

Pierre Dethorey, owner of Åkarps Antikvariat in Lund, has offered the following reminiscence about Hans Künzel (Swedish editor, who worked at Gebers, the publishers of Sagan om ringen, the first Swedish translation of The Lord of the Rings):

Hans Künzel ... discovered Tolkien. He told me once that he found The Lord of the Rings at a bookmarket (Frankfurt?), and read it at a single sitting during the night. However, he later had large difficulties trying to convince Gebers to buy the Swedish publishing right!” (1)

This anecdote offers a small but unique insight into the publication history of The Lord of the Rings in Sweden, and might complement the account given by Erland Törngren:

It was my mother, Disa Törngren, who towards the end of the 1950s heard about an English professor of Anglo-Saxon and English literature, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who had written an extraordinary and impressive epic story of over 1,200 pages, a trilogy that had become popular in England. She was editor-in-chief at Gebers publishers, loved fairy tales, and contacted Sir Stanley Unwin, the English publisher. When the contract for the three parts was cleared, she commissioned Åke Ohlmarks, learned in languages and who had formerly translated, for example, the Icelandic Edda, to do the translation.” (2)

I contacted Mr. Dethorey, who had no futher details to add to to his reminiscence (besides that Künzel had told Dethorey the story many years ago when they worked together compiling catalogues for Gunnar Johanson-Thor, then owner of Nyléns Antikvariat in Stockholm).

Notes & Acknowledgements

Photograph of Åkarps Antikvariat. Copyright Pierre Dethorey/Åkarps Antikvariat. Reproduced with permission.

1) Original Swedish text:

Hans Künzel var en gång redaktör på Lundagård, och under sin tid på Gebers redigerade han bl.a. Fakirens samlade verk. Han "upptäckte" också Tolkien, berättade för mig en gång att han fick tag i Sagan om ringen på en bokmarknad (Frankfurt?), sträckläste den på natten, men att han sedan hade stora svårigheter att övertala Gebers att köpa den svenska rättigheten!” (Source; accessed 22 March 2012.)

2) Original Swedish text:

Det var min mor, Disa Törngren, som mot slutet av 1950-talet fick höra talas om att en engelsk professor i anglosaxiska och engelsk litteratur, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, hade skrivit ett mycket märkligt och mäktigt sagoepos på över 1 200 sidor, en trilogi som blivit populär i England. Hon var då litterär chef på Gebers förlag, älskade sagor och tog kontakt med den engelske förläggaren, sir Stanley Unwin. När kontraktet för de tre delarna var klart anlitade hon den språkkunnige Åke Ohlmarks, som tidigare översatt bl.a. isländska Eddan, för att göra översättningen.” (Törngren, Erland. "När ‘Sagan om ringen’ kom till Sverige" ["When The Lord of the Rings Came to Sweden"]; Nationalencyclopedin. [http://www.ne.se/rep/n%C3%A4r-sagan-om-ringen-kom-till-sverige]. Published 14 December 2001, accessed 22 March 2012.)

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