Conrad First The Joseph Conrad Periodical Archive

An Outpost of Oppression: The First Swedish Translation of Conrad

Claes Lindskog, Lund University

© Claes Lindskog. No part of this text may be reposted or republished without the permission of the author.


The earliest known translation into Swedish of Joseph Conrad’s work was a serialisation of “An Outpost of Progress”, which ran between 10 January and 28 January 1899 in Aftonposten,a Helsinki evening paper. At the time Finland was a part of the Russian empire, and the serialisation of Conrad can thus be said to be part of a doubly colonial context, being published in the language of one former colonial power—Sweden—in a country then being ruled by another.
Unlike many other early Conrad serials, or indeed the English serialisation of “An Outpost of Progress” in Cosmopolis from which Aftonposten had taken the text, the Helsinki serial was not displayed separately like a work of art, but was cut up into snippets and mixed in among train schedules and the latest reports from the Extraordinary Session of the Finnish Parliament. It thus appeared, not as an honoured guest, but as part of a new context, becoming—in part—a new text.
When I began investigating the history of Conrad’s first translation into Swedish, I expected that I would need only to make a preliminary sketch of the circumstances surrounding the publication and then focus on the translation itself. Reading these old newspapers, however, I became fascinated by the story unfolding elsewhere on the page. The serial publication of “An Outpost” coincided with the start of a momentous period in Finland’s history known as the Years of Oppression (1899–1905). In the first months of 1899, the Finnish press was accommodating itself to a dramatic increase in censorship, a process easily visible in the texts surrounding Conrad’s.
Today we are used to seeing texts as clearly discrete wholes, to be read only in terms of their original contexts. In contrast, the instalments of “The Lagoon” in Aftonposten cannot be conveniently isolated from what happens elsewhere on the page. In place of Conrad’s free-standing short story, the newspaper offers a text divided up into very short snippets and mixed with a diverse range of journalistic and advertising materials. Not least, because Conrad’s name was not mentioned until 10 January, the installments were anonymous and thus more likely to trigger connections in the reader’s mind with the other anonymous texts on the page than with the instalments of previous days. In its prominent thematizing of political oppression and the need for self-censorship—the two most important issues in the newspaper as a whole—Conrad’s story became, in effect, a part of Aftonposten’s news coverage.
While today we are used to seeing texts as self-contained entities, clearly separated from one another, these instalments cannot be conveniently isolated from what happens elsewhere on the page. This integration of texts is partly a result of the form—Conrad’s short story was mixed in with many other kinds of text, creating significant juxtapositions—and partly because the news itself, and the manifest difficulties in reporting it, highlighted certain themes in Conrad’s story, which prominently thematizes political oppression and the need for self-censorship. In this essay, I will therefore present the political context in which Conrad’s work was serialized in Swedish: what his first readers in Swedish were thinking about when they encountered his work for the first time. I will also present the literary background to the publication, including contemporary literary tastes and reading practices. Finally, I will examine the translation itself. All translations are a record of how one particular reader read the text and tried to solve the problems it presented. The case of Aftonposten’s serialization of “An Outpost” thus offers a fascinating instance of an early encounter with Conrad when he was largely unknown and not yet an object of deference.
This study was greatly facilitated by the National Library of Finland’s newspaper database, which has made available online all Finnish newspapers printed before 1910. References to “An Outpost of Progress” are either to the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad (2012) (page followed by line number) or to the serialisation in Aftonposten (date between January 10 and 28 followed by page sequence in the serialisation [1–66]). Where two references are given (e.g 77.6; 10.1), the former refers to the Cambridge edition, the latter to Aftonposten. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from the Swedish are my own.

In January 1899, the Grand Duchy of Finland was preparing for an Extraordinary Session of Parliament that had been convened by Tsar Nicholas II and his new Governor-General, Nikolay Ivanovich Bobrikov. The country was an anomaly within the Russian Empire: a Swedish colony since the twelfth century, it had been ceded to Russia in 1809, but retained its own Parliament and constitution, border controls, and army. Swedish and Finnish were the official languages of government and all administration. In Russia, voices had recently been heard arguing that this quasi-autonomous state, like Poland, should be incorporated into Russia, but for now the Finns trusted the Tsar to keep his promises about the Finnish constitution.
A more pressing question in Finland than the country’s position within the Russian Empire concerned the relation between speakers of Swedish—the upper and middle classes as well as fishermen and farmers along the south and west coasts—and the Finnish-speaking rest of the population. A sizeable part of the Swedish-speaking middle class belonged to the Fennoman movement, which argued that Finland’s best chance of becoming independent was to cultivate its individuality, including the Finnish language, according to the motto “We are no longer Swedes. We do not wish to become Russians. Let us therefore become Finns”. Following this admonition, many educated Finns switched language and the percentage of the Swedish-speaking population declined from 14.3% in 1880 to 12.9% in 1900, out of a total population of 2.7 million (McRae 1997, 86). Others—the so-called Svecomans—argued that since Swedish had for so long been the only written language in Finland, and, consequently, had a far richer heritage in literature, governance, law, philosophy, theology, and virtually all other fields, the best hope of creating a strong and free Finland lay with the Swedish language.
This linguistic feud naturally affected the press. In 1850, 60% of Finnish newspapers were published in Swedish; in 1899, this figure was down to 34%. At the same time, the number of titles published had also increased dramatically, from 34 papers in 1880 to 87 in 1899; most were very shortlived. The most important papers were all published in Helsinki: in Finnish, the conservative Uusi Suometar (Finland’s New Daughter) and nationalist Päivälehti (Daily News); and, in Swedish, the moderately Svecoman Hufvudstadsbladet (Capital Paper) and more stridently Svecoman Nya Pressen (New Press) and Aftonposten (Evening Post)(Kurian 1982, 332). Except for Aftonposten, all were morning papers. Since Helsinki was still relatively small at this time, having only 91,216 inhabitants in 1900, of whom 42.5% spoke Swedish, all of these papers had a fairly small circulation (Kirby 1979, 12). In 1900, the biggest, Hufvudstadsbladet, had a circulation of 16,000; Aftonposten had only 3,000 (Nordisk familjebok 11: 1233; Andersson and Arrila 2009, 6). The five big Helsinki papers also showed most interest for translated fiction. Out of a total of 239 hits for “Kipling” (the most popular British writer of the day) in Finnish newspapers of 1899 digitized by the National Library, only the following have more than twenty each: Päivälehti (20), Aftonposten (21), Hufvudstadsbladet (22), Uusi Suometar (23), and Nya Pressen (24). Fifty-one papers have between one and nine hits and the rest do not mention Kipling at all.
Formed as Helsingfors Aftonblad (Helsinki Evening Paper)by the merger of two other evening papers in 1893, Aftonposten was specially designed to satisfy the demand for newspapers from the Swedish-speaking working class in the capital (Andersson and Arrila 2009, 3). In 1895, it dropped Helsingfors from its title in a move to attract a greater audience in the provinces. In its first issue of 30 March 1895, the revamped Aftonposten declared an ambitious program. The paper would be educational and reach a readership in the Swedish-speaking working classes and peasantry but also the middle classes, since these were considered to be “the principal carriers of Western culture in the country” and in that capacity necessary for its development. The paper would furthermore consider it as its duty to cover and preserve Swedish culture in Finland.
More commercially, Aftonposten presented itself in a banner in the issue of 25 September 1895 as “the cheapest daily paper in the capital: agreeable feuilletons, spirited and fresh news from home and abroad, . . .” As the inclusion of “An Outpost” shows, “agreeable” can mean many different things. The paper published news items which not yet appeared in the morning papers as well as longer articles, including foreign telegrams that arrived during the day, enabling readers to follow distant events such as wars in Ethiopia, the Philippines, and South Africa.
Consider Aftonposten’s issue for 18 January 1899, which contains pp. 31–34 of the Conrad serial (87.20–88.30 in the original). As usual, there were four pages. Below the mast-head we find the names of the editors and their office hours. Editor-in-chief from 1898 was Ernst Gråsten (1865–1942), who briefly served as finance minister in 1922. Subeditors were Hjalmar Procopé (1868–1927), later a famous poet, and Karl Flodin (1858–1925), a composer and music critic. In the usual nineteenth-century style, the first page is almost entirely given over to advertisements for tailors, pianos, porter, seed catalogues, and new plays. The Panorama International presents “the Riviera in 50 interesting pictures,” while the Ladies’ Orchestra “Pester Schwalben” are playing at the Opera Restaurant nightly, a more genteel entertainment than the “giant snakes . . . from Hamburg” advertised by the Elephant Theatre on 12 January. There are also listings of lawyers and insurance companies, architects, bath houses, dentists, and doctors (Dr von Alfthan is away on 18 January but the other ten doctors can see you; five are reachable by telephone). The first page also contains obituaries and a few news items on “The newest private railway projects” and “The Extraordinary Session of Parliament”.
Turning the page, we find local news such as the Chancellor’s commencement address for the spring term at the university (“this time held in the Swedish language”) and a telegram that “Finnish Lloyd’s sailing ship ‘Hellas’ has arrived in Melbourne on 16 January. All is well on board.” Journalists from Cologne and Stockholm are reported as having arrived to cover Parliament. There is also a short story by the Norwegian writer Thomas P. Krag and a weather report. Page three included a review of a concert, the continuation of Krag’s story, and pages 34 and 31 of the Conrad serial. Here we also find the foreign news: an article on the unpleasant swaying experienced in Chicago skyscrapers, the latest turns in the Dreyfus scandal, and a long article on pickpockets in London (“Culture has reached also pickpockets […] The master criminal of today works more openly, more impudently, with more perfected technique, in a naturalistic manner, so to speak”). Alongside these, we find market prices for pike, bullhead, capercaillie, cranberries, birch wood, rye bread, potatoes, meadow hay, timothy, and straw.
Page four includes pages 32–33 of “An Outpost,” advertisements for “English iron beds”, arrack punch (“Demand it icecold”), electric doorbells (“Incredible but true!”), and Swedish knitting machines. There is also a list of travellers staying in the city’s hotels, mostly Finns, a few merchants from Sweden and Germany, and two Russians: Colonel Slavkovitch, from St Petersburg, at Societetshuset; and Miss Ragana, also from St Petersburg, at Hotel Patria. There are opening hours for post offices, museums, hospitals, and various public offices, times for church services and chapel meetings, and train and shipping schedules. Ships from the Finland Steamship Company have left for Alicante, Barcelona, Bremerhaven, Castellon, Copenhagen, Gandia, Hamburg, Hull, London, Riga, Rouen, Stettin, Stockholm, Tallinn and Valencia. A note in bold warns that while the ice in the harbour is thick enough to use as a road, the public should keep away from the shipping lanes. On 27 January, when serializing the penultimate instalment of “An Outpost”, Aftonposten reported that the last ship had left Helsinki for the winter: “last night the steamer Arcturus left for Hangö [Hanko] from where it will depart Saturday for its regular run to Hull”.
It is as part of this chaotic web of heterogeneous material that Conrad’s text appeared. Unsurprisingly, given the rapid internationalization of the late nineteenth century, much of Aftonposten’s materialcame from outside Finland or dealt with interactions between Finland and the outside world. Indeed, “An Outpost of Progress” was hardly more exotic than many other items. Conrad’s cosmopolitanism fitted right in, not just as a “carrier of Western culture”, as Aftonposten called it in its declaration of intent, but as a comment on the process by which that culture was maintained.
From the above inventory, it is possible to identify the greatest difference between magazines versus newspaper serialization: in the latter, instalments are not separated from other items but share the page with many other kinds of material. This means that the reading experience is constantly being disturbed by associations prompted by other surrounding items. Even coincidental juxtapositions can shed an ironic light. On 25 January, for example, Carlier’s outburst, “there’s nothing but slave-dealers in this cursed country” (94.20–21; 25.52) appeared on the same page as a report on the Congo Free State’s first declared annual profit and an article on slavery in Hawaii (“as long as only Chinese and Japanese were seen being herded through the streets in shackles, no one reacted, but now that white people can be seen in the same condition, opinion has turned”).
Likewise, the scene in which Kayerts shoots Carlier in the mistaken belief that Carlier is about to shoot him can be read as both tragic and comic. Had it appeared next to an item about legitimate self-defence, readers might have been more inclined to read it in a tragic light. As it happens, Aftonposten published the scene on 26 January immediately below an item labelled “the stupidest joke in the world”: “Have you been to Constantinople, Sir?” “No”. “Then you may know my brother. He was going to travel there two years ago, but didn’t go”. In consequence, Conrad’s text in Aftonposten is forced into a novel kind of textual conversation. Even for readers able to distinguish easily between genres, the close proximity of such wildly different items must have aroused conflicting emotions.
Correspondences between the news and the serials were not always fortuitous. Indeed, the texts serialised in Aftonposten seem often to have been chosen because they treated topical subjects. On 21 November 1899, for example, Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm was serialised alongside reports from the Anglo-Boer War. In the case of “An Outpost of Progress”, the subject was a topical, which may be part of the reason for its selection. Discrepancies between colonial theory and practice were understandably of interest in a country whose parliament would shortly be discussing its own colonial status. There was also an increased interest in the Congo Free State in the late 1890s. Aftonposten first reports on 25 August 1896 that the Swedish missionary E. V. Sjöblom had sent home a pamphlet from the Congo accusing the Free State of committing atrocities: “Mr S. includes a multitude of horrific details which show that the civilisation being given to the blacks is a curse”. On 4 September 1896, Aftonposten again referred to “the crimes committed in the name of civilisation in the Congo State”. On 5 February 1897, it reported that Artur Hacklin, a Finnish steamship engineer, had died in Boma, Congo Free State. Hacklin, who had described the hardship of the winter route between Hanko and Hull in the English magazine The Graphic, had been forced to resign because of illness, however. Signing up with the Royal Belgian Steamship Company, he had been in the Congo a month before his death. His epitaph read: “He always travelled with an open mind”. Finally, on 7 December 1898, Aftonposten published an article claiming that King Léopold II was negotiating with Britain over the incorporation of the Upper Nile around Fashoda into the Congo Free State in order to create a buffer between British and French interests.

The Beginning of the Years of Oppression
On 24 January, Aftonposten presented readers with a report on the official opening of Parliament in the Cathedral, which began with the Governor-General reading an address from Nicholas II. After a short preamble, it declared: “Since Finland is inseparably united with the Empire and standing under the protection of the whole of the Russian state, it has no need for a military force separate from the Russian army. The laws concerning conscription must therefore be reformulated”. The speakers of the four chambers then presented their speeches, largely consisting of compliments to the Tsar. The speaker for the nobles did point out, however, that “whatever parliament decides regarding the proposed changes,” the nobility expects that “the constitution will be respected”.
Alongside this report, the newspaper quoted from an interview with the Governor-General in a Russian newspaper, in which he stated that “it is not for the Finnish Parliament to pass or reject anything, merely to hold a discussion . . . by which His Majesty may become acquainted with the wishes of the Finnish people”. Bobrikov adds: “it is impossible to suppose that [Finns] should lean towards Sweden or dream of independence!” Aftonposten ends its report by noting: “For our part, we will refrain from any reflections, for reasons that will readily be understood.” Rather, the newspaper’s juxtaposing of the report from the opening of Parliament stands in place of an editorial comment.
Two more passages on the same page also cast an ironic light on the affairs of the day. At the bottom, there is a short note on “the number of Jews in the world” in which a Russian official is quoted as saying “We have persecuted this people for the last ten years and driven thousands of them from the country. Before we started the persecution against them we had 4 million and now, after all our attempts to lower their numbers, we have 6 million.” Immediately to the right of this note, we find the serial, which has reached a point where Carlier has become genocidal: “Carlier talked about nothing but the necessity of exterminating all the negroes in the world” (24.47). On the same page, we thus find examples of three Imperial officials who express three different attitudes to Imperial subjects, manifesting three degrees of imperial oppression.
During the following weeks, Aftonposten published detailed daily reports of the debates in Parliament. The main topic of debate was the future of the Finnish army. The Russian government’s proposal that Finnish conscripts be incorporated into the Russian army had met with resistance from the Parliament, to the approbation of Aftonposten and the other big papers whose morning editions it quoted in detail. Aftonposten’s reports show signs of growing censorship. Its 15 February issue included two short articles, kept well apart. The first quoted Nya Pressen’s view thatthe constitution of 1809 ensured the Finnish parliament’s complete autonomy and did not grant the Tsar autocratic power over Finland. The other notes that “Censorship affected yesterday’s edition of Nya Pressen, which was allowed to be published only after a few lines had been omitted from the article ‘Our Conscription Question in the French Press’”. On 18 February, it reported that Östra Finland, a Swedish newpaperin Viipuri—then Finland’s second city, today the Russian city of Vyborg—had been closed down permanently by the censorship board, and that articles had been censored in Uusi Suometar and Päivälehti. All other political reporting was limited to summaries of other morning papers.
Finally, on 20 February, Aftonposten published “His Imperial Highness’s Gracious Manifesto, given in St Petersburg on 3 (15) February 1899” (Finland followed the Gregorian calendar, Russia the Julian). It asserted that the question of the Finnish army was too important to leave to the Finnish Parliament and that henceforth all issues with repercussions outside Finland—essentially, anything in which the Tsar took an interest—would be decided in St Petersburg. Finland’s autonomy was over and its constitution had been set aside. Now considered the most important in Finnish history between 1809 and 1907, the “February Manifesto” was not made public in Finland for several days, a delay that only increased its shock value. Finns immediately went into mourning and shop windows in Helsinki were dressed in black.
Aftonposten commented that this document had “come as a complete surprise to the people of Finland”. It also emphasized that the manifesto disregarded Tsar Alexander I’s confirmation of Finland’s constitutional laws. This meant that the autocratic power was not extended to Finland but that every change in the constitution should be made with the cooperation of the Finnish parliament. The article ended by saying that “these laws have been guaranteed by Finland’s present monarch through a formal affirmation at his accession to the throne”. There followed a list of newspapers which had been censored that day.
As reported in the article, the manifesto had been written by a secret committee that included Bobrikov, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, and Vyacheslav von Plehve. Victor Napoleon Procopé, Minister-Secretary of State for Finland and a distant relative of the sub-editor of Aftonposten, had registered a reservation in the protocol and was replaced by Plehve in September. To Conradians, Plehve is best known as the original of “Mr de P—— , the President of the notorious Repressive Commission of some years ago” who is assassinated at the opening of Under Western Eyes. However, as Andrzej Busza has pointed out, the opinions Conrad ascribes to Mr de P—— are more akin to those of Pobedonostsev (Busza 1976, 112–13). It may also be noted that Mr de P—— always carries the (fictional) order of St Procopius round the neck. There may be no reason to believe that this order alludes to Victor Procopé, but nor is there any reason to believe it alludes to the Byzantine history writer Procopius, as Busza suggests.
In the wake of the February Manifesto, the Extraordinary Session of Parliament became obsolete. All the members could do was to protest against how they had been set aside. A “Grand Address” or petition received half a million Finnish signatures and a committee was sent to St Petersburg to deliver it; the Tsar refused to accept it. An international petition against the manifesto was also drawn up, and the names of its signatores, including Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, Herbert Spencer, Florence Nightingale, Anatole France, Henrik Ibsen, and Émile Zola, were published in Aftonposten on 3 July. On 21 September, the paper reported that Pobedonostsev in an Austrian paper had accused British agents of fomenting unrest in Finland.
By this time, censorship had increased dramatically in Finland. In the words of press historian George Kurian, “freedom of the press was anathema” for Bobrikov, who “saw in the Finnish papers the most formidable obstacle in the path of Russification” (Kurian 1982, 333). The first signs of this assault on the press could be seen shortly after the serialisation of “An Outpost” concluded. While the press initially debated the manifesto and its possible consequences for Finland with gusto, it quickly learned to be more circumspect. The number of cases of censorship increased from 97 in 1898 to 375 in 1899. Between 1899 and 1905, 47 papers were temporarily suspended and 24 papers closed down (Kurian 1982, 333).
Aftonposten suffered both these fates in turn. It had received four warnings after the February manifesto and was temporarily suspended between 5 April and 4 May 1899. Meanwhile, Nya Pressen was suspended for two months. Hufvudstadsbladet observed on 5 April:

For the publishers of the affected newspapers, this prohibition is undoubtedly a bitter blow. A comfort may be that not only all the press but all the people recognize fully their achievements for the fatherland, and share in their sorrow.” When Aftonposten resumed publication, it attributed the suppression to having “criticised and blamed the government in its articles and thereby caused the people to mistrust the government’s decisions. This harmful direction was further aggravated by repeated and erroneous interpretations of Finland’s relation to the Empire and a distorted interpretation of the gracious Manifesto of 15 February. (5 May)

In the same issue Aftonposten thanked “the general public” for “the many tokens of sympathy in the form of bouquets, telegrams, and letters” that had reached its offices. The first instalments of its new serial, Tolstoy’s Resurrection,were reprinted “for the benefit of new subscribers”.
In November, the situation of the press was publicly acknowledged in a series of festivities organized in support of the press, culminating in a gala evening at Helsinki’s Swedish Theatre when Jean Sibelius’s Finlandia, now practically Finland’s second national anthem, received its first performance. Writing for Aftonposten, Karl Flodin described it as “a whole new folksong or rather the people’s song . . . our own, our democratic Finnish people’s song” (15 December). The standoff continued into 1900. On 19 April, Aftonposten reported that it had replaced a censored article on 13 February with an essay on Gutenberg taken verbatim from a Swedish encyclopaedia. Clearly intended as a provocation to the censor, it was itself suppressed.
Finally, on 4 October 1900, Aftonposten ceased publication. Its only reference to its impending demise was a small note on page three of its last final issue stating that Hufvudstadsbladet was reporting that “the Governor General has approved the proposal by the Censorship Advisory Board to suspend for all time the publication of Aftonposten and all supplements of this paper because of the ‘continuously damaging direction’ taken by it.” Readers would be unable to read the final instalments of E. N. Westcott’s novel David Harum. Afterwards, Aftonposten threw a party for its editor-in-chief Ernst Gråsten. During this “magnificent celebration,” reported Fredrikshamns Tidning on 10 October, telegrams were read out, including one from “citizens in Fredrikshamn” and another from Fredrikshamns Tidning itself: “Justice and truth must not die, even though their standard-bearer has fallen.”
Nya Pressen, the last newspaper advocating Swedish culture in Finland,closed in 1900. Gråsten, Aftonposten’s editor, became a banker but reappeared briefly as editor-in-chief of Wiborgs Nyheter in 1905 and served as Finance Minister in 1922. Of the subeditors, Hjalmar Procopé became editor-in-chief of a provincial paper in Pori, and Karl Flodin founded Euterpe, a “weekly magazine for music, theatre and fiction”, in December 1900. This magazine quickly  became the leading Swedish magazine on literature in Finland and it was there that Conrad first attracted critical attention in Finland in the form of an essay by Yrjö Hirn published in 1902 (translated in Donovan 2006, 125–30).
Other staff journalists from Nya Pressen and Aftonposten launched Dagligt Allehanda on 20 November 1900 together with the architect, artist, and novelist Johan Jacob Ahrenberg (1847–1914) as editor-in-chief. Much of the its first cover was given over to a discussion of what the demise of Aftonposten and Nya Pressen meant for literature:

Finland possesses all the prerequisites for the creation of a national literature and art except one: there is as good as no opportunity to exercise that criticism that is so necessary for successful development. After the suppression of Nya Pressen and Aftonposten there remains only one daily paper in Swedish in Helsinki, and it is self-evident that one paper can cast only a one-sided light on art and literature . . . . It is from these considerations that the idea of launching Dagligt Allehanda has evolved.

By September 1901 Dagligt Allehanda had fallen victim to the censor, to be followed by many other newspapers during the “years of oppression”. Meanwhile, Russian became the official language of Finland, the Russian Orthodox Church became its state church, the Finnish Army integrated with the Russian, and the Finnish mark was replaced by the rouble. Then in 1904 Nikolay Ivanovich Bobrikov was assassinated in Helsinki on 16 June, a date later made famous by James Joyce’s Ulysses, in which the murder is mentioned. Finally, after the attempted revolution of 1905, the Russification process eased off, and in 1907 Finland again became semi-autonomous, with a new parliament, the first in the world to allow women both to vote and stand for office. Finland finally became independent in 1917.

The Literary Field in Finland
Fiction translated into Swedish in Finland at the end of the nineteenth century was almost entirely the province of the newspapers. Books printed in Sweden were widely available but Finnish publishers printed mostly original works. Even the translations that were published in book form were usually completed serials reissued as part of the “serial libraries” [följetongsbibliotek] published by the major newspapers. Such publications include Kipling’s The Light that Failed (Nya Pressen, 1892) and Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (Hufvudstadsbladet, 1897). Aftonposten published five novels this way, including Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Indeed, of the 64 titles translated from English that were published in book form in Finland during the period 1885–1900, all but six were published in serial libraries. The exceptions were Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and sensational novels by Mary Braddon, Dinah Craik, Dan  James, Mrs Henry Wood and S. Levitt Yeats (Filis, 2012).
Most readers, however, would probably have read the novels and stories in the context of their original serial publication. Each serial in Aftonposten had its own pagination so that it could easily be cut out and collected into a booklet. Indeed, reading the serial practically necessitated cutting out, since its pages otherwise appeared in the wrong order (the serial’s pages 4 and 1 of the serial appearing below the fold of the newspaper’s third page, followed on the next page by pages 2 and 3 of the serial). Indeed, the paper explicitly referred to the serial as a “cut-out section”. While no evidence exists to prove that newspaper serials were in fact cut out, the practice would seem to be confirmed by a passage in a short story, pubilshed on 30 September 1899, about a doctor’s wife in a small Finnish town: “[T]he evening paper in the small town was usually printed around six in the afternoon and his wife normally handed it in to him after having cut out the serial”.
Aftonposten serials were perhaps read in this way, with the difference that theyseem calculated to appeal to both sexes. Conrad’s story had been preceded by Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Shadow Before” and was succeeded by Bret Harte’s “The Youngest Prospector in Calaveras”. Writers who appeared regularly included Conan Doyle (11 short stories), Rudyard Kipling (8 short stories), and Robert Louis Stevenson (both “Markheim” and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1898). Many were translations from English.
A rough estimate relative positions of individual British and American writers may be formed by examining the frequency with which each name appears in the newspapers digitized by the National Library, with the proviso that such searches are necessarily very imprecise. In 1899, Kipling led with 239 hits, followed by Mark Twain (76 hits), Conan Doyle (41), Harte (27), Anthony Hope (20) and H. Rider Haggard (17). Henry James seems not to have been mentioned at all, suggesting that Aftonposten’sreaders were mostly interested in sensational fiction set in exotic environments. With the exception of the serialisation of “An Outpost” in Aftonposten, Conrad’s name did not appear in a Finnish periodical until Hirn’s essay Euterpe in 1902. In 1903, Tales of Unrest was published in Stockholm, translated by Karin Hirn and with an introduction by Yrjö Hirn, based on his Euterpe article (Conrad 1903). The first translation into Finnish seems to be Almayer’s Folly in 1919 (Conrad 1919).

The Translation and the Original
There are two main reasons for studying translations: what they tell us about the literary field; and what they tell us about the original text. Having dealt with the field, I shall now turn my attention to what the translation of “An Outpost of Progress” in Aftonposten has to tell us about Conrad’s own version. Since the translation seems to be an honest attempt to render Conrad’s story, it can be used to pinpoint problems in the original that might otherwise remain invisible.
There are two clear indications that Aftonposten’s translation is based on the serial version in Cosmopolis [LINK], rather than the version collected in Tales of Unrest (1898): Price’s first name is given as Henry and not James, as Conrad emended it for the book version (77.6; 10.1). The text is divided into two chapters and at the same point as in Cosmopolis (86.37/38; 17.29). However, the chapter break falls in the middle of a page, indeed, rather curiously,  in the middle of a scene. There are a number of other references to Cosmopolis in Aftonposten, which began serializing Pierre Loti’s “Le Mur en Face” (Cosmopolis, August 1897) on 3 November 1898; its issues of 17 August and 28 November 1898 also contained articles taken from the magazine. On 8 December 1898, Aftonposten noted with regret the demise of “the interesting magazine” Cosmopolis,quoting the Wiener Fremdenblatt’s observation that it is curious how “in a country so well designed for literary experiments as England, there is not a single publisher who would dare to continue the project.”
The translation of “An Outpost” is unattibuted, as was the norm for newspaper serials in Finland at this time. It would be tempting to identify it as a first attempt at translation by Karin Hirn, also living in Helsinki at this time, who was responsible for the translation of the whole Tales of Unrest four years later, were it not so different in style and translation philosophy. Hirn’s translation of Conrad is very close to the original and rather dry in tone, while Aftonposten’s version is free and verbose. The translator seems linguistically competent: there are few signs of any linguistic difficulties. On the other hand, there are frequent signs of hurry or carelessness: “Carlier put down his cup [kopp]” (94.4) with “Carlier put down his untouched body [kropp]” (24.50). Other errors are of greater importance, as when “traders from Loanda” (87.35) become “traders from London” (18.32).
The most obvious change in the translation concerns the title, which has been changed to “An Outpost of Civilisation” (“En civilisationens utpost”). The change is important—civilisation is a state, progress a process—in shifting focus what the outpost does to what it represents. It is worth noting that the French translation of 1903 also chooses the word “civilisation” whereas the German translation of 1901 uses “Kultur”. Later Swedish translations (1903 and 1961) have chosen the same title as this first publication, with the exception of the latest version (2006), titled “The Pioneers”. Since the 1903 translation was made by Karin Hirn who lived in Helsinki, it is not impossible that she got her title from the Aftonposten version.
The original text was subjected to three kinds of changes in translation: omissions, additions and substitutions. On the whole, the additions are much more numerous than the omissions and substitutions. Indeed, the text is significantly longer than the original, to the extent that one wonders whether the translator was paid by the word, and that the few omissions are accidental. Only two of these affect the sense. When describing the situation of Kayerts and Carlier, Conrad describes Earth as having “become bigger and very empty” (92.16–17). This description is missing in Aftonposten (23.45), thereby removing an important clue to the psyche of the hapless Europeans. For modern readers, who are used to comparing the protagonists of this story with Kurtz, it is noteworthy that the translation downplays the possible explanation for their internal change. Where Conrad described Kayerts and Carlier as losing that “something that . . . had kept the wilderness from interfering with their hearts” (92.19–21), Aftonposten has the men losing “something that . . . had prevented them from becoming wholeheartedly attached to the wilderness” (23.45). The translation preserves a clear and reassuring boundary between internal and external processes that has broken down in the original. The other omission occurs in the story’s penultimate sentence, where the word “playfully” is missing from the sentence “[h]e seemed to be standing rigidly at attention but with one purple cheek playfully posed on the shoulder” (99.22–24; 28.66). Perhaps the translator wanted to tone down the irony; perhaps it was just a slip.
As regards additions, only the more notable instances can be mentioned here. In general, the translator made Conrad’s style more convoluted and ornate. For example, the painter who built the factory is in the original “weary of pursuing fame” (77.33) but in the translation “weary of always unsuccessfully trying to win a place in the temple of fame” (11.4). More importantly, the translation smooths out much of the abruptness of the original. Both the narrator and the characters are taciturn and sparing with their words in the original, but not in the translation. Where Kayerts merely says “Yes” in the original (87.33, 88.3), in the translation he says “Yes . . . that would of course be a very good thing” (18.32) and “Yes, I suppose we should do that, now that such a good opportunity presents itself” (18.32). Most of the ellipses have also been cut, making the dialogue more formal and less emotional. For example, in the scene where Kayerts discovers that Makola has sold the staff as slaves, both Kayerts’s stuttering speechlessness and Makola’s evasiveness are represented by ellipses. In the translation the thirteen ellipses are reduced to six. Instead of “You! … you! …” (89.37), Kayerts now says “Oh, oh, you rascal” (38.19). Where the original uses free indirect discourse—“Kayerts hesitated at first. Was afraid of the Director” (93.15–16)—the translation uses indirect discourse: “Kayerts hesitated at first, but finally agreed—out of fear of the Director” (24.48). Similarly, in the chase scene the original combines ellipses and free indirect discourse—“He listened and got confused … must run again … right or left?” (96.4–5)—but the translation has: “He stood there and listened and got more and more confused. Should he start running again? And in that case, should he run to the right or to the left?” (26.56).
There is also a tendency to add adverbials. Indeed, when one compares the original with the translation it is conspicuous how terse and staccato-like Conrad’s style is, forcing the translator constantly to put in bridges in order to make the text appear more unified or “writerly”. Thus Conrad’s “In the middle of the night” (88.21) becomes “But in the middle of the night (18.34), and Conrad’s “Kayerts and Carlier did not disappear” (92.15) becomes “However, Kayerts and Carlier did not disappear” (23.45). Where Conrad writes of the hippo that Carlier shot in the river, “They had no boat to secure it and it sank” (92.40–93.1), the translator writes: “At the factory, however, there was at the moment no boat, with the help of which they could take possession of the intended spoils” (24.47).
The translator also adds frequent paragraph breaks, presumably for readability in a newspaper. For example, the single long paragraph that begins Chapter Two is divided into eight paragraphs in Aftonposten 86.38–87.26; 17.29–18.31). At times, adverbials and paragraph breaks are used to create pauses for emotional effect:

That attempt set the country up and down the river into an uproar that could be very distinctly heard for days. The steamer was late. At first they spoke of the delay jauntily. (Conrad 92.32–5)

That attempt at a rapprochement set the whole country up and down the river into an uproar, which made itself known with such force that it could be felt for days.
The steamer was still late.
At first the two men spoke jauntily of this unexpected delay (Aftonposten 23.46 [back translation]).

By manipulating the flow in the text, a writer—or in this case a translator—can manipulate the reader’s experience of the flow of time in the story-world.
The addition of words may result from the introduction of new information, or repetition. The segmented nature of a serial means that some information must be repeated to orient new readers. Key information also needs to be given directly, since what Ian Watt calls “delayed decoding” (Watt, 175ff) does not work if such decoding cannot take place for a day or two. Aftonposten includes a number of such specifications. For example, rather than leaving it to the reader to deduce where the story is set, the first line of the translation reads: “There were two white men in charge of the new trading station in Africa” (10.1). The second sentence specifies that Kayerts had been appointed chief “by the trading company that had been founded to do business in ivory” (10.1). Later, rather than just referring to “the post” (92.18), the translator refers to “their post as two of civilisation’s pioneers” (23.45).
Sometimes, the translator adds information not present in the original. When Makola is first introduced, he is said to be “a rather strange man” (77.6; 10.1). Originally merely “an unsuccessful painter” (77.32), the man who had built the factory becomes in the translation someone “who, while possibly in possession of some talent, still had not managed to win success” (11.4). In the original “Carlier thought” (80.18), but in the translation we see “Carlier in the silence of his mind harbouring thoughts, which, translated into human speech, would sound approximately like this” (13.11). Clearly the translator has spent some time thinking about cognitive processes.
The Aftonposten translation subtly makes Kayerts and Carlier more culpable in the selling of men into slavery in exchange for ivory . In the original, when Makola argues that they need ivory, Kayerts blames the men merely to exonerate himself: “I can’t help it; the men won’t work” (88.7). In the translation, however, his words can be read as confirmation and approval of Makola’s plan: “Yes, I can’t help it, but you’re right: the men don’t really do anything” (18.33). What motivates Makola and Kayerts remains obscure, but the translation prompts readers to anticipate Makola’s plan. On the other hand, while the enslaved men in the original are “the victims of the mysterious purpose of these illusions” (91.7)—that is, Kayerts’s and Carlier’s illusions—in the translation they become ‘the victims of the mysterious purpose of Providence’ (20.41). No longer a consequence of the flaws inherent to the ideal of progress, slavery has become part of God’s inscrutable plan. Ambiguous individual culpability becomes impersonal and unavoidable.
In Aftonposten, Kayerts and Carlier also resign themselves more quickly to the crime. In the original “Carlier said to Kayerts in a careless tone: ‘I say, chief, I might just as well give him a lift with this lot into the store’” (91.24–25). In the translation, however, Carlier “said in an unconcerned tone to Kayerts:—‘I’d like to tell you, my dear chief, that I thought I did the right thing, when I gave him a hand in his work with that purchased load of ivory’” (23.43). The change from the future to the past tense ostensibly changes Carlier’s motives, from acceptance and desire to make the best of a bad situation to self-congratulatory approval. Most interestingly of all, the introduction of the word “purchased” signals that Carlier accepts Makola’s perspective. Similarly, after Carlier’s death, in the original it is Makola who repeats his own suggestion that Carlier died of fever (97.9–10). In the translation, it is Kayerts who repeats these words and thus openly accepts Makola’s suggestion. The tone of the story as a whole may be less even by these changes, but the political impact is increased.
Occasionally, the changes in the translation indicate that there is a problem in the original that the translator has had to solve. One such problem concerns the narratorial perspective in the opening. The story begins with a description of the setting and the characters, and the information included in it is true for a long time in the story-world. One item of information, however, seems to be true only on certain occasions and thus part of the narrative rather than the setting: “Three children rolled about in sunshine” (77.12–13). It is true that “in the sunshine” would have made it clearer that the rolling only happened on certain occasions, but the reader is still given the impression that the narrator here moves into a single act of focalisation (seeing) rather than a descriptive summary. This ambiguity is lost in the translation, where “one could see them rolling about on the ground all the time that the sun spread its burning rays over the landscape” (10.2). Since the children constantly roll about—however unlikely that may seem—the time-frame of the description is stabilised.
Another problematic passage occurs when Kayerts and Carlier try to deal with the illictly obtained ivory. In the original, Kayerts “turned his back on the others as if about to do something tricky and noted stealthily the weights which Carlier shouted out to him with unnecessary loudness” (91.20–21). It is unclear whether Kayerts is merely uneasy at the part he has to play, or whether he and Carlier are attempting to trick Makola. In the translation “he turned his back on the others as if he was going to play them some trick. His intention was far more serious, however. He stood there and noted stealthily the weights which Makola ceaselessly shouted out to him with a booming voice” (20.42–23.43). Not only has Carlier been replaced by Makola, but the loudness is no longer “unnecessary”, suggesting that he was deliberately loud. The trickery is also now clearly distinct from Kayerts’ real intention. What that intention is remains unknown, however.
The description of Gobila, the local chief, gains an extra dimension in the translation. In the original, “all white men” are “brothers and also immortal” (84.7–9); in the translation, “all human beings were brothers and in possession of immortal life” (16.21). Rather than accepting European assumptions of racial superiority and separation into “us” and “them”, Aftonposten’sGobila thus assumes a common humanity. What the original offers as an amusing racial stereotype becomes something more poignant and ironic, just as Gobila’s “absurd” affection for Kayerts and Carlier in the original becomes an affection that  “could seem exaggerated to many” in the translation (84.15; 16.21). In Aftonposten, only the Europeans who regard Gobila as a subordinate; he himself does not.
Another passage which indicates a significant change is Carlier’s aforementioned remark about “the necessity of exterminating all the niggers before the country could be habitable” (93.3–4). In Aftonposten,this became “the necessity of exterminating all the negroes in the world” (24.47), a change which broadens the scope of the proposed genocide, from an unspecified if recognisable African country to the whole world. That same month, Conrad was writing Heart of Darkness, in which Kurtz issues a chilling exhortation to “exterminate all the brutes”. On this occasion, Conrad did not specify whether this would apply to all the “brutes” in the world or only those of Kurtz’s district. Conrad and Aftonposten can thus be seen as simultaneously realising the macabre potential of Carlier’s outburst.
Some changes can be ascribed to cultural factors. To avoid raising distracting questions in the mind of the readers, Kayerts and Carlier no longer “drank the coffee without sugar” (93.34–5) but “without sugar or cream” (24.50). In the original the sugar alone is catalyst for the final disaster; in the translation it has been replaced by “sugar and brandy”: “If you don’t bring out that sugar and brandy, I’ll use you for target practice, like I would a dog” (25.53, cf. 95.3). To a certain extent this change diminishes the power of the final scene: Carlier comes off more as a disappointed alcoholic than a man gone mad in the jungle.
Another interesting change lies in Kayerts’ and Carlier’s reading matter. Conrad has them reading “of Richelieu and of d’Artagnan, of Hawk’s eye and of Father Goriot” (83.3–4), but in the translation, only Richelieu and d’Artagnan remain, with Hawkeye and Father Goriot being replaced by Don Quixote and Jean Valjean. The change presumably reflects the comparative familiarity of the different protagonists to the audience or at least the translator. Balzac’s Père Goriot was only translated into Swedish in 1898, whereas there were no less than 77 translations of Cooper published in Swedish (albeit in Sweden, not Finland) between 1830 and 1900.

The presentation of a text on the page greatly impacts how it is read. In this context it is instructive to compare the differing circumstances of the first three appearances of Conrad’s “An Outpost of Progress”. First, it was serialised in Cosmopolis, a prestigious international magazine, where it was presented separately from the other articles and enshrined as a “work of art” (albeit divided into two parts). Next, it was collected in Tales of Unrest, where it was again set apart in a new, even more prestigious context. Finally, it was published in an evening paper, printed in anonymised snippets mixed with other stories, news, advertisements, and virtually any kind of textual commodity that can be sold. In its serialization by Helskinki’s Aftonposten in 1899, “An Outpost of Progress”—a story of official corruption and lies—acquired a very different contextual significance, one that lent new force to Conrad’s concerns with colonial abuse and the limited understanding of colonial governments for subject peoples. Such resonances were especially important in light of the fact that censorship laws prevented Aftonposten from writing explicitly many of the things at which Conrad hints.
Today we are used to seeing a text as an independent object to be read as a whole, set apart from other texts and conversing with those on equal terms, something that is not possible in Aftonposten’s serials, where the temporal and temporary nature of its publication assumes greater prominence. The text has been “colonised”, as it were, by the greater text formed by all the issue as a whole. No longer set apart with an inviolable identity of its own, the story gains a new political dimension in Aftonposten. It cannot be dismissed as just a story, but becomes something topical, contemporary and even subversive. Thus “An Outpost of Progress” is in its first Swedish appearance not just fiction but an important part of the news commentary.


Works Cited

Andersson, Andreas, and Sandra Arrila. 2009. “Helsingfors Aftonblad 1893–1895. Aftonposten 1895–1900.” [LINK: Master’s Thesis in the History of Media at the Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki.

Busza, Andrzej. 1976. “Rhetoric and Ideology in Conrad’s Under Western Eyes”, in Joseph Conrad: A Commemoration, ed. Norman Sherry, 105–118. London: Macmillan.

Conrad, Joseph. 1903. “En civilisationens utpost.” In Fredlösa historier [Tales of Unrest], trans. Karin Hirn. Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand.

-----. 1919. Tuulentupia [Almayer’s Folly], trans. Olli Kivilinna. Jyväskylä: Publisher unknown.

-----. 1954. “En civilisationens utpost.” In Karain och andra berättelser [Karain and Other Stories], trans. Vera and Stig Dahlstedt. Stockholm: Forum. Reprinted in 1961 in Rysare från när och fjärran [Horror Stories from Home and Abroad], ed. Mårten Edlund (Stockholm: Folket i bild, 1961), 231–62.

-----. 2006. “Pionjärerna” [“An Outpost of Progress”]. In Mörkrets hjärta [Heart of Darkness], trans. Einar Heckscher. Göteborg: Lindelöfs.

-----. 2012. . “An Outpost of Progress.” In Tales of Unrest, ed. Allan H. Simmons and J. H. Stape. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Donovan, Stephen. 2006. “Conrad in Swedish: the First Translation”, The Conradian 31.2 (Summer): 114–35.

Hirn, Yrjö. 1902. “En roman om modet och fegheten. (Fragment ur en längre studie öfver Joseph Conrad).” Euterpe 7 (15 February): 1–7. [LINK:

FILIS: Databasen för fiktionsprosa på svenska 1830–1900 [Åbo Akademi University Database for Fiction Prose in Swedish 1830–1900], Accessed on 1 August 2012.

Kirby, D. G. 1979. Finland in the Twentieth Century: a History and an Interpretation. University of Minnesota Press.

Kurian, George. 1982. “Finland.” In World Press Encyclopedia: Volume 1, ed. George Kurian, 331–339. London: Mansell.

McRae, Kenneth D. 1997. Conflict and Compromise in Multilingual Societies: Finland. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press.

National Library of Finland, Historiska tidningsbiblioteket [National Library of Finland Historic Newspaper Library], accessed on 1 August 2012.

Nordisk familjebok. 1904-1926. Second edition. 38 vols. Stockholm: Nordisk familjeboks förlag.

Watt, Ian. 1979. Conrad in the Nineteenth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Claes Lindskog is a Lecturer in English at Lund University, Sweden, where he received his PhD in 2008. A revised version of his thesis is forthcoming as Joseph Conrad’s Worldviews: Glamour and Terror in Metaphorical Space (Lund Studies in English). He is the recipient of the 2009 Juliet McLauchlan Prize from the Joseph Conrad Society (UK).



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