The UK’s 2011 bestseller lists might have been dominated by cookery, courtesy of Jamie Oliver, and romance, courtesy of David Nicholls, but Norwegian readers were plumping for another sort of book last year: the Bible.
The first Norwegian translation of the Bible topped the country’s book charts almost every week between its publication in October and the end of the year, selling almost 80.000 copies so far and hugely exceeding expectations.
Thirty consultant translators, priests and academics translated the Greek and Hebrew original into Norwegian for the new edition, with a team of 12 literary authors.
Obviously it was very important to get the right translation but they also wanted it to be readable, to make sure it was good literary language. None of these authors are religious – they are all just very good literary writers who thought it would be an interesting project to be involved in.
We only printed 25,000 to start with and thought it would last six to nine months, but it was launched mid-October and by the end of the year it had sold 79,000 copies – it’s just incredible. It has only been knocked off the number one spot once, by [literary author] Karl Ove Knausgård … There were people sleeping outside the day before the launch.
Stine Smemo Strachan, who worked on the project for the Norwegian Bible Society