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'Humour in a foreign language is tricky'

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15:46 CEST+02:00
Sweden-based American journalist Doug Lansky is the man behind new Swedish satire site Faktumé. He explains to James Savage why humour transcends boundaries.

What is Faktumé?

It's basically a satire site focused on Sweden and all things Swedish. It's done with the same basic formula as the Onion - the godfather of all satire newspapers.

Isn't it difficult for an American to write satire in Swedish for a Swedish audience?

When humour is done right it works in other countries. Some things get lost in translation, but you gain a bit too.

Humour in a foreign language is tricky, though. I find I write most things in Swenglish. I think of humour as the double black run of language - it's the last thing you learn to master.

But learning a language also helps you pick up cultural stuff - things like how when Swedes refer to 'Runar' they're talking about Carola's Norwegian ex-priest boyfriend.

Have you encountered translation trouble?

Thankfully, I've then got a few people who help me put it into Swedish, including my wife. I've also got a friend helping me who works in the government offices, who wants to remain anonymous because this is a bit subversive.

There are some things that you write in Swedish that really can't be translated into English - phrases like "Själv är inte alltid bästa dräng". I mean, "själv är bästa dräng" translates as "If you want something doing well, do it yourself," but it's hard to translate that when you put a negative in it.

What kind of reaction have you had?

I've had some good reactions so far from people I respect in the business - and so far nobody's been upset. I haven't had a call from [top Swedish comic] Robert Gustafsson yet, though.

Why are you publishing the site in English too?

From an English-speaker's point of view, it's an awful feeling to live here but never to get the joke. It's also a fun way of getting your news - when you're lazy, it's good to get a humorous report.

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