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Writers without borders: in conversation with Per Wästberg

Tom Chatfield meets Per Wästberg, chairman of the Nobel committee for literature, to discuss translation, his latest novel, and the remarkable story of his life

By Tom Chatfield   July 2010

Captain Cook’s ships in Tahiti in 1776, by the expedition’s artist, William Hodges

The Journey of Anders Sparrman By Per Wästberg (Granta, £18.99)

On 17th January 1773, the two ships of Captain James Cook’s second expedition crossed the Antarctic Circle—the first time in history that Europeans had done so. Among the passengers on Cook’s own ship, HMS Resolution, was the Swedish naturalist Anders Sparrman: ten days later, Sparrman recorded seeing in the sky the “blazing and radiance” of the aurora australis, the southern lights. “Probably never since the day of Creation until now,” recorded Sparrman in awe, had these “appeared…

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