Cilla Johnson was a prominent translator.
Cilla Johnson was born in Helsinki in 1911. She was the daughter of Carl Frankenhaeuser, an architect, and Hanna Åström. She grew up on the large Kullo farm near Borgå which her parents had purchased and where her father had designed the new manor building. She had one older and three younger brothers. Both of her parents were heavily involved in opposing the pro-Russian programme of the era and were also engaged in the struggle on behalf of the Swedish-speaking Finnish minority.
Cilla Johnson was initially home-educated. Her parents were very concerned that she should learn proper Swedish. Once she had obtained her school-leaving certificate in Borgå she began university studies in Helsinki. In 1935 she gained her Bachelor’s degree in the humanities. In 1940 she married Eyvind Johnson, an author. They had two children together, Maria (born 1944) and Carl-Anders (born 1946).
Initially Cilla Johnson assisted her husband with translations that he had taken upon himself, largely for financial reasons, but from 1942 onwards her own translations of novels originally written in Norwegian, Ny Norsk, Danish, and English began to appear. She had an extraordinary talent for languages and her translations have been described as illuminating. In 1988 she was awarded the Swedish Academy’s translator’s prize and in 1991 she was presented with the Elsa Thulin translator’s prize for her efforts. Her exceedingly extensive list of works includes a range of well-known – mainly Norwegian – authors such as Knut Hamsun, Sigurd Hoel, and Tarjei Vesaas. She also introduced younger Norwegian authors to the Swedish reading public, including Aksel Sandemose, Johan Borgen, Knut Faldbakken, and Kjartan Fløgstad. Her translations from English include works by Mrs Gaskell (Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell’s pseudonym), Elizabeth Bowen, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Frances Hodgson Burnett.
In addition to her translation activities Cilla Johnson worked at Svenska Akademiens Nobelbibliotek (the Swedish Academy’s Nobel library) from 1968–1982 where she was responsible for lending and information. She was involved in setting up Svenska Översättarförbundet (the Swedish translators’ association) in 1954 and was a member of the board. In an effort to strengthen the position of translators she strove to see that their names would appear on the title pages of books and this has now become the norm.
Cilla Johnson died in 2002 and is buried in the Memorial grove at The Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm.