Kerstin Hallén was a journalist and a prize-winning translator.
Kerstin Hallén was born in Lit, Jämtland in 1922. She was the daughter of public-school teacher Torsten Sundelin and his wife Karin Ida Maria Sundelin, née Hammarberg. The family also included another four children – three girls and one boy. The Sundelin children grew up in Sundsvall where both parents worked as teachers. They encouraged their children’s interests in languages and literature.
Kerstin Hallén possessed a desire to be an artist but her parents advised her to focus on a career with greater financial security and so she trained as a journalist. She began as a volunteer at the Dagbladet Nya Samhället newspaper in Sundsvall. In 1944 she married Tore Hallén who was also a journalist. Their son Per was born that year and two years later the family moved to Stockholm. Another two children came along – Susanne born in 1952 and Jan in 1955. The family lived in a low apartment building with an enclosed yard, in one of the Stockholm suburbs.
Kerstin Hallén got a job at the Morgon-Tidningen newspaper. When the Dagens Nyheter newspaper offered her a job as a reporter she turned them down, proposing instead that her husband Tore take the job. Kerstin Hallén then became the editor of the Idun and subsequently Vecko-Journalen magazines. Towards the end of the 1950s she contributed a few stories for publication in Dagens Nyheter, such as “Historien om M”.
As editor of the magazine Vi she set up a literary page for young people which came to play an important role in the lives of young debutante writers and poets. Amongst these were the author Reidar Jönsson who became a life-long friend, as well as the poet and artist Åsa Sjöström. When the Åhlén & Åkerlund publishing house started the literary journal Böckernas värld in 1966 her good friend Uno Florén was made editor-in-chief and Kerstin Hallén subsequently became the editorial secretary. This journal published articles, reviews and literary contributions. Kerstin Hallén was responsible for interviewing authors such as Georges Simenon and Marguerite Yourcenar. Böckernas värld only lasted a few years and folded in 1971.
Kerstin Hallén was very interested in and active within literature. She began translating in the mid-1960s as a side-job, initially taking on short texts such as novellas. Her first major literary translation was François Billetdoux’s Brouillon d’un Bourgeois, published in 1966 as Utkast till en borgare. Subsequently she translated many other French books, including * Piaf, récit by Simone Berteaut, Georges Simenon’s Il y a encore des Noisetiers and Le Riche Homme*, as well as several novels by Françoise Sagan. Further, when the publishing house decided to publish the work of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel Kerstin Hallén was chosen as his translator.
Kerstin Hallén and Tore got divorced in 1969. From the mid-1970s onwards she became a full-time translator. Towards the end of that decade Kerstin Hallén was awarded Sveriges Författarfond’s (Swedish authors’ fund) prize, which was awarded for services to literature. By this time she had also begun to translate from English and, along with Uno Florén, she produced, in 1978, a translation of The Portable Dorothy Parker entitled En enda ros: poesi och prosa i urval in Swedish, which was followed the next year by John Keats’ You might as well live: the life and times of Dorothy Parker. Kerstin Hallén was awarded Svenska Deckarakademien’s translator’s prize for distinguished translation for her work on Sebastien Japrisot’s L’été Meurtrier.
In 1984 Kerstin Hallén received the Trevi prize and in 1996 she was awarded both the Swedish Academy translator’s prize and the Elsa Thulin prize, these being two of the most esteemed merits a translator can be given.
Kerstin Hallén carried on working right into the 2000s. In 2003 she produced a translation of Harriet Scott Chessman’s Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, published in Swedish as Lydia Cassatt läser morgontidningen, and Denise Mina’s Sanctum. The following year her translation of Toni Morrison’s Love, published in Swedish as Kärlek and Maxence Fermine’s Snow were released. Kerstin Hallén’s final translation was Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, published in 2009.
Kerstin Hallén died suddenly at her home on 21 March 2012, aged 89. She is buried at Nya Kyrkogården (the new cemetery) in Grödinge.