Lisbeth Renner was a translator who together with her husband Louis Renner translated about one hundred books, most of them in the genre English light entertainment literature. However, her name was not always included on book covers. After her husband’s death, she continued the work of translating for two more decades, and published a further hundred or so titles in the same genre.
Lisbeth Renner was born Lisbeth Liljequist in Gothenburg in 1900. In 1920, she married Commander-in-Chief Louis Renner who was serving at the navy’s commissariat in Stockholm. In 1921–1923, the couple had three daughters, one each year and the responsibility for their home lay on the shoulders of Lisbeth Renner. In an article in Svenskt översättarlexikon, Victor Falk describes how it came to be that they started working as translators. Lisbeth Renner’s husband knew the well-known translator Ture Nerman who in 1925 is said to have entrusted a translation assignment to Louis Renner since he himself did not have the time for it. It was the thriller The Roughneck, published in 1923 by the Canadian Robert William Service. In Sweden, the book was given the title Jack Moon – boxaren and published in 1926 by Tidens förlag.
Louis Renner continued translating thrillers and historical novels during the following years. Despite his post with the navy, five or six novels appeared each year with his name on them as translator. Victor Falk writes furthermore that Louis Renner was paid attention by the newspapers as early as his fiftieth birthday in 1934 for being ”one of our absolute best” translators of English literature.
However, the explanation for her husband’s productivity lay most probably in the fact that Lisbeth Renner helped him right from the start with the translations. She is not named as the translator until William Stanley Sykes’ book The Ray of Doom that was published in 1932, also by Tiden. In Svenskt översättarlexikon, Victor Falk writes that Louis Renner admitted in an article that his wife had been early ”engaged in this work”. It was not until ”later on” that both spouses’ names were printed on their shared translations. Victor Falk writes additionally: ”This imbalance continued even in the future – when newspapers in coming years paid attention to Louis Renner on account of his translations, it is striking how seldom his wife is mentioned.”
In an interview in Aftonbladet in 1954, it became apparent how the couple worked together on their translations. As Victor Falk writes: ”Every morning they sat down at a long table with their typewriters. They had a book that was ‘butchered’ from which they each translated a chapter. Then they examined each other’s work and reworked the texts once again.” In the evenings after her husband had returned from work, they carried on where they had finished that morning. However, Lisbeth Renner had probably been able to continue working during the day when her responsibility for the home so allowed.
They were paid attention above all for their work on sea novels, a field in which her husband’s knowledge as a naval officer came to good use. For example, they influenced the introduction of Cecil Scott Forester’s series about the fictional sea-cadet and later admiral Horatio Hornblower in Swedish. They were responsible for fourteen of Forester’s titles appearing in Swedish.
Lisbeth and Louis Renner often translated murder stories and thrillers, and among their authors can be found Agatha Christie, Vicki Baum, Jack London, Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad. The translation that was read most was probably C S Forester’s The African Queen that appeared in 1947.
Louis Renner died in 1956 and after that Lisbeth Renner continued translating at a tremendous pace for over twenty years. She translated a great number of thrillers, adventure stories, detective novels, historical novels and sea-faring adventures on her own. Among the authors were Leon Uris, Pearl Buck and Winston Graham. Victor Falk writes in Svenskt översättarlexikon that ”the low prestige of her selection, the particular challenges that sometimes face a translator in mass-produced literature and also the problems with quality that were sometimes noticeable in the translations” contributed to the fact that she never received any awards. Yet there have never been any other Swedish translators who have ”been published as frequently during such a long period of time as she.”
Lisbeth Renner died in 1983 and was buried in Lidingö Cemetery.