Vanja Lantz was an extremely active translator, largely of literary fiction.
Vanja Lantz was born in Stockholm in 1911. Her father, Hjalmar Gustafsson, was a well-known journalist and a Social Democrat party politician. Her mother, Ruth Gustafsson, was a pioneer within the sphere of the women’s organisations of the workers’ movement, as a member of Stockholm city council, an editor, and a long-term member of parliament. Vanja Lantz grew up in Södermalm with her brother, who was five years her senior and who later went off to sea. Vanja Lantz and her mother travelled to the USA in 1928, where Vanja was homed with a Swedish family in Brooklyn whilst her mother toured the Swedish settlements in North America. Vanja Lantz attended school in America and learned English. Once she returned to Sweden she became one of the first girls in the country who, in 1932, gained her school-leaving certificate from a state-run school.
Vanja Lantz would happily have continued her language studies but lacked the finances to do so. After highschool she became an employee of the publishing company Albert Bonniers Förlag. There she met Birgitta Hammar, Cilla Johnson, and Marianne Gerland-Ekeroth, all of whom would become her friends and fellow translators. In 1935 Vanja Lantz married Åke Lantz, a banker who later became an economic journalist. During the time of the Second World War the couple collaborated on the journal NU, which was the Bonnier company’s news journal which followed an anti-Nazi agenda. The couple had three children during the 1938–1943 period, and settled initially at Mälarhöjden, before subsequently moving to Vasastan.
Vanja Lantz became an extremely active translator whose output numbered over 100 titles. She began working with trade publications, usually translating from English. The publishers she worked for included Albert Bonniers, Norstedts, and Ljus, but in the main she worked for Wahlström & Widstrand. Towards the end of the war she began to translate from Norwegian and Danish, including working on Johan Borgen’s 1944 anti-Nazi book Ingen sommar, and (in collaboration with Birgitta Hamma) on Torkil Vogel-Jørgensen’s two-volume biography entitled Winston Churchill, published 1945–1947. Vanja Lantz also translated Churchill’s collected speeches before he was awarded the Nobel peace prize. Further, she took on the work of Pearl Buck, another Nobel peace prize holder, when she translated her 1948 novel Peony(Pion), which has since been re-issued many times over.
Translating literature allowed Vanja Lantz to combine work with raising her family, and by the early 1950s she was a fully established literary translator. The fiction she translated did not belong to the pulp fiction genre but rather to the more refined class of fiction. In addition to various other individual titles by English-language authors Vanja Lantz also translated Erich Maria Remarque’s 1957 work Der schwarze obelisk (Den svarta obelisken), again in collaboration with Birgitta Hammar, and which was also released in several editions.
Vanja Lantz was employed by the Indian embassy’s public relations section as a translator and editor in the period between 1958 and 1966. Over the years she translated a large number of articles for Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyheter, Industria, Veckans Affärer, as well as other journals.
Vanja Lantz translated John Steinbeck’s 1957 The short reign of Pippin IV (Konung för en dag), as well as his 1962 novel To a God unknown (Jordisk lust), published the same year that Steinbeck received the Nobel prize for literature. Vanja Lantz also translated another literary Nobel prize holder’s work, namely that of Yasunari Kawabata, whose work she translated from English. A strikingly large number of the authors Vanja Lantz translated were women, which was probably related to the fact that, during the postwar period translated literature in Sweden became increasingly less male-dominated. It may equally have reflected Vanja Lantz’s own engagement in the women’s movement. Noteworthy authors include Mazo de la Roche, Constance Beresford-Howes, and Margaret Atwood.
In 1988 Vanja Lantz was awarded the Elsa Thulin translator’s prize. She died in 1992. She is buried alongside her mother, husband, and brother, at The Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm.