Lithuanian readers will soon have the opportunity to read a new novel by Danish author Michael Dalgaard about the Knights Templar. It’s a historical adventure novel in which the author develops an intense and interesting plot. Lithuanian readers are going to enjoy gaining historical knowledge about the orders of knights established in the Middle Ages and their activities, as well as the mysterious Freemasons. The author himself belongs to an order of knights and admits to being a Mason. As a result, this curious person, whose profession you will soon learn from the interview below, has authentic knowledge, based on historical and present realities on organisations little known to us. Michael Dalgaard has no less of an intriguing personality than his novel, which is the first one to be published in Lithuanian. I invite you to meet not only the author himself, but also the translator of his novel, Jurgita Staliulioniene.
Part 1. Interview with Michael Dalgaard, author of the novel The Templar From the North
Dear Michael Dalgaard, this year Lithuanian readers will have the honour to read your novel The Templar From the North. Could you briefly introduce yourself so that our readers can get to know you better.
I’m a Danish citizen and I’m 60 years old. I’m married to a Lithuanian woman. We have a daughter together, and I also have two children from a previous marriage. I emigrated to Lithuania in 2006. I’m a psychotherapist, writer and entrepreneur. In 2009, I founded a medical tourism company and today this company is one of the largest in Europe. I bring hundreds of tourists to Lithuania who want to undergo plastic or weight loss surgery. I was the first in Lithuania to start such a practice. Today, there are more companies engaged in similar activities.
I also travel around Denmark and give lectures. I have two prepared: one about plastic surgery, and one about the Knights Templar and secret fraternities.
In 2019, I was ordained to the oldest order of knights, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. It happened in Scotland. Today I belong to several Danish subunits of this order. There are only 1,600 knights left in the world who belong to this branch of the order. Our goal is to do good deeds.
I am also a Danish, English, Estonian and Lithuanian Mason. I love Masonry. It’s a system in which a person works to improve themselves and here [laughs] I learned all those conspiracy theories about us Masons. I use these theories in my books and I also mention them in my lectures on conspiracy theories related to Masons. I am very open about this. Only our rituals are kept secret, but not Masonry itself, although in Lithuania there is more conservatism and caution when it comes to Masonry.
You introduce yourself as an entrepreneur. Tell us briefly about your business. How is it related to Lithuania? And how did a businessman decide to write a historical adventure novel?
I came to Lithuania with a friend in 2005, because we had founded a construction company and there was a great shortage of manpower. At that time, there was a construction boom in Europe and there was a shortage of workers everywhere. In 2006, I moved to Lithuania after I met my current wife here. In fact, at that time Lithuania seemed like an appealing place for business and a country with many opportunities. I founded the medical tourism agency, and today this agency is one of the largest in Europe. We wanted the clinic to be built in Kaunas, Lithuania, where I live. Lithuanian doctors and surgeons are of a very high professional level and I would rate them as one of the best in the world. For four years, I kept sitting down to write a book about surgery. Today it’s completed and it’s been received very favourably in Denmark. It’s been added to library collections and has received very good reviews. I love to write and I’d always had a dream to write a work of fiction. This is how I started my debut novel The Templar From the North, which also received favourable reviews in Denmark and found itself on the country’s library shelves. Another one of my novels is due to come out soon, and I’ve also started writing a sequel to The Templar From the North.
How did you get the idea to translate the novel into Lithuanian?
I received a proposal to publish my novel in English. The edition will come out soon. And although it costs a lot to translate the book, I felt that I really wanted this novel to be published in Lithuanian, because Lithuania is my home where I’ve lived since 2006, and I love this country. My wife Ina is Lithuanian and she would like to read my book, so she actively contributed to my decision. I was able to approve the English translation myself, because I write and speak English. However, I could neither review the translation into Lithuanian, nor was I able to understand whether it was translated correctly. Individual words can be translated correctly, but translating a novel while depicting its mood is very difficult, and it’s much more complicated than translating documents, so I was looking for the right person. I managed to establish excellent relations with the translation agency Siaures Kryptimi and worked closely with the translator herself, Jurgita Staliulioniene. In addition, I hired an editor, Kristina, who, as a language expert, did reviews and gave advice. I am very curious to know what Lithuanians think about the book and whether it suits their taste. Very soon the book will be published in Lithuanian, and the book distributor UAB Presseexpress has made sure that there is room for my book on the shelves of bookstores. I am very grateful to them for this.
The hero of your book, André, experiences many adventures both on land and at sea. The action takes place both in the Middle Ages and in modern times. There is also no shortage of unexpected events. Are you yourself adventurous? Do you like taking risks and embarking on new ventures?
Yes, I lead an interesting life myself. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes, but this is what happens when you’re an adventurer. We become smarter with age and writing books has become an adventure for me.
The novel contains a lot of history, both real and fictional. Is history something you’re interested in?
Yes, my story is a combination of history and fantasy. I’m very interested in history, especially the Viking Age (I am Danish after all), but the Middle Ages are also very interesting to me.
In the book you present a lot of interesting material about the Freemasons, Templars and other orders. Where does such interest come from? You mentioned that you’re also a member of the Hospitaller Order.
As I said, I’m very interested in history. I think that the past, especially medieval mysticism and the knightly orders, are extremely alluring themes. I am ordained to the Hospitaller Order of Saint John. This order is 909 years old, so I am also interested in history as a Freemason. It made me realise that the past is an important part of life that helps us understand the future.
Are the activities of various knightly orders and Masons still relevant in the 21st century? What is its significance today? What benefits can it bring to society?
Yes, I think it’s relevant. I really hope that people experience joy while searching for information on knightly orders and the Middle Ages. After all, Lithuania itself has a very interesting past, including battles with the German Teutonic Order. Today, there’s a renewed interest in Masonry in Lithuania, as in the rest of the world, and this interest is growing. After all, we benefit from realising that the past can help us understand who we are today.
Do you think that today’s young people will pick up a book that is about distant times and unknown orders, both real and mystified? After all, modern people want to live here and now. They want to know what’s happening around them, or at worst, not very far from them. It might also be noted that this novel has already been published in Denmark, so you really know your reader.
It will be interesting to see. The book doesn’t only consist of stories about the Knights Templar. The plot develops over two periods: one part of the events takes place in the 1200s, and another in 2018. The novel reveals a conspiracy theory on the coronavirus, so in this regard, the book is still relevant today. It was indeed received very warmly in Denmark, and therefore I’m very interested to see how Lithuanians will accept this book.
What would you like to wish the future readers of your novel? Or would you like to warn them about something?
I would like to wish them to read the book with pleasure, and I hope it arouses their interest in history, especially the wonderful history of the Middle Ages. If we think about the warnings in the book itself, then perhaps the most important thing is to think with your own head when taking in the information from the media and the political world. After all, this year we’ve experienced an information overflow with regards the coronavirus and the political challenges in Belarus, Ukraine and so on. We should take in information with critical thinking, but at the same time we should be open to information that comes from fields that are unfamiliar to us and that we do not fully understand.
Thank you for an interesting conversation and for your engaging novel. I have no doubt that it will be appreciated by our readers. One last question remains: could you, as a person from outside the country, describe Lithuanians? What are their most general, most noticeable features?
At first, Lithuanians seemed very serious and tense to me, but this has changed in recent years. There have been positive changes that made people happier and more open, perhaps because Lithuanians began to travel more for vacation and for work, and thus saw more of the world. In addition, Lithuanians won a difficult independence fight and I, as a Dane, am proud of Denmark for being one of the first countries to recognise Lithuania as an independent state. In 2021 Denmark and Lithuania celebrated the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations. And that is great. Essentially, I think that Lithuanians and Danes are in many ways similar to each other. We are not as different as many think. In my opinion, Lithuania and its people have done a great job in restoring their country. The changes in Kaunas alone are impressive!
And now the traditional question (we can’t go without it): what are your plans for your future as a writer?
After my debut novel, which was so well received in my native country, I wrote another book called Abdul and the White Slaves. This book will soon come out in Denmark and I hope that in a few years it will also be published in Lithuania. I’m also planning on translating it into English. The book talks about how in the Middle Ages, more than 1 million Europeans were taken into slavery by Muslim pirates and sold in North Africa. This is again a novel with a historical perspective and, of course, fantasy. I am currently working on a sequel to the book about the Knights Templar. I’ve divided my life into two parts. During the day I’m engaged in medical tourism, and in the evenings and weekends I’m a writer. And I really hope that one day the rules restricting activities due to the coronavirus will be lifted again, and I will be able to hold a lecture in Lithuania on the secret fraternities and the Knights Templar. That would be absolutely wonderful. I wouldn’t be able to support myself only by being a writer, so it’s more of a hobby. A hobby with a passion – writing about what I enjoy. Once again, I must admit that I am very eager to know how my book will be received by Lithuanian readers.
Thank you once again.
Part 2. Interview with the book’s translator from Danish, Jurgita Staliulioniene
I would also like to have a chat with the translator of the book, Jurgita Staliulioniene. Michael Dalgaard mentions that he approached the translation agency Siaures Kryptimi with a proposal to translate his novel from Danish into Lithuanian. Do you remember how this novel fell into your hands?
Yes, we remember the day when we received Michael Dalgaard’s query very well. The whole translation agency was abuzz. Conversations with Danish translators began, accompanied by unsuccessful negotiations. No one was brave enough to take on this translation. Then the circle of tasks started going round again: we were seeking recommendations, getting new contacts and having conversations with translators again. However, unsuccessfully once more… We had to live up to the name of our translation agency and not lose this opportunity. So, I decided to translate the book myself. I had a good team: colleagues who took over my work, a diligent editor and a proofreader. The translation was running on wheels.
Could you tell us more about the company Siaures Kryptimi. What are its main fields of activity?
Siaures Kryptimi is a language school and a translation agency. We wanted the name to reflect the main direction in which we work: we teach Nordic languages every day and we carry out translations in these languages (translator’s note: „šiaurės kryptimi” literally means „along the northern direction”).
As I understand, you and your company’s translators don’t work with fiction often? What prompted you to make an exception?
Definitely not. The usual tasks at our translation agency are personal documents, as well as documents relating to companies and products. The so-called clerical and technical texts. Translating fiction is not a task that we come across every day, so we were very interested in the proposal to translate this novel. We were very keen to succeed in this task and to receive more such offers in the future.
How would you assess this novel yourself? Was it difficult to translate it? Was it interesting? Is it difficult to convey the style of the writer’s storytelling? After all, the novel is about the Middle Ages. Perhaps the writer uses archaic words or historicisms? Wasn’t it difficult to find lexical equivalents?
Translating it was a lot of fun. One moment the words and sentences seemed to fall into a smooth text themselves, but the next minute I had to stop and think. You know the meaning of the word or the phrase, but the most appropriate equivalent doesn’t emerge from memory. But after a while, the words would start flowing again. However, I would sometimes get stuck for a longer time. Then I would consult with the editor or search in dictionaries. After assessing the entire translation process, I realised that the translator’s job is not where it ends. The role of the editor is also very important. Even in terms of time, it seems that translating is faster than preparing a manuscript for smooth reading. And because of the author’s style, I really had to think and assess whether it’s a stylistic tool that needs to be preserved or if a change is possible.
Last question: would you ever do another translation of fiction? Did this challenge ignite new aspirations?
Absolutely. The translation process itself was pleasant, and my daily routine gained new colours. And it’s very pleasing when the work is finished and there’s a result. The author of the novel has hinted that he would like the same team to translate his next novel that is due to be published in Danish soon. We would feel really appreciated if we could translate the second book into Lithuanian by the same writer.
I sincerely thank you for the interview and congratulations on your first translation of fiction. Good luck and have fun with your further translations!
Editor Irma Urbaniene