A group of Norwegian World War II resistance fighters known as “Pelle-gruppa” (the Pelle Group) was officially recognized last month, more than 70 years after their sabotage actions against German occupying forces. Now, closer inspection of a memorial statue dedicated to the heroes has revealed several spelling and grammatical errors.
The NOK 1.2 million (USD 196,000) statue was unveiled with great fanfare at Oslo’s trendy waterfront Aker Brygge district in November. The former industrial wharf was the epicentre of the Pelle Group’s efforts, led by the late war hero Ragnar Sollie, where they sank several German ships. About 1,000 people attended the ceremony, including the two surviving Pelle Group fighters Sverre Kokkin and Reidar Formo.
The memorial features resistance fighters with weapons, banners, illegal newspapers and bicycles, as well as the names of 63 of the saboteurs, their main supporters and those killed during resistance operations.
Mistakes include an ‘s’ missing from the Norwegian word for community, fellesskap, and the ‘t’ left out of the phrase Oslo-området (the Oslo area), newspaper Aftenposten reported. Period points should follow numbers in Norwegian grammar, for example 2. verdenskrig (the Second World War). Some dates and numbers follow the rule, but the punctuation point has been left off others. Errant periods appear elsewhere.
“It’s particularly unfortunate when there are spelling mistakes on signs and statues which many will see and will stand for a long time,” says Botolv Helleland, a linguist at the University of Oslo. “English writing rules have come into play here. In English, numbers in dates are written without a period following.”
Some errors, some deliberate
The sculpture was created by Kirsten Kokkin, the daughter of Sverre Kokkin. She told Aftenposten it’s sad there are errors in the project, which took 18 months to complete.
“I hope it won’t get too much attention. I worked on the text in America, and didn’t have a Norwegian word program,” Kokkin explained. “The text went through at least three people in addition to me. So this was missed, but it can’t be changed in retrospect.”
Kokkin said she deliberately left the period points off numbers in order to use fewer characters, but acknowledges the fact that numbers weren’t written consistently throughout the sculpture is “an error in the reverse sense.”
“We must not forget that this is a work of art, an artistic retelling of a historic moment,” she countered. “This must not be considered as a document.”
The statue was funded by the City of Oslo and Samlerhuset, the official distributor of memorial coins and medals in Norway. The Oslo city council told Aftenposten the mistakes are foolish, but the statue won’t be changed.
“The entire sculpture is cast in one,” explained Lily Vikki, a sculpture conservator in Oslo city’s cultural affairs department. “This means that it will be difficult, for example, to remove punctuation in one place without the patina layer around the metal, which can cause discoloration.”
Vikki said the statue should be viewed foremost as a work of art. “The mistakes in the text are not factual or historical mistakes, but simply a few grammatical errors.”