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Trieste wins Readers’ Prize

Ellen Elias-Bursac dicusses Trieste at the IFFPWe’re delighted to announce that Daša Drndić’s Trieste has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Readers’ Prize, ahead of the main prize ceremony tonight.

The prize marks the conclusion of a brilliantly conceived project to engage readers and reading groups with translated fiction, organised by English PEN, the Reading Agency and the British Centre for Literary Translation. Reading groups across the UK, many of which were almost entirely unfamiliar with translated fiction, were invited to shadow the IFFP shortlist, and more than 300 people took part.

More than 100 of these readers were then able to gather at the Free Word Centre in London on Saturday, for a day of events and talks. Many of the authors and translators of the shortlisted titles were in attendance, as were IFFP judges Elif Shafak and Frank Wynne, who talked about the world of translated literature, the judging process and interviewed the writers and translators about their work.

Feedback from the attendees was very positive, with many reading group members saying they had not read very many books in translation, and that this scheme had “opened a whole new world”. Their eventual vote proclaimed Trieste the winner of the inaugural readers’ prize. Both Daša and her

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translator Ellen Elias-Bursać were in attendance to claim their champagne, which was promptly cracked open, Grand Prix style.

Dasa Drndic and translator Ellen Elias-Bursac win IFFRP for Trieste

The full shortlist for both the Readers’ Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is as follows:

Bundu by Chris Barnard, translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns (Alma Books)

The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer (Harvill Secker)

Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean (Harvill Secker)

The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare, translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson (Canongate)

Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia (Pushkin Press)

Trieste by Daša Drndić, translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursać (MacLehose Press)


International Translation Day

The 2nd International Translation Day Symposium organised by English PEN in national legal essay writing competition partnership with Free Word and the Literary Translation Centre is happening tomorrow, 30th September 2011.

One year after the inaugural International Translation Day symposium at the Free Word Centre, professionals in the industry come together to celebrate new achievements and to look at future challenges.

The day kicks off with the launch of the final Global Translation Initiative Report, Taking Flight: New Thinking on World Writing, a series of eighteen vital and illuminating essays from distinguished translators, spy phone video authors, publishers and journalists from around the globe.

Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN, chairs a panel showcasing free mobile phone text spy some of the great translation initiatives that have developed custom essay writing since last year’s International Translation Day. Jane Aitken (publisher, Gallic Press) reveals some of the obstacles of publishing The Elegance of the Hedgehog; Ros Schwartz (translator) discusses mentoring programmes; Sarah Ardizzone (translator)updates us on progress of the schools programme Translation Nation; and Rachel Van Riel (Opening the Book) talks about reader development initiatives that really work.

The afternoon is devoted to a series of workshops with topics ranging from practical issues such as how to get started as a translator, education, funding and training for literary translation, to wider cultural concerns such as literary translation in review media, the role of literary festivals, the translation of minority languages and intercultural understanding.

The day culminates with a keynote speech from acclaimed conductor Charles Hazlewood who asks us what JS Bach and The Prodigy have do my essay for money in common. As write essay plan example he outlines the connectivity between the father of the High Baroque and this quartet of techno terrorists, Charles reveals the story behind his own success in building and connecting audiences for very different kinds of music.

Celebrated author Ahdaf Soueif also lends her support to International Translation Day, discussing her particular blend of the personal with the political, fiction and history with Amanda Hopkinson in the evening.

Love Virtually: An Interview with the Translators

All around Europe – and beyond – from Sao Paulo to Shanghai to Amsterdam to Jakarta, men and women of common and serious intent are burning midnight oil and working all hours sent to bring Love Virtually to the wider world, to render in clear and current vernacular the bestselling novels of Herr Glattauer. With the rights sold to thirty-five countries, it has to be one the of most comprehensively translated books since the Larsson trilogy.

At MacLehose Press we’re doing things slightly differently (as far as we know!). The translation of Love Virtually, and its sequel, Every Seventh Wave, has been a joint effort undertaken by two translators who just happen to husband and wife. Jamie Bulloch and Katharina Bielenberg have just finished translating Every Seventh Wave, so have managed to find a few minutes to speak with Vivienne Nilan. Additional questions from Paul Engles.

Vivienne Nilan: Are there any particular issues when translating from German to English, especially in e-mail-speak?

Jamie Bulloch: The letters in Love Virtually are written quite conventionally, they don’t use contractions or smileys or take shortcuts. It’s very much about language and the possibilities of word-play, about taking an idea, a written image and extending it, teasing out meaning or inference. It was more complex than either of us had expected for something which is ostensibly very conversational, but it was also huge fun.

Katharina Bielenberg: The character Emmi is even more fond of elaborate compounds than the average German, so that was a bit of a challenge. Sometimes they worked in a straight translation, but too many would have sounded absurd in English so sometimes I chose instead to find another way instead of using a string of hyphens.

Vivienne Nilan: Were you always able to find alternatives or did you have to sacrifice parts of the text?

Jamie Bulloch: Where a joke or a pun couldn’t possibly work in English, we tried to find another as a substitution. This was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process. Sometimes it would take days until we hit upon it, we’d just have to let it sit for a while.

Vivienne Nilan: What are the the advantages /pitfalls of translating as a team?

Katharina Bielenberg: Initially we had this idea that we would approach the translation like a game of chess, an open Word doc with each of us responding to the email that had gone before. But of course this would have taken three times as long to produce a text – it would have been like translating in real time. Then we considered working on our texts separately, but Emmi and Leo are constantly referring to what each other has just said, so we would have had to backtrack quite a bit to get it right. In the end one of us would do a chapter and email it to the other to fill in the gaps, but there was still the need for a lot of cross-referencing.

Jamie Bulloch: One of us could pop downstairs and make lunch, happy in the knowledge that work was still proceeding!

Vivienne Nilan: Who makes the final decision when/if there’s a difference of opinion

Katharina Bielenberg: When we’d finished our draft we sat down and worked through the whole text for the first time together, quite a rigorous process during which we were able to be completely critical and objective about each other’s efforts. We’d bandy ideas about, but we’d know immediately when one or other of us had hit on the solution. Very satisfying.

Jamie Bulloch: I suppose we know each other pretty well by now, which helps; we didn’t feel we had to be polite or tread delicately around each other’s translation.

Vivienne Nilan: What attracted you to this book?

Katharina Bielenberg: It’s beautifully structured and totally compelling, with each chapter leaving you on a cliffhanger. I

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would defy anybody not to want to read more on. Daniel is brilliant on the complexities and psychology of love, but he has such a light touch, and there are aspects of the book that everyone can relate to, which gives it a kind of universal appeal. Parts of it are quite frivolous, others deeply serious. It’s very funny, clever, can be frustrating but then the frustration falls away as you round the next corner. It’s quite a rollercoaster.

Jamie Bulloch: I love the fact that it can be devoured in a single sitting. The ending makes you gasp, but then there’s the sequel to look forward to [Every Seventh Wave is published in July this year].

Paul Engles: Where did the idea of translating the book together come from? Do you know if the other publishers of the book in the any of the thirty-five countries are repeating the trick (not necessarily husband and wife)?

Katharina Bielenberg: Christopher (MacLehose) and Jamie had come up with the idea separately, but simultaneously, just after we acquired Love Virtually and its sequel. Unlike Jamie, I’m not by any means a full-time translator, but this seemed an opportunity not to be missed. I’m not aware of others having done the same, but several of the other editions were underway before we got started.

Jamie Bulloch: I thought it might be quite a fun experiment. We work broadly in the same field, but it’s not often that our work coincides, let alone overlaps. Our children thought it hilarious and they’ll enjoy reading the books when they’re a bit older. We know that the first foreign editions to be published used only the one translator – unless you ARE married to the person you’re working with it could be a logistical nightmare. This way we managed to fit it around other work, so much of it was done after hours with a bottle of wine.

Paul Engles: Can you think of any other translated books that have used the dual approach or would have benefited from it?

Jamie Bulloch: I’d love to know how Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge shared their work on the Asterix books, amongst the finest translations in the English language! It can be such a laborious process, much more difficult I would have thought when the roles are less clearly defined.

Paul Engles: In Love Virtually the path of true love does not run smooth: there’s a lot of squabbling and fighting. Did translating their travails make you bicker as much as they do?

Jamie Bulloch: You’d better put that question to my wife…

Katharina Bielenberg: No more and no less. I think we have an easier time of it , and I’m quite relieved having spent some time in theirs that our relationship is less complicated than Emmi and Leo’s. I’d like to think Emmi is a little more temperamental than I am, Jamie may disagree.

Paul Engles: Having spent so long immersed in Love Virtually, would you now be worried if one or the other suddenly started spending a suspicious amount of time on the internet?

Katharina Bielenberg: If there were enough hours in the day… No, I spend far too much time at my screen already. Funnily enough two friends who read early proofs of Love Virtually confessed to a intense and secret e-mail correspondence at one time. I think it’s much more common than we would think, which is why this book will strike such a chord. You can be whoever you want to be…

Paul Engles: Katharina – did you fall at all for Leo? Jamie – for Emmi?

Katharina Bielenberg: Like Emmi, I thought he was most amusing when he was drunk. He doesn’t have an easy time with Emmi, why is she/am I putting him through this?…

Jamie Bulloch: Emmi’s not my type! (I’d have to say that, wouldn’t I?)

Translation slam

On 30 September 2010, as part of the FLOW FESTIVAL at the Free Word Centre, English PEN, Dalkey Archive, Free Word and the London Book Fair’s Literary Translation Centre pooled their resources to host International Translation Day.

Its packed-out seminar programme included a ‘Live Translation Slam’ in which renowned translators Margaret Jull Costa and Nick Caistor went head-to-head, translating an extract from Nada by Carmen Laforet from the Spanish and dissecting their respective renderings before a rapt audience.

The ‘Slam’ provided a fascinating insight into the processes of literary translation, with the two translations differing subtly, but palpably on a sentence-by-sentence if not a word-by-word level. It was rather less raucous your average poetry slam, but no less partisan by the end, as every audience member I spoke with took home a firm preference for one or other translators’ version.

As both Margaret and Nick have published translations with us in 2010 (The Sickness by Alberto Barrera Tyszka and No-one Loves a Policeman by Guillermo Orsi), we wondered whether they would like to share with us some of their impressions of the ‘Slam’, and of International Translation Day in general.


Download Margaret’s Translation

Download Original Text

At the evening panel discussion that took place on Translation Day at the Free Word Centre, A.S. Byatt remarked that she considers all translations to be provisional texts. I did not respond at the time, but perhaps I can now, because the Translation Slam made me confront that issue all over again.

As a translator, I hope to produce a text that is as perfect and seamless and ‘unprovisional’ as possible; if I don’t, I have failed. For me, the mark of a poor translation is precisely A.S. Byatt’s sense of provisionality, the feeling that there are many other ways in which a sentence or sentences could have been written, and that another translator would produce something entirely different.

The text Nick and I had to translate for the ‘Slam’ was taken from Nada, a book I have loved ever since I first read it when I was 23, the same age as Carmen Laforet when she wrote the novel. It is written in a deceptively simple style, but there are all kinds of pitfalls, not least the voice. I hear it as a young woman’s voice, still full of the romantic poeticism that later becomes corroded by experience.

Having been through and through my translation of the extract and convinced myself that I had captured that voice, it was a real shock to read Nick’s version, which is totally different in tone and vocabulary. One or two people commented afterwards that Nick’s version was male and mine was female. I found this rather alarming.

Does this mean that I have feminised all those male authors I’ve translated over the years? Do all my translations sound like me and not like the original author at all? Or is it simply that every translation – if it’s a good translation – has a dual personality, that of writer and translator?

I think (and hope) that the latter is true, for it seems to me that, along with all the obvious linguistic skills, a good translator needs to have an actor’s intuition for tone and cadence and character and emotion, and, like an actor, will inevitably bring to the text something of her own personality, experience and perhaps even certain linguistic foibles. Hamlet has been played a thousand times by a thousand different actors, and each actor brings to the role his (or even her) own qualities. Hamlet, however, is still Hamlet.

And so, to come back to A.S. Byatt’s point, every new Hamlet is a provisional Hamlet, but an actor has to convince the audience that his is the definitive interpretation and the truest to Shakespeare’s original. As it is with actors, so it is with translators: a good translation should ideally read as if it were the only possible interpretation and the words used the only possible words.


Download Nick’s Translation

Download Original Text

The first question at the start of our Live Translation session was about how much we brought to the words of the text we had to translate from our knowledge of the author, the historical context in which it was written, and so on. I was surprised when Margaret said she simply ‘translated the words on the page’, whereas I said the opposite, that I tried to imagine the writer and their world, and the circumstances in which they came to write the text.

As it turned out during the conversation, our positions were in fact reversed. Margaret had read the book years earlier, and formed a clear idea about Carmen Laforet, the way she imagined the world and the ways she found to express that. I realised as I responded to the questions that I was much more concerned with not just the ‘meaning’ of the words, but how the translation would work in English.

Paradoxically perhaps, this led me to what Margaret called a much ‘freer’ translation, in that I took over words and phrases to give them what seemed to me more resonance in English – as in the final paragraph, where I had ‘gave the house a heartbeat’ compared to Margaret’s ‘gave the house its vital pulse’.

I was surprised at the time that no-one asked how I felt about translating a female author, but am not yet convinced that there is such a thing as ‘female’ writing – once again, I feel the need to stay much closer to the words on the page and not what surrounds them.

What did become clear during the conversation is just how much the translator adds in the transfer: it’s not so much a question of what is lost in the process, but of how convincing and interesting the additions are. And Margaret and I did agree on one sentence.