On the 2nd of October this year I got the opportunity to attend the 6th International Translation Day which took place at the British Library in London thanks to Ms. Elise Kendall, Director of Bookworm Translations in Manchester. Organisations such as The Free Word Centre, English PEN, The British Library and Literature Across Frontiers made this conference possible. As a student in translation, this event gave me the opportunity to attend debates offering a great overview on publishing, literary translation, the rise and place of the reader in a digitalised world.
Essential points which often seem to be neglected and which were raised in relation to literary translation is the acceptance of translated literature as a piece of work and the fact that translators in this field aren’t given the recognition and place they deserve: literary translator are indeed writers, artists who master the art of writing and enable the reader to “read through the glass”. It was indeed pointed out that no matter whether a book has been translated or not, the reader “just wants to be fed fantastic words!” (Will Rycroft, Community Manager at Vintage Books). Good translators, as a bridge between different cultures, should also be able to plunge the reader in a foreign culture and depict it so well that the reader feels that he is anchored in the setting.
After this opening session I had to opportunity to attend two seminars among ten focussing on specific facets of literary translation and which opened a debate. TRANSLATORS IN RESIDENCE initiated me to a usage of translators’ skills in a field that I had so far ignored and that isn’t always easy to define. This field of translation is based on workshops, projects in partnership with schools, universities or communities all around the world in order to develop creativity in writing or in anything linked to languages. Residencies can be carried out online with the support of a mentor or on-site for a variable amount of time (from a few weeks to several months) but require flexibility and excellent competences in running workshops. It is however important to mention- and this could seem paradoxical – that translators in residence rarely work as translators! Which isn’t a bad thing as they can gather enriching experiences in other fields, thus making their work more exciting.
The second seminar, `TRANSLATOR-SPEAK´: LITERARY DIFFERENCE OR BAD ENGLISH, which I found particularly captivating, aimed at reading several excerpts and guessing which ones were originally written in English and which one were translations. I had the pleasure to attend a debate where writers and publishers like Meike Ziervogel and translators like Shaun Whiteside developed arguments to distinguish an original from a translation. Although they’re experts in this field and have solid arguments to defend their position, they sometimes were wrong. This is due to the fact that two perfectly written texts, should they be an original or a translation are difficult to recognise as such when they’re well written. So once again: yes translators deserve to be considered writers, all the more when they’re taken for native speaker!
Before bringing the conference to an end the last session entitled FROM PAGE TO STAGE was animated by Sasha Dugdale, theatre translator and Chris Campbell, Literary Manager at the Royal Court who shared their experiences regarding the progression of plays from the hands of translators, to the actors, passing through the dramaturg and director. The translation of a French short play into English was performed in front of us and remained as humorous as it would have been in French: the public was simply delighted.
I would like to thank Ms. Elise Kendall for giving me the opportunity to participate in this international event, through which I enriched my knowledge in translation and which encouraged me to potentially consider a career in literary translation.