The April blog is written by our Translators Association Chair, Maureen Freely.
Maureen Freely is the author of six novels and three works of non-fiction. She is perhaps best known for her translations of five books by the Turkish novelist and Nobel Laureate, Orhan Pamuk and for her campaigning journalism after he and many other writers, scholars and activists were prosecuted for insulting Turkishness or the memory of Ataturk. Read more...
The LBF Literary Translation Centre Blog
When we first proposed the idea three years ago, they assured us that the London Book Fair had no need for a literary translation centre. When we ran our first programme in April 2010, it was suggested that we were full to overflowing because we were the only show in town, thanks to the volcanic ash that had turned the rest of Earls Court into a ghost town. But last year we again attracted more people than we had room for, even though our space was considerably larger. And last week we surpassed expectations for the third year running, even though we were located in the LBF equivalent of the Outer Hebrides.
Before I do any more bragging, I should make it clear that while many or most of us belong to the Translators Association, the LBF Literary Translation Centre is the child of many parents: in this as in so many of our current projects, we've worked in close cooperation with Arts Council England, the British Centre for Literary Translation, the British Council, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, English PEN, the Free Word Centre, Literature Across Frontiers, Wales Literature Exchange and Words Without Borders.
Our programme of 16 events was designed in the same spirit, mixing and matching diverse audiences. There were several sessions aimed at new or aspiring translators, in which we offered general advice on ways into the profession and more specific information on mentorships, residencies, and (last but not least) contracts.
There was the announcement of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist, a general discussion about the pros and cons of the European Union Prize for Literature, the launch of English PEN’s new translation fund, and, on the last day, as a follow-up to a session on how to make literary translation interesting to the general public, Ros Harvey ran a translation game.
Other sessions focussed on the delights and challenges of translating, editing and publishing Chinese literature. I should mention, perhaps, that China was the fair's market focus. But I won't. I can't tell you how much I hate that term. Instead let me say that we also found room to discuss translation from the Japanese, and to discuss the special problems of translation from minority languages across the board.
Also memorable: the session on translating the news of the Arab Spring. That's another misnomer, as anyone in that audience will know. At another session, publishers were asked to comment on the handsome collections that more and more national cultural institutions are producing each year now, to showcase the authors they think ought to be translated. As in the session on gatekeeping, the conversation brought together the many players in the translation game; editors and translators, literary journalists and publishers, students and teachers, writers and readers.
What I enjoyed most was watching the swirl of surprise conversations and chance meetings. One minute you'd spot an old friend across the room. The next minute, you'd be making a new friend, or leading a new translator across the crowded networking area to introduce her to the editors of Ways with Words, because you'd just heard from someone else that they were looking for someone with an expertise in contemporary Russian poetry.
I went home knowing why life has been so much more interesting, and so much more fun, since I joined the translation networks. We may still not have anything like enough world literature in English translation, but judging by the number of young people attending our sessions, the times do seem to be changing. So watch this space.
Chair of the Translators Association
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