Monday, 21 April 2008

Literary Translation Lab(s)

Do you secretly translate passages from your favourite books? Are you a translator with a passion for poetry? Do you translate literature but don't have many people to read through your work? Are you looking for inspiration and support for your literary translation work?

Then you need a Literary Translation Lab. Our version here in Berlin was inspired by a Polish group initiated by Dorota Stroinska. We meet up once a month to inspect each others' translations through a literary microscope. Anyone can come, and anyone can bring translations - provided they're from German to English, as we don't feel qualified to judge anything else. We're loosely affiliated to the No Man's Land German literature magazine, and we have about six or seven regulars, with other people turning up as and when they have something to bring along.

Our first ever lab was a year ago. Three of us sat waiting around the table in the "library" at the Kreuzberg restaurant Max & Moritz, wondering whether anyone would turn up. And they did! It seems there are plenty of translation geeks out there who had been just waiting for this opportunity to meet like-minded people and work on texts together rather than just chatting and drinking - although we do that too. So far, we've looked at prose and poetry by Ludwig Hohl, Heinrich Heine, Hendrik Jackson, Clemens Meyer (natch), Wolfgang Hilbig, Funny van Dannen... and I can't remember any more but there have been about 20-25 texts so you'll understand the problem.

I for one really value the experience. Even commenting on other people's work hones your own skills, as you spot those things you do yourself in the process. And there is nothing better (or more daunting) than a room full of people taking your own translation apart for getting a really great result. Some of us faced the problem that we do translations for German publishers, which are rarely read by a native speaker before they're let loose on the world. So we now have a "free" editing service for just that situation.

What I'm most pleased about and proud of is that we've encouraged people to start translating German literature who didn't beforehand - from students to seasoned professionals. And No Man's Land #2 features a couple of texts resulting from that. If you want to follow our example elsewhere, go right ahead. Schafft ein, zwei, viele Übersetzungslabore! And if you live in Berlin and want to take a look, just come along on the first Tuesday of the month at 8 pm.

We'll be celebrating our first birthday in May. More very soon...

No comments: