Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Looking Forward to International Translation Day

30 September is International Translation Day, chosen for the patron saint of translators, Saint Jerome, who translated the Hebrew bible directly into Latin and wrote a number of commentaries explaining his translation choices.

Thankfully for all those of us with slightly broader interests, Germany's literary translators' association, the VdÜ, is organising a whole host of events to mark the day and raise the profile of translated literature and the fantastic people behind it. There will be readings galore in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Cologne, Leipzig and Winterthur/Switzerland. For the very long list, see the VdÜ's website.

As far as I can tell from a very brief web search, this is a pretty unique way to celebrate the occasion, with nothing like it in Britain or the States (where translators are of course fewer and farther between). I'd like to imagine London, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow flooded with culture vultures flitting between translator-led events on 30 September, perhaps ferried to and fro by a shuttle bus. A series of translators would work up on top of that column on Trafalgar Square for the day, with their translations evolving in real-time and beamed onto the facade of the National Gallery for all to see. Bookshops would arrange all their many translated titles in beautiful special displays. Children would tell their impressed parents: "When I grow up I want to be a translator. Please sign me up for extra foreign-language lessons."

Ah well, maybe next year.


Harvey Morrell said...

I loved that last, wistful paragraph, especially the live translation scene. It made my day as I sit here, translating Friedrich Ani's, Süden und der Straßenbahntrinker, just because I can.

kjd said...

Enjoy, Harvey.

Harvey Morrell said...

Just when I thought I was cruising, I run into my first problem. Now, I've translated tons of legal documents (cases, statutes, law review articles), but I never realized just how much more difficult it is to translate literature.

Take, for instance, the names of the main characters in Ani's books: Tabor Süden, Sonya Feyerabend, Martin Heuer. When a minor character makes a remark like:

- Wie heißen Sie wieder?
- Martin Heuer
- Und nächstes Jahr?


Ihr Polizisten haben doch namen. Heuer machen wir Feierabend im Süden.

Playing on the names of his characters works for Ani in German, but the wordplay doesn't translate well, if at all.

Anonymous said...

I would love to read Freidrich Ani in English I've heard his books are great. Will there be one translated in English soon, Harvery?