Thursday, 25 March 2010

PEN, PEN, PEN, they've done it again.

PEN, in case you don't know, stands for Poets, Essayists, Novelists, and it's "the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization". They campaign on and support writers in prison and in exile, they have a writers for peace committee, they organise readings and events - and in some countries they also promote international literature in translation and support translators.

A lovely long trawl through their various websites is an absolute joy. How about a fascinating conversation in letters between two eminent translators out of German, Anthea Bell and Doris Orgel? On what makes them passionate about their work, their young lives, the technicalities of translating for children or leaving things out. All dotted with book recommendations and investigations into language. Miss it at your peril!

The PEN American Center also provides some wonderful resources for translators, including a model contract, a list of publishers not allergic to translations, advice on negotiating - plus essays, poems, fiction and a whole series of conversations like the one above.

And then there are the festivals. Excuse me while I weep, but I can't make it to either of the two fantastic events series coming up in London and New York.

The first is Free the Word! on London's South Bank from 14 to 18 April, featuring what's commonly known as a stellar line-up of writers and translators (nobody writing in German is on the bill this time around, but hey! I believe there are some other languages out there). Maureen Freely, Daniel Hahn, Blake Morrison, Deon Meyer, Maya Jaggi... check it out on their site. I've been to a couple of their events in the past and was always impressed by the talent on show and the audience participation.

For the more Germanically-minded and Stateside-situated, there's the PEN World Voices Festival in New York from 26 April to 2 May. On the German front, catch my two faves Alina Bronski (Broken Glass Park, trans. Tim Mohr) and Thomas Pletzinger (Funeral of a Dog, forthcoming, trans. Ross Benjamin) along with Peter Schneider, the Austrians Martin Pollock and Klemens Renolder and the Swiss Peter Stamm. Plus translators out of German Susan Bernofsky and Michael Hofmann - and of course a whole host of writers from other places.

And please, please - enjoy it all for me too.

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