Friday, 9 April 2010

How Many Translators Does It Take to Catch Angry Sheep?

Have you ever read a book that was originally written in a foreign language? I bet you wondered: gosh, how did they make it into my language? It's so easy to understand, and I don't need to have a dictionary at hand to look words up and stuff.

Some of those formerly foreign books (the technical term is "translations") tell you the name of the person who did that in a prominent place - like on the cover, or maybe on the first page inside it. Sometimes you might have to look a bit harder to find out who exactly spent months labouring over the book so that you could read it. But you'll rarely, I bet, have seen photos of those notoriously limelight-shunning people (commonly known as "translators").

Well, now's your chance! love german books brings you nigh-on exclusive photos of 60 - yes, sixty! - translators out of German, into French, Finnish, Hungarian, Macedonian, Arabic, Spanish, Serbian, Swedish, English, Portuguese, Polish, Persian, Ukrainian, Thai, Hindi... and a heck of a lot of other languages you may or may not command.

Taken by Tobias Bohm, they document the recent Angry Sheep translator get-together in Berlin. Enjoy.

12 comments:

hh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jan Groh said...

Nice to meet you!

Tom Cunliffe said...

Shame there's no names against the photos - was Antonia Lloyd Jones there?

kjd said...

No, you'll just have to guess what she looks like.

Jan Groh said...

Just noticed that translators seem to to be female in most cases (or was it just circumstance at the LCB?). And now I invite everyone to start a discussion about gender and wages and what really makes the world a better place...

kjd said...

No, translators are very often female. I think there are lots and lots of issues there - about boys' and girls' choices at school and university (there was one boy in my German class at school and about 5 on my degree course). About what career choices they then make and why women end up in / gravitate towards the low-esteem ones like - let's face it - translation. And oh yes, about how jobs done by women are poorly paid.
Translation being an interesting case, something previously often done by rich wives as a hobby. And now we young whippersnappers come demanding decent pay and recognition, instead of just marrying dentists.
I recommend Sherry Simon's "Gender in Translation" for a long look at various issues - including a chapter on Aphra Behn, the first professional "translatress" who had a very strong voice of her own.

Jan Groh said...

Thanks for the info, Katy. I know a little bit about the situation of translators in Germany. There is an endless fight with publishers about royalties and and participation in sales - with no satisfying end in sight. It's a catastrophe how we honor the bridge builders that break the not so splendid isolation of our language islands. And, once again, most of this invaluable work is done by women. But to whom am I talking?

kjd said...

Are we the Filipina domestic workers of the cultural industry?

Jan Groh said...

Oh well, my only hope is that at least some of you like your work more than probably any Filipina does when she is sewing our shirts or coloring the little Überraschungsei toys. And a lot of translations are so well made that some idealism seems to have enriched the work.
A few years ago I promised to myself that, should any of my books ever get translated, I'll try to achieve a participation in shares for the translator: half of it from my own royalties, half of it from the publisher. I am prepared for a tough fight about this. But, unfortunately, due to lack of a battle ground, this intention has remained theoretical until now...

kjd said...

I guess that what keeps us going, that genuine passion for what we're doing.

David said...

Interesting review in the New York Times of Edith Grossman's new book "Why Translation Matters".

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/books/review/Howard-t.html?ref=books

kjd said...

Thanks David. Jessa Crispin had a good piece on it in The Smart Set too:

www.thesmartset.com/article/article03041001.aspx