Thursday, 6 September 2012

Saints and Ninjas

Daniel Hahn and the people from the British Centre for Literary Translation are challenging the notion that nobody's interested in translation. Not just in a shouty way, but in practice too. At the English PEN website, Danny writes about a series of events they held at the recent Edinburgh Book Festival.
This series (...) isn’t just about shoving the translator onto a stage to sit next to their writer, a well-meant gesture but which is mostly about helping the original writer get by in English; rather it’s made up of events about literary translation. Typically, of course, a translator expects to be invisible (that is apparently the most desirable state of affairs) – certainly nobody’s heard of us in the way they might have heard of our authors; and English-speaking audiences, we’re always told, aren’t on the whole interested in, or perhaps just aren’t comfortable with, discussions of the subject. So if we were to programme a series of events about translation, featuring in most cases a line-up of translators nobody’s ever heard of, would anyone show up to hear what we had to say? We put it to the test.
They sold out, he tells us. I want everybody to take note of this - and when you organise your next literary festival, I want you to schedule translator events too. I want us to be on those stages in our own right, as simperingly modest and unattractive as we may be. Hell, if Franzen can lecture about bird-watching, we can thrill audiences with talk of our work. You won't regret it.

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