Friday, 1 November 2013

Help with Emerging

I'm pleased to hear there's now a network for emerging literary translators in the USA, ELTNA. Inspired by the very active British equivalent, ETN, it's an informal group of people who want to get into literary translation but can't yet join a professional association because they haven't yet published a book-length translation. I know a couple of the people behind the ETN and it seems to be a wonderful and mutually supportive thing. It didn't exist when I was at that stage of my career, plus I was in the wrong country, so my informal networks were even more informal. But I wish it had, because talking to other translators has always been key to improving my work and finding out about opportunities.

There are also some more institutional programmes on offer for translators-to-be. The one I imagine to be most awesome is the British Centre for Literary Translation's mentorship programme, pairing translators "with promise rather than experience" with translators with experience and contacts. The application deadline is 11 November. Also in the UK, New Books in German runs its own Emerging Translators Programme, commissioning translations from German from upcoming talents, coupled with a workshop, editing and mutual support. You can also sign up for summer schools at the BCLT and Birkbeck College, which I think are well worth the fees.

Prizes are another good way to pimp your CV - and also give you essential practice at working to a deadline and just plain translating. Practice is what makes you better. Hopefully continuing every two years, there's the German Embassy Translation Award for British translators, which comes with a month's stay in Berlin. The Gutekunst Translation Prize is a similar initiative in the States - although it's only open to under-35s, which I think is a shame because literary translation is something people often get into once they're more mature and have the language skills required. The Harvill Secker Young Translators' Prize does the same (open to 18-34-year-olds with any country of residence) but from a different language each year. British residents or citizens of any age can enter poems in translation for the Times Stephen Spender Prize, with a deadline in May. You've missed the 1 September deadline for the Asymptote translation prize Close Approximations, but maybe they'll do it again. But you have until 14 February to submit unpublished translations into English for the John Dryden Translation Prize, no matter who you are.

Sometimes established translators seem to worry that we're encouraging too much competition in a situation where there's not much work to go around. I think that as long as we're realistic about how glamorous literary translation actually is - i.e. not terribly - more people with a passion for it can only be a good thing. I don't think it's a coincidence that the tiny increase in published translations comes with an increase in people enthusing about international literature and our work. In Germany, young translators are few and far between and you can sometimes tell that a book has been translated by someone significantly older than its author. I hope that building a more diverse pool of translators can only benefit the quality of translations, which in turn benefits us all.

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