One of the hurdles for publishers wanting to bring out translated books in English, particularly in the non-fiction sector, is finding someone to translate them well. We now have a number of training programmes, networks and awards for budding translators of novels, but non-fiction has proved trickier. For me, translating non-fiction is a slightly different challenge to translating prose – and a whole different ball-game to translating poetry.
A non-fiction translator needs to get the right register and thoroughly understand the original, has to either know about or research the field in question and particularly its terminology, and must be familiar with the traditions and expectations around non-fiction writing in their target language. While you could say fiction translators do that too, non-fiction translators do it all to a much greater extent. So how can publishers find people to do that well?
Geisteswissenschaften International is a body set up to encourage non-fiction translations from German to English, providing funding for selected books partly so that academics can continue to write about complex ideas in their native language and still find a large readership. They've now teamed up with the German Book Office in New York to sponsor a competition for emerging non-fiction translators. The details are all in this leaflet – anyone can enter, as long as you haven't published more than one book-length translation before. There are cash prizes and one of the judges is my award-winning translator friend Shelley Frish, so you know the winners will be pretty darn good. Deadline is the first of December.