Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Two Niggles

I'm in a bad mood. But there are two things that would still annoy me even if I was in a good mood.

The first is the Columbia University literary translation workshop (French-English) in Paris this summer. It looks fabulous:
Students will be working on the translation of a work of their own choosing. Formal workshops will meet for 3 hours, 3 days per week. Readings will be selected from theories and methodologies of literary translation, as well as from a number of contemporary French and Francophone novelists, playwrights, and poets. Translation will also be used as a means to understand and communicate cultural difference through French, African, Caribbean and Quebecois authors. In addition to the workshop, there will be lectures and seminars for 2 hours, 2 times per week with writers, translators, editors and publishers on the contemporary scene. Students will also be required to attend plays, movies and read the French press on a weekly basis. Additionally, optional language courses will be provided 3 times per week for 1 hour each.
Four weeks of deep instruction and practice with an accomplished literary translator are no doubt an amazing thing, plus all the great extras. But scroll down to find out the costs: all in all (including accommodation but before travel and living expenses, including obligatory theatre and cinema tickets) those four weeks come at a price of $7816. That's €5800.

Am I being achingly naive? Is it because I'm not American? But who on earth can possibly afford this? I know I couldn't and I'm working full time. It's a wonderful opportunity, but it's not like it'll guarantee anyone a well-paid job afterwards.

Here's my second niggle: The University of Bristol is holding a translation competition. They're calling for translated extracts from Ernst Jünger's travel writing. Great, wonderful. There are cash prizes. And then they say:
Ernst Jünger (1895-1998) was one of the most significant writers and thinkers of 20th-century Europe, and is one of the most controversial. He became famous with the publication in 1920 of In Stahl­gewittern [Storm of Steel], an account of his experiences in the trenches in the First World War. In the following eight decades, Jünger published more than fifty works, including diaries, novels, stories and essays. His novella Auf den Marmorklippen [On the Marble Cliffs, 1939] is a thinly veiled critique of the Nazi regime. Tributes by writers of international stature (including Jorge Luis Borges, Bruce Chatwin, and Heiner Müller), as well as visits from European heads of state and government (such as François Mitterrand, Roman Herzog, Helmut Kohl, and Felipe González) have helped secure Jünger a prominent place in intellectual debates across Europe.
Well, don't bother telling anyone why he's controversial, will you? I'm reminded of a recent event where a Norwegian diplomat made equally veiled references to "difficulties" with Knut Hamsun. I think it's safe to say that Jünger was a right-wing nationalist who was courted by the Nazis and the most conservative elements of post-war West-German society. And yes, as time passes the judgements on him are becoming more nuanced. But still. Literary critic Jörg Magenau, firmly located within the left-wing camp as a former taz editor, recently wrote a double biography of Ernst and his brother Friedrich Georg Jünger, Brüder unterm Sternenzelt, which is no doubt fascinating if you'd like to investigate further.

Have a good day.


Anonymous said...

My dear, you are so right on both counts! Are there any grants for non-trust-fund-babies to do the Paris translation workshop, or do they just assume only rich young ladies and gentlemen would be interested in such an arcane pursuit as translating (French) litrachur? As to Ernst Jünger, having translated some bits and bobs of him in my day, it seems to me a bit disturbing to see his gruesome glorification of war, among other things, go totally unmentioned. Does anyone ever talk about Céline without at least a nod to his right-wing extremist views?

kjd said...

Thanks Pam. Sometimes I think it's just me.

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