Last week I went down to Bristol to take part in a translation workshop with Carmen-Francesca Banciu, a Romanian-born author who writes in German. The workshop was the opening event of a conference organised by my lovely colleagues Debbie Pinfold and Sara Jones on ‘Remembering Dictatorship‘. Together with a group of students and translators from Bristol and nearby, we worked on extracts from two novels, Vaterflucht (Fleeing Father) and Ein Land voller Helden (Land of Heroes) for a public reading which also formed part of the conference.
It’s always a privilege to work directly with an author, particularly one who herself has a lot of experience moving between different languages: Carmen-Francesca told us how up till the age of 10, when she went away to boarding school, her family spoke a mixture of Romanian, Hungarian, German and Italian; and that she picked German up again at the age of 35 when she moved to Berlin after the Romanian revolution. She hadn’t intended to write in German, but found the language creeping into her writing, and decided to make the switch. Continue reading
I’m delighted to be taking part in a new translation mentorship scheme run by the British Centre for Literary Translation and the Translators’ Association for the next six months.
As part of the programme, I will be mentoring translator Jamie Lee Searle, a London-based translator of literary fiction and non-fiction from German into English, and part-time tutor at QMUL. Here is Jamie’s response to being selected for the mentorship:
I was delighted to find out I had been selected for the mentoring scheme, and especially when I heard who I’d been partnered with. Having already worked with Lyn on a translation project last year, I am very much looking forward to sharing ideas and learning from her experience in the world of literary translation. I’ve been concentrating on translation full time for a couple of years now, and am sure this partnership will inspire me even further to pursue new projects and raise my profile as a translator. Read more on her blog!
The mentorship scheme, in its second year, supports talented up-and-coming translators by pairing them with mentors for six months. This year the languages included in the scheme are: Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian and Spanish.
The programme is sponsored by the Foyle Foundation and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK, and the German mentorship is supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum. You can read more about the programme, and the mentors and mentees, on the BCLT website.
In my last post, I was looking at different covers for the same novel in translation across a range of languages, because I was wondering to what extent the cover image affects our expectations of the book inside. If the novel has a different cover, do we actually read it differently? could we even consider it to be a different novel? Think of the ‘adult’ versions of the covers for the Harry Potter series, or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy – aside from being a marketing ploy, those different covers also implied that the version inside was a book for grown-ups, whereas the children’s versions weren’t.
Cover images aren’t the only thing to affect how we read books though; extra-textual (or real-life) information also has a bearing on how we approach narratives. One of my (many) side-interests is in the role that gender plays in a text – how characters’ genders are represented and embodied, for example, or how language reflects, configures and reveals gender – and a few years ago I wrote an article* about three novels where the main character or narrator is the opposite sex to the author. In these cases, the authors were women and the characters were male; one of my conclusions was that writing a character or narrator of a different gender was a way for these writers to signal overtly that these texts were fictional, as much women’s writing tends to be read as autobiographical in the first instance, even when it is fiction. Continue reading