View Full Version : London Book Fair, Literary Translation Centre
Well, here (http://www.londonbookfair.co.uk/Education--Events/Sessions-from-the-Literary%20-Translation-Centre/?idkeep=True&id=38844_149482), then is a link to videos of the sessions dealing with translation at the 2012 London Book Fair. I watched (or rather listened to) a few them. Most of the advice given struck me as either wrong-headed (translators shouldn't try to buy rights themselves) or disheartening and perhaps self-serving, though probably, alas, not entirely misplaced (network, network, network, and where better, of course, than at such events as the London Book Fair!).
One point emphasized by several of the speakers--and it's one of the few very good ones--is that English-language publishers are in a great position. When it comes to choosing work to translate, they are spoiled for choice, since, of course, nothing gets translated. There's a lot of good work out there for them to do.
Thank-you Bubba for drawing our attention this this grouping of videos. I shall have a look and compare my impressions with yours in due course.
Yes, Bubba, I'm still having a look. The more YouTube-style translation panel debates I see, the more interesting it all becomes.
To tackle one of Bubba's points, English-language publishers are indeed spoiled for choice. But they often simply listen to what powerful foreign publishers want them to publish, because they have no will and knowledge of their own to find out what are good books, as opposed to bestsellers (which can be much-hyped trash). Literary agents too have their own agenda: selling the writers they represent. Translators also perhaps want to translate the same books they recommend to publishers - but at least they can read them in the original language and provide an opinion based on knowledge, not rumour!
What is needed in the English-speaking world is more serious and non-public meetings within the book industry between translators, publishers, reviewers and booksellers (even the foreign authors if they can speak enough English) so that the grave problem of the alarming shortage of translations in Britain, the USA, etc., can be discussed and remedied. If there is no audience to butter up, there can be more straight talk about why there are so few translations, why we translators are so badly paid, etc.
It is all very for an audience of lay people who wish to be entertained at book fairs and book festivals to sit there for 50 minutes and be lectured to by "the experts". But this will not further the aims of translators, i.e. to get more books translated and into the shops. Such talks usually end up with a surfeit of generalisations, plus an element of boasting about having done this or that and meeting the author, etc. To entertain a lay audience for 50 minutes, you obviously have to come up with something, otherwise they sit there as passively as Soviet parliamentarians used to do.
People should not, in any case, see "translation" as an arcane art, something special, exotic, and so on. It is merely an activity by fairly erudite people who seek to transfer the fruits of the labours of foreign authors to our rather closed English-language world. Only a very few of us ever become entertainers at book fairs and festivals. Most of us struggle as freelances to make ends meet and have to take on non-literary work done for money. We literary translators are not yet professionals in the true sense of the word. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, in other words, it's the actual book translations that count for most, not merely talking about them.
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