A literary translator, someone helping Brits to have access to major works of European literature, earns at the rate of ?0.85, i.e. 85 pence sterling, per word translated. This may sound a princely sum when magnified by 80,000 or 100,000 words. But for a freelancer like me, there are hidden costs, such as the inevitable introduction and notes, without which the book will float across the Channel devoid of context. And a total lack of a steady stream of work. This rate per word is recommended by the Translators' Association (TA) in London, but owing to EU cartel rules, there is no way of enforcing it. So translators have to go cap in hand, begging publishers and national literary promotional organisations for maybe that little bit extra, say ?0.90 pence per word.
Current rates, according to the TA website as below, though I have heard that the rate is to be raised to ?0.85 per word for prose, hence the above. These, then are the TA suggestions for a minimum rate of remuneration for the translation of poetry and prose. Where the maximum lies still depends on a number of factors, including realism, connections and the gift of the gab:At the other end of the arts spectrum are the phoneys, usually in the visual or performance arts. I do not wish to disguise my envy and, now, Schadenfreude, base sentiments both, regarding that phoney of phoneys, Damien Hirst, who, although a multi-millionaire "can no longer afford" to pay his pill-making employees in Peckham (maybe also others that to assemble his diamond encrusted skulls, mummify his fish in tanks). See:Rates
The TA suggests a minimum rate of remuneration for the translation of poetry and prose:
- ?80 per 1,000 words for prose
- ?0.85 per line for poetry
Hirst lays off workers - Telegraph
There is a huge mismatch of status and income between us literary translators, learning all our lives and building up knowledge about a country or two, their realia, history, geography, politics, and so on, and a man who buys diamonds for ?70 million as raw materials, then sells the "finished product" for about ?200 million. My raw materials are packs of printer paper, a computer, an internet connection, and a number of dictionaries. I too would like someone to lend me ?70 million so I can buy better equipment, drink champagne and eat caviar every day...
The credit crunch and malaise in the world economic situation will have one very positive effect: it will reduce such phoneys, bring artistic skill and prowess back into the arts, instead of jobs and subsidies "for my friends", the old pals' act. People will again start consuming that low energy, low cost product, the Book, and shun and ostracise the Hirsts of this world. Goody!
Me? A moralist? Dead right I am!