Highlights of the Literary Translation Centre at London Book Fair 2015

The sessions I enjoyed most at the LBF’s Literary Translation Session this year there were not to do with the nuts and bolts of translation, but rather with broader questions of bringing literature to new audiences in translation. So I was interested in Alex Zucker’s account of the blog he set up to promote the book ‘The Devil’s Workshop’ by Jáchym Topol. This was in the session ‘Celebrating 10 years of Writing in Translation’ and marked 10 years of the English Pen awards for Writing in Translation. Alex Zucker won an award in 2013 for his translation of ‘The Devil’s Workshop’ from Czech into English and used the award to  promote the book and writer- he did this by setting up the blog, adding to it as the book received attention, talking to us about colour and layout choices.

Another session which opened my eyes to the challenges for readers and literature globally was ‘Literary Agencies Connecting Continents’,  not least because I was delighted and amazed that Sridar Gowda on the panel had been a bookseller in our lovely Peak District and had co -founded the Peak Literary Festival! Having visited Tamil Nadu and been aware of the complex relationship between language, class and caste there I was interested to hear him talk about the challenges faced by writers in India writing in languages other than English. Aware too that the Indian writers/ writers on India  I have read and loved write in English- Vikram Seth,  Rohinton Mistry, Jhumpa Lahiri (reviewed here). Also sobering to hear Victor Hurtado talking about the problems of just getting hold of a book in Mexico, especially outside Mexico City- any book at all.

So I’m back in rural Derbyshire, seeing the light green leaves of spring emerging, hearing the  tireless tweet of birds, tiny white blob of new born lamb rocking on her feet for the first time, mother standing statuesque, a thick rope of viscous placenta and cord flowing still behind her. It’s a different world again here- thanks to the London Book Fair for giving us bridges to other places.

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