Translation

My head’s still buzzing after last Friday’s International Translation Day at the British Library. This was the sixth ITD, the second one I’ve attended and even more full of ideas than last year’s. The opening session on The Rise of the Reader, chaired by journalist Alex Clark, assured us that books are still being read, both on electronic devices and in paper copies. Readers are interacting more with writers, publishers and each other, through interactive digital publishing, offered by innovative publishing such as The Pigeonhole, or simply through publisher’s websites. The popularity of books in translation was felt by some to be an issue- but other contributors felt the public are becoming  increasingly open to reading translated fiction. They simply want to read very good books, whether in the original or in translation.

There was then a wide range of  individual seminars for the attendees to choose from, ranging from looking at challenges for translators at text level to the business of literary translation in today’s fast changing digital world. I was privileged to hear Marilyn Booth, the renowned translator from Arabic, talk about issues of translating historical and cultural content in Arab texts: giving interesting examples from her own work, she discussed her strategies for rendering them in English, reminding us regularly that there is rarely one right solution, but sometimes a preferred fit taking many contextual factors into account.

In the afternoon I attended a seminar on how to give a translation workshop, presented by Roz Schwartz. She peppered her seminar with its concrete practical advice with some witty anecdotes on workshops she’d given and I was left mulling over where/how to do this in my local community. The final session provided further food for thought: Sasha Dugdale, a translator from Russian and Chris Campbell, Literary Manager at the Royal Court, showcased two of their play translations readings by four actors. It was brilliant to see and hear how the translator of dialogue has to work with speech rhythms and was a fittingly entertaining finale to a fantastic day.

So thank you to the Free Word Centre, English PEN, the British Library and the other dedicated partners for such a great day!

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