Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Exploring New Frontiers

Before coming to UEA I was very closed minded when it came to translation. For me translating was just about reproducing what the source text said, but mainly focusing on meaning. The most important thing was to get the meaning, and if you had to leave something out, it had to be the stylistic features.

When I arrived here, I came across so many different theories of how to translate that it turned out to be a little overwhelming, but after a while, I managed to adapt and I started to explore each of the theories a little bit more. When I was studying my B.A in Translation, we talked mainly about out-dated theories and authors, but here in UEA is all about contemporary authors and theories; which makes it all more interesting. The most fascinating thing I found while going through all the new information I was receiving, was the notion of foreignization.

Foreignization is the strategy of retaining information from the source text, and involves deliberately breaking the conventions of the target language to preserve its meaning (Gile, Daniel. 2009). The thing that caught my eye when I read this definition of foreignization is the part when it says that foreignization involves deliberately breaking the conventions of the target language to preserve its meaning, but what if we break the conventions to the extreme? Normally when talking about making a text foreign, people think that you are tacking the reader to the writer, which is true, but what if we not only take the reader to the writer, but also to the writer’s culture?

When practising foreignization, translators limit themselves to just leave certain words in the source language because either they couldn't find a word in the target language that suited perfectly or because they wanted to give the text that feeling of exotic and new, but why not going a little bit further?

Sapir-Whorf stated that there is a connection between the grammatical categories of the language spoken by a person, and the way this person sees the world, and that is true, our language limits us to conceptualize the world in a certain way, but it is also true that by learning a new language, you also learn a new way to perceive the world, because you are not only receiving the linguistic knowledge, but also a part of this new culture; therefore I think it is also possible for translation to provide the reader of the target language, with extra knowledge of the culture in which the text was written, and we can do that by using foreignization.

When we translate we come across all kinds of difficulties, one of them being the translation of proverbs. Normally a translator will try to find the equivalent of the proverb in the target language, but what if we use foreignization and leave the proverb as it is? If we do so we will be providing the reader of the target language with culture of the source language. It will definitely be a challenge for the reader of the target language to understand the proverb of the source language, but with the context and a little extra analysis the reader will be capable of comprehending and learning about the culture in which the work was written.

Foreignization is a technique that can be use to help the readers of a target language learn some culture about the source language through the translation of proverbs, and it will also make the target text more challenging and interesting for the reader, not to mention that the translator will gain visibility.

Andrea González Garza translates from English to Latin American Spanish and she is currently doing a master degree in Literary Translation at UEA. You can contact her in Ahndiee@gmail.com

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Where The Texts Come and Go

 If I'm honest, I had never read Walter Benjamin’s The Task of the Translator before coming to the UEA. Whilst I was an undergraduate student in Japan, I read several of Walter Benjamin’s essays such as The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and Critique of Violence.  During my undergraduate degree, I studied literature and creative writing, and, I think it would have been natural for a student of this subject to read a philosophical essay on translation such as The Task of the Translator; however, I didn’t. I don't know why.

After graduating from the university, I worked at an advertising firm as a copywriter. Also, I spent time translating the adverts and brochures of global companies from English to Japanese. I did this without translation theory but tried to keep the target text faithful to the source text, following requests from our clients, the guidelines of translation which the clients gave us and the advice given by my supervisors. The rules I followed could be ‘skopos’ for my translating, the ‘skopos’ depended on who the clients were. Although my background was literature, I enjoyed my responsibility for translating business material at the office. However, it was also true that I felt translating was a more or less rigid activity like those which machines do.

As a student of the MA in literary translation, I have been studying translation studies since September. For my course work, I read The Task of the translator, and I came across ‘pure language’, as termed by Benjamin. He said that the task of translator is ‘to release in his own language that pure language under the spell of another, to liberate the language imprisoned in a work in his re-creation of that work.’ Apart from his intention to describe what a translator should do, this quote inspired me to address one question – how a translator exists ontologically and phenomenologically. After reading the essay, I sometimes think about what exactly happens when ‘pure language’ is generated. I have to consider how the text will be modified (by the mind?) at the point where the texts come and go, as though they were water going through a filter. When I translate text from English into Japanese or from Japanese into English, I try to listen to the internal voice of my mind at the same time that I try to listen to an external voice – the voice of the source text. Presumably, a translator is one who can face the birth of a new text.

To be honest, I don't have the confidence to have completely construed the meaning of what Benjamin wanted to say. I may misunderstand Benjamin’s ‘pure language’; however, I can stay optimistic, because as one Japanese writer said, ‘understanding is but the sum of misunderstandings,’.  I have got new insights into translation which break through the thoughts which I used to have and I find myself enjoying translation more and more.

Hiromitsu Koiso translates from Japanese into English, and from English into Japanese. He is currently studying towards the MA in Literary Translation. His literary interests include world literature, exophony and translation as a creative form of text making. Contact: hirokoikoi@gmail.com

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Words whirreds werdes

Did you have to pause to think about that title for a second or two? Did the second two words stand up, look you in the eye and demand to be noticed? If so, it’s because they were trying to get your attention. But we don’t always notice what words on a page are doing. Sometimes when we read, writes Margaret Freeman (2002), the physical words of the text ‘disappear’. It’s something we’ve probably all experienced as we greedily turn the pages of an engrossing book, the story’s universe forming itself somehow – mysteriously – in our mind. How does that happen? Where does it happen? Where do the words go? We certainly aren’t aware of every word on the page when we read quickly in this way, and yet the words and phrases we’re reading are all working, making us see and hear and feel, in ways that we sometimes don’t realise until we sit down with a metaphorical magnifying glass and have a close look at how the threads of the text are woven.

Of course, words don’t always affect us without us realising. There are some types of text in which the language makes itself a little more ‘opaque’, as Freeman puts it.  When we read poetry, words often insist on being heard. Gerard Manley Hopkins, for example, makes sure you can’t miss them. Try not listening to: “Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend/ His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score/ In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour/ And pelt music, till none’s to spill nor spend.” Punchlines do it too. Did you ever hear the one about the policeman who got called out to a nursery? A three-year old was resisting a rest. When language use is unexpected like this, it draws our attention to it; this is frequently the case with literary texts. But whatever it is we’re reading, if we’re about to translate it, we have to look closely at individual words and grammatical structures as we try to work out what the text ‘means’ (doing the MA in Literary Translation has taught me that ‘meaning’ is a slippery little word that doesn’t like to be pinned down, hence the inverted commas).

Translators have to look for some kind of meaning. They have no choice – they’ve got to produce a translation. To help them do so they might try to understand how the style of the text works on its readers to create the effects that it does – how it conjures up those mental images, those strong emotions, that (deceptive, of course) sense that there are real people speaking to us from a text, each in his or her own distinctive voice (Culpeper, 2002). An area of theory that might facilitate this is cognitive stylistics, one of the fields we have looked at as part of the Translation Theory module of the MALT. A cognitive stylistic approach to translation gives us a theoretical basis for examining how style affects us when we read, and in turn how a translator’s stylistic choices will affect his or her audience;  Jean Boase-Beier, discussing the application of cognitive theories to translation, points out that such theories might help make us more sensitive to ‘the interplay between the creativity and freedom of the translator and how this must always be affected by what the reader of the target text might do,  feel and decide’ (2006). Cognitive stylistics tries to explain how the words on the page interact with ‘the cognitive structures and processes that underlie the reception of language’ (Semino and Culpeper, 2002), linking the mysterious reading experience I described earlier to the language that generates it.

It’s exciting. It makes us think about thought. It explores why ambiguity in a text might make us uncomfortable, how we might perceive language sounds and patterns as ‘echoing’ what they represent in an iconic way, why metaphors might be central to the way we conceptualise and understand the world. Thinking about how these sorts of stylistic features work in the minds of readers of the source text, and trying to anticipate and recreate the effects of such features in the minds of readers of the translated text, has helped me as a theory and a tool in translation. I now try to analyse more carefully the techniques the source text is using and to what ends, which is useful for avoiding a ‘word-for-word’ approach to translation. In general, studying translation theory is making me more aware of the games words play – what’s with all the personification of words in this blog post, for instance? I’ll have to give it some thought. 

Romy Fursland translates from German and French into English and is currently studying for the MA in Literary Translation at UEA. She can be contacted at romy.fursland@googlemail.com.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Can We Find Equivalence in Difference? The Translator’s Paradox

When I started the MA in Literary Translation in September it was not the first brush I’d had with translation theory. I first came across translation when I was on my Year Abroad in Spain taking a class called ‘theory and practice of English translation’. We looked at linguistic theories such as those of Nida, Catford and Newmark. These ideas stemmed from a linguistic view of translation; that a text should be translated based on the concept of equivalence of form, meaning and style. We were mainly looking at the translation of advertisements, slogans, newspaper articles and tourist information. Most of the strategies we used in our translations considered whether the text had a source-language bias or a target-language bias. The former relies on such techniques as word-for-word translation and the latter on free translation. Equivalence played a big role in our translations, so for example translating a proverb with its TL equivalent and using adaptation, so if a text has a reference to cricket, perhaps in French that should be translated to the Tour de France. However, when I arrived at the department of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, I realised there was much more to translation than ‘equivalence’. We looked at the ethics behind this kind of translation, adapting cricket into the Tour de France for a French language target audience would be the worst kind of ‘domestication’ (in Venuti’s terms) because the source culture has been swallowed by the target culture. Furthermore, one has to ask if the target audience isn’t being somehow short-changed with this sort of equivalence. For example, in Spanish there is an idiom ‘mi media naranja’, whose equivalent in English would be ‘my better half’ (when referring to a partner) even though it literally translates as ‘my half orange’. The translator is faced with a dilemma: to translate literally would make no sense to an English reader, but if we use the equivalent, the image of an orange which the source-text reader gets is lost. Does the Target-text reader deserve to get a sense of the Spanish original? Of course, in translation, there is no right answer.

These questions plagued me when I came to do my first proper literary translations. The question that I couldn’t get out of my head was ‘do I want to create a translation which has domesticating or foreignizing effects?’ My natural instinct had always been to make my translation as intelligible as possible for the target audience, even if that meant being quite free with the source language or culture. However, at the beginning of the course I read Friedrich Schleiermacher’s 1813 essay ‘On the Different methods of Translating’. He advocated translations that brought the reader toward the author. Perhaps the source language and culture are, in fact, the most important things.

I decided to translate a passage from Entre Les Murs by Francois Begaudeau. It’s a book about life in a suburban Parisian school. Now, if you take Nida’s idea of dynamic equivalence or Schleiermacher’s idea of bringing the author to the reader and change the French education system into an English one so that English readers will understand and perhaps relocate the story to London, I can’t help feeling you would completely lose the point of the novel and also of translation. What is interesting about this book, and so what would encourage any translator to translate it, is its portrayal of pupils in a school in Paris, nowhere else.

However, when I translated my passage, I didn’t really have these ideas in mind. I took a scene where the teacher is pointing out, to the pupils, the kinds of mistakes they make in their writing. I decided to take each fault they made in French and change it to a roughly equivalent fault that children make in English. This works when the passage is out of context, but of course, following from what I’ve just said, why on earth would a French teacher in a French school start teaching his class about English vocabulary? For example, he points out that they constantly write en train de as two words: entrain de. In English this would be translated as ‘in the middle of’. I don’t think any child would attempt to write that in two words. So what do you, as the translator, do? In my equivalent translation I changed the mistake to ‘a lot’ which is often written as ‘alot’. But we’ve already discussed why this won’t work. We need to find a way to represent the French school and the French language in English so that the novel is not assimilated by the target language and culture, but at the same time it must be readable for the target audience. Lawrence Venuti writes extensively on strategies for ‘foreignizing’ a text and at the same time keeping the translator in sight. One can always indicate the translator’s presence using archaisms or unusual sentence structure, though this wouldn’t solve our French-language-in-English dilemma. My only solution is to keep the French children’s mistakes in French and use endnotes or footnotes to give English equivalents, even if they might take up more of the page than the actual text! I’m sure there are other solutions and the book has been translated if anyone is desperately interested in other possible solutions though I haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet so I can’t tell you here.

I have learnt that any translator carries a huge responsibility to represent not just the content of the source text but also the form, the rhythm and the style. The source culture should not be assimilated by the target culture and the translator’s art must be visible for all to appreciate. Translation is not a simple matter of transferring one language into another; ethics will always have a part to play and this makes translator’s choices even more risky, and therefore, even more worthy of our attention.

Emily Rose translates from French and Spanish into English; she is currently studying for the MA in Literary Translation at UEA and will shortly be starting an internship with the BCLT. Contact: emzrose_89@hotmail.com

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Café Conversations on Literature, Culture, and Language

Café Conversations on Literature, Culture, and Language
November 2012 to May 2013
Run by staff and students in LDC, AMS, and LCS at the University of East Anglia.

All cafés take place at 2 pm in the White Lion Café at 19-21 White Lion Street in Norwich.
The events are free and open to the public.

19 November
Can Writing be Taught?
Professor Andrew Cowan
UEA pioneered the teaching of creative writing as a university subject in 1970, and for the next 25 years it remained almost the only university to offer an MA in creative writing, despite the enormous success of some of its alumni, such as Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro.  In the last 15 years, however, the subject has really caught on, until there is barely a university anywhere that doesn't offer creative writing in some form.  And yet still the question is asked, Can writing be taught?  Andrew Cowan is a graduate of the UEA MA, where he was taught by Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter.  He is now the Director of the UEA programme.  And he is asking the same question. 

28 November
Through the Looking-Glass: The Origins and Afterlife of Nonsense Literature
Dr Thomas Karshan
What is a snark? what is a boojum? must they be something, or nothing? where do they come from? and do we need to know, if we are to enjoy and appreciate nonsense literature? This café conversation will explore nonsense literature, especially through Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”, saying a little about its origins, and exploring the philosophical issues around sense and nonsense with which Carroll was concerned. We’ll think together about why all great literature, and not just nonsense, needs to invent its own words, and we’ll look a little at a passage of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, much influenced by Carroll’s Alice, which is only invented words. And then we’ll have a go at inventing our own words - and ask if in doing so we have invented, if only for a moment, our own new world.

5 December
God Loveth Adverbs
Philip Wilson
Why does God love adverbs? And why does Stephen King hate them? And what does this tell us about literature? This session explores the contention that literature is about showing, not telling, and investigates ways that writers approach their task and the difference between literature and genre fiction.

14 December
Alex Valente
Just how political can comics be? Can they (or have they) be used for propaganda purposes? We will discuss the ideological messages that the comics medium can convey. The texts we will look at range from the most explicit (e.g. Palestine, by Joe Sacco, or V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd) to those that hide their political agendas a little deeper.

16 January
American Ghost Towns
Dr Malcolm McLaughlin
All across the United States there are eerily abandoned towns - where tumbleweeds roll along empty Main Streets, where only the shells of buildings remain. These so-called ghost towns are familiar cultural references and seem to say something about the other side of the American Dream. Some are former mining settlements, which boomed and declined with  equal rapidity. Some are towns that were left stranded when interstate highways cut through the land in the 1950s, and passed them by. But, since the 1970s, some of America's once-famous cities have been equally stricken by depopulation: when factories packed up and left town, so did the people. Even "Motor City" Detroit has been shrinking. What can we learn about America from looking at its historical ghost towns and modern-day shrinking cities? And how have the people who remain been working to reinvent their cities and make them liveable for the twenty-first century?

30 January
“Bearing Witness”: Seen but not Witnessed
Dr Rachael Mclennan and Dr Rebecca Fraser
This cafe will reflect on how we talk about and understand traumatic experiences that we have not borne direct witness to. It will consider to what extent representations, both visual and scholarly, of traumatic events distort or assist in understanding such experiences. Dr Rachael Mclennan and Dr Rebecca Fraser will be drawing on their own research concerning the Holocaust in American literature and culture and slavery in the United States respectively as case studies for further exploration of these issues.

6 February
The Pleasures and Politics of Historical Fiction
Dr Hilary Emmett
This café will engage the problem of how to balance our pleasure in reading historical fiction with some of the ethical issues that arise in rewriting the past to entertain audiences of the present.  Possible novels for consideration include historical fictions that are closely aligned to verifiable historical events (such as Hilary Mantel’s recent Booker Prize-winning blockbusters in comparison with more controversial re-imaginings of history like Kathryn Stockett’s The Help) as well as novels that seek to tell forgotten, repressed or traumatic stories such as Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved or Caryl Philips’ The Nature of Blood.

18 February
Meet the Pastons: An Introduction to Norwich’s Best Known Medieval Family
Elizabeth McDonald
Norwich’s medieval past can simultaneously seem a palpable and enigmatic part of our city’s history: we are surrounded by stunning examples of medieval architecture but imagining or understanding who used these buildings can be challenging. Thankfully the Paston family left us numerous letters, written between 1425-1495, in which we get a vibrant glimpse of what life in Norwich was like for a wealthy (but socially insecure) family. These letters provide a rich tapestry of personalities: surprisingly strong, willful, female characters; respectable men of the Law; feckless sons and problematic daughters.  We find the family concerned with castle defenses, “keeping up with the joneses,” life at court, and poorly made love matches. We will look at some of these letters and come face-to-face with life in Medieval Norwich.

27 February
Telling it Well? Mourning Autobiography
Dr Rachael McLennan
This cafe attempts to account for the popularity of autobiographies of illness and grief. These might be understood as a subgenre of the ‘misery memoir’, which has been especially successful since the 1990s. With reference to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) and Blue Nights (2011), Dr Rachael McLennan will consider the following questions: what pleasures and risks do such autobiographical projects present for writers and readers? How might autobiographies of grief, in particular, challenge traditional definitions and understandings of autobiography?

6 March
Introduction to Translation
Dr B.J. Epstein
What is involved in translating a piece of writing from one language to another? Why is translation one of the most fascinating and important careers? Why does translation matter?  After a general background to what translation is, we will practice a short translation/adaptation exercise together, either into another language or from English to English. Then we will discuss the joys and challenges of translation.

13 March
Who Do You Think You Are and Should You Care? Genealogy and the Pitfalls of Family History
Dr Rebecca Fraser
With the explosion of accessible material tracing one’s own family history through genealogical sites such as ancestry.com everybody can be an amateur historian. Yet, what is we dig back into our own histories and discover things about our ancestors that we find uncomfortable, disturbing, or even damaging to our own sense of self and who we are? This cafe will reflect on the very real value of genealogical research but also consider the limitations of the resources available and the possibility that we might not always like what we find. Dr Rebecca Fraser will be drawing on her own research concerning tracing the life story of Sarah Hicks Williams, a relatively unknown woman, living in nineteenth century America.

21 March
Norfolk Noir
Henry Sutton
I'll be talking about my new novel My Criminal World, which is being published by Harvill Secker on 2 April 2013.  The novel addresses issues of violence and entertainment, genre writing and so-called literary writing and what makes popular fiction work. It is also effectively set in Norwich/Norfolk, and it/my talk will look at aspects of provincialism, and what I'd like to call Norfolk Noir.

2 April
Proving Beauty
Dr Ross Wilson
We can prove that the chemical properties of water are H2O; we can prove that the earth orbits the sun; but can we prove that an object is beautiful? This conversation will discussion this question by working, in particular, with a number of poems that may or may not be 'beautiful'.

17 April
Writers, Interviews and Journalism, with Henry James
Dr Kate Campbell
It’s easy to take interviews for granted although they are central to modern life. Most of us will have had job interviews and we will at times have read interviews with famous writers and other celebrities. The kind of interviews that we know in journalism have been around for considerably less than two hundred years. After glancing at their history, this conversation explores some of the issues that interviews by writers and with writers raise, with discussion of two or three interviews, including the response of a famous writer, Henry James, in a rare interview that might have been a hoax.

26 April
What’s the Point of Holocaust Poetry?
Professor Jean Boase-Beier
We will look at a poem about the Holocaust by Rose Auslaender and ask why she and others chose to put their experiences of the Holocaust into poetry. How does it make us feel? Can we relate to things that happened so long ago and in another place?

1 May
Here Be Monsters
Dr Jacob Huntley
Vampires and zombies stalk the contemporary cultural landscape, more prevalent and popular than ever before. What is it that makes these modern representations of monstrosity such a pervasive force – and what do they mean? Monstrosity has always provided a valuable way of expressing fears or taboos, providing symbolic representation for what is unknown or misunderstood, or as a way of designating Otherness. Whether they are social metaphors – such as Romero’s shopping mall zombies – or figurations of unconscious forces – such as, incubi, Lamia or Mr Hyde – these demonstrative presences are all around us.       

8 May
Can Machines Translate?
Dr Jo Drugan
This cafe builds on BJ Epstein's event on 6 March (but attendance at that session is not a prerequisite). How far can machines carry out the ‘fascinating and important’ task of translation? Even before modern computers were invented, authors such as H.G. Wells and popular science fiction such as Star Trek had imagined ‘Universal Translators’, enabling communication across all languages. Do recent advances such as Google Translate and smartphones bring these technologies within our grasp? What are their uses and limits? Feel free to try out free translation apps online or on your phone before the cafe.

15 May
The Writing of Disaster
Dr Wendy McMahon
It has been said that disaster shuts down language, renders words meaningless and art inadequate, for how can we describe or depict the indescribable, put words to suffering and trauma when it is so total? This café considers the role of the writer and writing in a decade marked in America by 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The café will pose questions such as, what kind of cultural representation of disaster is possible, or, indeed, necessary? What role do ethics play in the writing of disaster? What can words really achieve in light of such trauma? It is hoped, by the end of the café, that we will have worked some way towards answering these types of questions, and considered the place of culture in national healing narratives.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Call for Papers: Reading the Target: Translation as Translation

Reading the Target: Translation as Translation

University of East Anglia
School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing
School of Language and Communication Studies

23rd and 24th March 2013

The fifth Postgraduate Translation Symposium at the University of East Anglia aims to examine translation as a form of literature in its own right: since Lawrence Venuti’s influential work on the translator’s visibility (1995), much progress has been made in the academic study of translation in this regard, but many critics and publishers remain reluctant to acknowledge the translator’s involvement in the creation of a new text or the status of these texts as anything more than a duplicate in another language.    
The symposium aims to explore the following questions: what are the effects of cultural contexts, literary systems and philosophical and ideological cues on the appreciation of translated literature? What are the power structures and hierarchies that translated literature must negotiate in order to achieve acceptance? What are the benefits to a culture that acknowledges the presence of translations within its literary canon?

We invite submissions for presentations by postgraduate research students and academics across a wide range of disciplines. Fields of particular interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

- Performance and adaptations
- Cross-genre translation
- The diversity of overt forms of translation
- Concepts of authorship in translation
- The translation of poetry
- The role of translation in religious texts
- Pseudo-translation
- Ethical and political considerations in translation
- The visibility of translation in modern forms of text and media (Subtitling, Films, Games)

Please send proposals of no more than 250 words (with bibliographical references and a short biographical note) for 20-minute papers to translationsymposium@uea.ac.uk by Friday 7 December 2012.

Please address all correspondence to:

Lina Fisher
University of East Anglia
School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing

The Organising Committee: Nozomi Abe, Moira Eagling, Lina Fisher, James Hadley

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Poetry translators – the heavyweights of the translation world?

Before beginning the MA in Literary Translation at UEA, I hardly ever had occasion to translate poetry; indeed, I didn’t really read poetry, having been scared stiff by what was probably inadequate teaching of John Keats and William Blake at secondary school. Finding myself on the MA, and required to produce essays, poems and translations thereof seemed to furnish good subject matter, being shorter and therefore easier to consider than a whole novel, for example. Thus it came about that I studied in depth German poems by Richard Dehmel, French poems by Baudelaire, and Dutch poems by Annie M.G. Schmidt and Ramsey Nasr. And lo and behold, I now find myself looking at 20th century German poems by women writers for my dissertation.

Since poems are characterised by condensed language that often has more than one level of meaning, with particular attention paid to diction (sometimes involving rhyme), rhythm, and imagery, poetry translation is clearly no mean feat. But how should we, as translators, decide which aspects of a poem we are going to pay particular attention to?

One area we might decide to focus on is the style of a poem: elements such as repetition, iconicity, metaphor and ambiguity. These features and devices merit close analysis because they represent choices on the part of the original author. Or maybe we might decide that what matters most is the sound or rhythm, especially if the poet sets high store by performing her or his poetry. And what should we do if the poem we wish to translate has a strict metre and rhyme - do we try and retain this, at the risk of parodying the original, or do we render it in free verse?

Maybe we might want to take the context of a poem into consideration, or not at all. If the poem is part of an anthology, we may decide it should stand on its own and that we do not need to consider the circumstances under which it was written. Again, we might want to focus on the content of a poem, if we decide this is the most important element. This could certainly be considered to be the case with some of the Holocaust poetry I am currently translating.

If the poems in question are for children, we might want to pay attention to the read-aloud quality of the original poem, and to humour. We might also be more inclined than normal to domesticate, in order to make the translations more accessible to children. Or we might side with Venuti and decide that what counts is to draw attention to the “foreignness” of the original poem, so as not to “erase the cultural values of the source text”.

Robert Frost famously said, “Poetry is what gets lost in translation”. Nonetheless, many poets and translators persist at this “impossible” task, and I have unwittingly found myself climbing into the ring and joining them.

Rebekah Wilson is a freelance translator from French, German and Dutch. For more information, go to www.oxfordtranslations.net.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Watching Shakespeare in Translation

On the occasion of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary and perhaps under the auspices of the cultural events leading up to the London Olympics, the Globe Theatre in London had organised the Globe to Globe theatre festival as a part of the World Shakespeare Festival. The premise was that 37 plays of Shakespeare will be performed in 37 different languages consecutively; with each play being performed two or three times. The programme and other official literature highlighted this multilingual aspect of the festival which aimed to cater to ‘audiences from every corner of our polyglot community’.  The festival organisers perhaps did this to make a distinction between ‘nation’ and ‘language’ – an argument used to justify their controversial inclusion of a Hebrew The Merchant of Venice by the Habima National Theatre from Tel Aviv. For me, as an Indian, this distinction between ‘nation’ and ‘language’ is something I take for granted as India is a nation of many languages.
The festival did have two plays from India, or rather from Mumbai – Twelfth Night in Hindi by Company Theatre and All’s Well That Ends Well in Gujarati by Arpana. Also being performed were The Tempest in Bangla by the Dhaka Theatre Company and The Taming of the Shrew in Urdu by Theatre Wallay from Lahore which would have been understood or would appeal to some Indians.  I managed to see Twelfth Night and Taming of the Shrew, as well as Cymbeline in Juba Arabic (From South Sudan), Richard II in Classical Arabic (from Palestine). As a theatre-loving student of literary translation my interest at the start of the festival was to see and enjoy theatre in translation, and I did manage to do this. However, reading the festival brochures, talking to some of the organisers and seeing the particular plays that I eventually did, led me to think about the ways in which nationalisms and national identities are performed.
Interestingly, the only one which did not have a national element, probably due to the reasons mentioned above, was the Hindi Twelfth Night. This production made effective use of the globe stage, with the live music and the performers interacting with the standing crowd. The weather (since it is an open-air theatre) – dreaded British rain – contributed quite nicely especially in the final song which was about the rain.  It was also a production which acknowledged and was quite self-conscious about the fact that it was a translation, a fact I found quite heartening as a student of translation. It used a fair amount of English, contravening the rules set out by the Globe which, according to an insider at the festival, expressly told the various groups not to use English. However unlike some other performances (like the Cymbeline) English was not used merely to reach out to non-Hindi speakers, rather a lot of humour depended on it and on an audience that was multilingual – fluent in both Hindi and English. The way this was achieved was clever and commendable and greatly increased my appreciation of the play. I watched the play with an Indian friend of mine and we both agreed that it was the most fun we’d had in a long time, but we did wonder whether non-Hindi speakers would have enjoyed it. A couple of days later, when I went to see another play, I spoke to a woman who had taken it upon herself to see all the plays in the festival. She said that this production and the Bangladeshi Tempest were her favourites because they ‘stuck most closely to Shakespeare’ and so she could enjoy it without knowing the language.
This play was the first one I saw at the festival, and I have since seen a couple more as mentioned above. However, if someone were to ask me which play I enjoyed the most I would still say Twelfth Night in Hindi, followed very closely by Richard II. In thinking about my responses to the various plays, and degrees of enjoyment (which itself is a dubious and not necessarily fruitful comparison, because of my varying degree of familiarity with the plays, the problems of comparing comedies to tragedies and histories etc.), I have been thinking about the role my national identity plays in the creation of this response. Is the fact that I’m an Indian, and in that I’m more culturally aware of things ‘Indian’ than things ‘South Sudanese’ for instance the reason why I enjoyed Twelfth Night the most? I’d like to think that this wasn’t the case. But, perhaps it had to with the fact that even though I enjoyed the other plays there was a barrier between me and the performers and some members of the audience that I wasn’t able to cross because I wasn’t part of a national community – real or ‘imagined’. The play from South Sudan was, even in the way it was promoted, with people holding south Sudanese flags the primary image, a declaration of a new-nationhood on an international platform, the Urdu play began with an instrumental rendition of the Pakistani national anthem, and the play from Palestine while resonating heavily of the Arab Spring, meant something different and perhaps more powerful and specific to the Arabs in the audience around me, despite the fact that I was in Morocco when the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia began and witnessed first-hand the protests in Rabat.
In the end it made me see that perhaps the distinction made by the organisers of distinguishing between nationhood and language was more about being cautious and politically correct rather than anything else. One of the aims of the festival is to reach out to the various diaspora communities in London. Given this, the choice of Gujarati seems justifiable, but why not Punjabi or Tamil or Malyalam (which has a history of performing Shakespeare in translation), why Hindi? This is not to take anything away from the troupe themselves, who were brilliant, but perhaps this choice was made in order to appeal to ‘Indians’ in general, ‘Indians’ like me, who don’t know Gujarati. If you add to this the fact that the festival ended with a play like Henry V, with its nationalistic undercurrent, in English being performed just after the Queen’s Jubilee, one begins to really wonder what it means for Shakespeare to go globe to globe, to be translated and most of all, for these translations to be watched in London. 
 Anandi Rao translates from Hindi and Arabic to English. She is doing her MA in Literary Translation and is interested in theatre and women’s writing. She can be reached at anandirao88@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

My Dream not Come True

A few weeks ago a close friend forwarded me a job post at the British Council with the tag line: ‘Dream Job?’.  Up until then I had always considered my dream job as being a literary translator; spending my days locked up in a small room at a desk, just the text and me, and my trusted laptop of course.  Then, I clicked on the link and realised that what I was looking at was an application for a job I never even knew existed: ‘Literature Adviser to the British Council’, working with translated literature from Turkey in particular.  As I read the job description I realised that this job was the perfect combination of everything I loved: Turkish, literature and translation.  Then, of course reality and that awful feeling of self-doubt started creeping in and excitement soon made way to disappointment, before I had even applied for the position.  Throughout our time on the course it has been made quite clear to us that life after MALTeser-hood wouldn’t be as plain sailing as we would like it to be.  Trying to convince publishers to pay you to translate a novel seems harder than trying to get an original piece of work in print (or in electronic form).  As a consequence, many of us will have to get a ‘proper’ job that pays the bills.  I hadn’t thought about what type of job that would be.  Up until now that is.  Teaching could be nice, I thought, but that would mean getting another degree.  So after getting over my initial reaction, I applied for what appeared to be my new dream-job-on-the-side.   

Many literary translators do their work simply because they have a love of languages and literature.  However, as a translator working with Turkish, a minority language, I have always had slightly stronger motives.  While Turkish novels such as Orhan Pamuk’s Kar (Snow) have been quite successful, the number of Turkish authors being translated into English is rather limited.   I want to change that.  It appears that the London Bookfair also have the same vision in mind and have announced that the market focus of 2013 will be Turkey.  This is an exciting opportunity for Turkish translators like me who live in England and do not have a lot of time to fly back and forth.  Working for the British Council, I would be working alongside the LBF, developing ideas and projects.  Yet another reason to apply for the dream-job-on-the-side.

Filling out the application form, I knew I didn’t have a lot of the credentials needed.  However, I decided to give it my best shot and make the most of my skills and the little experience I had gained over my short time in employment.  

 As our time on the course comes to a close, I wish all of my fellow MALTesers the best of luck at finding jobs as Literary Translators.  Even more so in finding their dream-job- on-the-side.  Although, as I found out, it might end up finding them. 

I didn’t get the job in the end and an opportunity like this will most likely never come up again. I shall try to remain positive in my plight of having to find two jobs.  However, I might set my sights a bit lower this time and simply hope for a job that helps me pass the time while I wait for my real dream to come true.

Selin translates from French and Turkish into English. She is currently studying the MA in Literary Translation at UEA where she did her undergrad in Modern Languages. Her literary interests include magical realism and crime fiction and she occasionally translates Turkish poetry.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Satisfied Feelin’

Strutting through with speed...
Coming down with a bump...
Highs don’t last forever...
For another glorious eight hour night shift, tapping away, out there on...
   Okay, so it wasn’t an all-night-out, Soul-beat dance affair exactly, more me locking myself in with a dead author, for a couple of days, to the sole beat of my long fingers tapping away on the old clavier – my best friends Marvin and Tammi would have to wait a good 48 hours for my renewed attention; I must have been serious!
   Still, when I say 48 hours, I don’t mean 48 consecutive hours – emphasis on the above “days”; these “days” I need my beauty sleep, as any of my so-called friends will confirm...
   Come to think of it, my translation of more than 11,000 words of Christiane Rochefort’s Les Petits Enfants du Siècle, as part of my MA dissertation, was completed in much less than half that time, and with my adviser telling me that my ‘1st draft’ will indeed suffice as my final draft.
   And I have to agree – he types with a conceited grin.
   No, but seriously, the reason I say this – and this my point – is because I could have actually translated those 11,000 words at the same pace before I began my MA course... except that the result wouldn’t have been anything like this one. I’m not at all suggesting that I’ve altered my style of translating, in terms of the physical act; I translate just as quickly, and maybe just as early, whenever I feel it time to begin “the physical act”. Nor I am suggesting that I now translate much better, and that the 11,000 words are superior to those I might have done before the MA course – that all depends on the individual reader. What has altered over time, however, while I’ve been on the MA course, is my mental act of (sub) conscious prefacing, or the thing I carry around with me for however long. Furthermore, I am now just as capable of carrying out my convictions.
   So just what do I mean by those last two lines?
   Firstly, the mental preface thing: Cluysenaar believes that a translation “[m]ust be faithful in any worthwhile way, work on the basis of prior stylistic analysis” (1976:41).  Allow me to quickly clear up the first part of this sentence, the “faithful” bit; the forbidden word – to use it around the translation fraternity is akin to an actor mentioning the ‘Scottish play’ in a theatre’s greenroom, just before a performance... Funny, why am I calling it the Scottish play? This room’s not green... Anyhow, to faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty etc – I’ve a good mind to capitalize them! For me, a translator’s duty is to endeavour to be true to his/her interpretation of the text in question, that is being faithful to the text and that is all s/he can ever do; that is the “worthwhile” way. As for the sentence’s second part, the “prior stylistic analysis”: well, believe or not, but each individual’s interpretation of a text is based on the stylistic choices of the original author, be they conscious or unconscious choices; Tabakowska states that “Stylistic choices reflect a speaker’s (subjective) choice of a given conceptualisation” (1993:7). Sufficed to say, Tabakowska is right, but I could use quotations all day, and I don’t want to. What I will say is that style is an expression of a cognitive state, and, therefore, the meaning we obtain from what is not on the page is driven by what is on the page... Stylistic analysis is thus fundamentally important to the fidelity a translator hopes to achieve, according to that ever-important interpretation.
   So what do I get from believing that? Well, firstly I’ve become better at the prefacing bit, through practice; that kind of reading on two levels, responding in both a reader and translator sense; doing two jobs at ones, it doesn’t have to be such hard work, the two levels complement each other. That’s how we find that ‘voice’. And it doesn’t all happen for me by staring at a page; it can happen while I’m walking my little girl to school, as in retrospectively of course, or even having just nipped downstairs for a bite...
   So to the physical translating, which, I believe, has improved too, in that I don’t find the work as hard as I once did. Something more important, though, is that... well, take the above-mentioned translation as an example: I’m sure that, had I translated the text previous to my MA course, I would, to use a laundry metaphor, have added far too much conditioner, smoothed out all those ‘rough spots’, and been far too keen with the old iron, on those slightly ambiguous bits, to such a point that the text would no longer have belonged to Christiane Rochefort , apart from having her name on the front of the book – there’ll always be a translator’s voice, that’s the interpretation bit, but I would’ve gone a little too far in the wrong direction. Venuti is right only partially, because I’m not talking about some political stance; I’m talking about replicating what a text does for a translator, not foreignisation versus domestication, for the sake of... With Rochefort’s text, I have gone completely against the grain of my writing – or have translated in a way that I never thought I could, rough bits, warts and all. And I think the text is better for it; it’s more it and less me, the perfect ‘blend’, and it wasn’t that difficult. What’s more, I like the feeling. I have truly found what the author’s voice says to me in my translation.
   And I have the course to thank for that. So thank you.
   Thanks more individually to Jean Boase-Beier, BJ Epstein, Valerie Henitiuk, Cecilia Rossi, Philip Wilson, Anne Cluysenaar – the quote – Elżbieta Muskat-Tabakowska – likewise – and to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell for their patience in letting me get on with my work, and for donating me the title of the blog, just one of many wonderful tunes.
   I’m Chris Rose and have a couple of blogs further down too, about Michael Caine and Tom Stoppard. If you’d like to drop me a line – whether you’re interested in translation or just a fan of Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, Michael Caine films or... – my email address is chrisrose59@hotmail.com
   Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Viva ,vidi, vici...

Vivas. The mix of anticipation, worry, excitement and enthusiasm serves as an adrenalin-fuelled rollercoaster. The prospect of having to explain your dissertation topic in front of a panel of three stalwarts of translation studies can seem daunting (the fact that one is ten minutes late with nobody to contact to inform said panel of one’s tardiness due to connecting buses running late also adds to the pressure–believe me!)
But after crashing into the room with my breathless apologies, and with no time for delay, the viva commenced...
Oral exams are usually nerve-wracking but on this occasion it was anything but. It actually, in my case at least, was an enjoyable experience. If you’re ever faced with having to attend a viva, I’m sure you would disagree and, of course, I cannot speak for everybody. But after some preamble about what I had written in the abstract and explaining what the ‘umbrella’ topic would be, it turned out that my blindness to what I was really trying to say was revealed to me.
It is rather a lonely experience: an abstract written and sent a month before the viva takes place can always change by the point you reach exam day, with no input from anybody but yourself. This is why the viva is a fantastic experience: it can provide a new focus on the topic from the perspective of not just one person, but three.
My topic shifted during the viva to an idea which was cursorily mentioned in my abstract. However, upon further scrutiny, it was revealed to be the new ‘umbrella’ topic which would easily encompass most things I had planned to incorporate originally. This input showed itself to be most invaluable and I walked away with a reinvigorated sense of direction with the dissertation.
I found it to be extremely informative and the panel ended up picking the relevant threads from my abstract, a sentiment expressed by one member who declared, ‘well, we’ve done the job for him.’ That is of course not strictly true but it demonstrates my point that input from external translation studies forces can provide new insights into one’s own ideas.
The viva should therefore be considered as a conversation, a debate perhaps, where ideas criss-cross and are thrashed out across the table rather than the stilted notion of an oral exam.
Now that I am in the process of writing my dissertation according to the clarification of the topic during the viva, I can honestly say that without it I would be lost! My original abstract was disorganised to say the least, with far too many ideas competing for undivided attention. That is why, in my case at least, it is not always a bad thing when someone comes along and turns everything on its head. What the viva gave me was a meatier topic to discuss i.e. the argument for the translator’s invisibility. There is one downside though: I now have to argue against Venuti and his notion that fluency in a translation always equates to a domesticated translation.
Not the easiest of tasks, I assure you, but that is the point of a dissertation. It allows one to push those extant boundaries and paradigms in translation studies...I relish the challenge!
Adam Kirkpatrick translates from French and Swedish into English and is currently studying towards the MA in Literary Translation at the UEA. He is particularly interested in Fantasy Fiction, Historical texts and the work of J.M.G Le Clézio.       

Monday, 6 August 2012

The End of the Beginning...

As the MA in Literary Translation is coming to an end, I can’t help but look back at all the wonderful opportunities I have been given throughout the course. Not only have I learnt a lot about the theory and practice of literary translation but I have also had the chance to develop further skills which I know will prove indispensable to me in my future career.
Firstly, in October, I was chosen to be one of the interns at the British Centre for Literary Translation. My main task involved using my experience as a library assistant and working with the staff at the BCLT to organise and arrange the books in their library, which is made up of a large number of extremely varied translated novels, poetry and plays as well as translation reference books and journals. The aim was to make this extensive resource more easily accessible to staff and students who could benefit from it. I think this may have been achieved by the newly implemented strictly ordered system and bright yellow labels for each section!
In my role as intern, I also helped to promote the International Fiction Reading Group, run by          Dr. B. J. Epstein and held at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. Each month, I designed and displayed posters around the university and city centre. I soon became a member of the group which meets once a month to discuss a work of translated literature, some of which were thoroughly enjoyable whilst others were slightly more challenging (if you ever get the chance to read The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, translated from the Persian by Tom Patterdale, it is worth it in the end!). It was great to be part of such a unique and inspiring reading group and I would love to set up a similar group dedicated to reading literature in translation sometime in the future.
Another role I took on during the course was as a member of the editorial board of Norwich Papers, an annual, student-run journal about different aspects of translation studies. As a team of five, we started off with lots of ideas and plans for our issue of the journal which we decided would be called ‘The Next Big Thing: Current Trends in Translation Studies.’ We set up a blog (http://norwichpapers.wordpress.com/), created a facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/NorwichPapers2011) and decided to add interview and review sections to complement the range of interesting articles we received from around the world. Working on Norwich Papers has required teamwork, organisation and strict time management but I have a feeling we are all going to be extremely happy with what we have achieved when we see the finished product (which should be available in September this year).
Although there is now less than two months left until we have to hand in our completed dissertations, there is still one incredible opportunity to look forward to. The BCLT Summer School. Over the course of five days, a group of literary translators will come together in Norwich, recently named as England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, to work with translators and writers to produce a consensus translation of a text in workshops and attend other exciting translation events. This will be the last in a long list of opportunities and I cannot wait! I’m looking forward to putting what I have already learnt on the MA into action as well as learning a whole lot more!
I guess what I’m really trying to say is thank you to the University of East Anglia, the British Centre for Literary Translation and all the staff and students that have made the MA in Literary Translation such an enjoyable experience.
Fiona Hayter translates from German, French and Spanish into English. She is currently studying the MA in Literary Translation at UEA where she also recently completed an internship at the British Centre for Literary Translation. You can contact her at F.Hayter@uea.ac.uk.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Meddling with Myths: Or, My dissertation, but less serious.

In the beginning was the word. Or the void. Music. A lump of mud fished out of an endless sea. Something big that went bang. Whatever it was, it was at the beginning, and it started it all. It got the ball rolling. Across all cultures, explanations for natural phenomena start with stories. All cultures have myths, tales, fables, folklore about how they came to exist. And the stories change, like flowers springing out of a different soil, growing in different environments, some reaching with their roots deep down into the culture they find, some only lasting a couple of seasons, before they are eradicated, trampled or forgotten. But they all try to cling as tenaciously as possible, like limpets, for survival. As Roland Barthes said, myth ‘is a language which does not want to die’ (1957). And here is where we come in. If myth is a language, it can be made to travel to other lands, cultures and minds – it can be, no, it wants, even needs to be translated (Benjamin 1923; Chesterman 1997). If myth is a language, storytellers are translators, reflecting, refracting, amplifying, modifying those tales for the new audiences. If myth is a language, it cannot be set in stone (Warner 1994). The new audiences, however, will not want sloppy repetitions of a fourth-hand story heard from some guy at the market, with frail horned gods and overhyped floods. They will want the new snappy, snazzy, jazz-handful up-to-date version, with CGI (Culture Generated Innovations) and special effects (Hermans 1996; 2002). To go, please, too – they have a busy schedule. And so we, the translators, the unacknowledged (re)creators of the world, will step into our performance tights, pack our satchels with some theory (and a towel, always bring a towel), grab the academic gloves – in case of critical conditions – and go, towards our goal, towards the creation of the new stories, the new myths. Which are actually the old ones, but with different clothes. We will tell tales of Titans and Olympians, fighting in court (or The Jeremy Kyle show, at the audience’s request) over who owns fire. We will sing of the twelve labours of Heracles, from queuing at the Job Centre to trying to cross Times Square on foot. We will reveal where man-beast Enkidu gets a haircut, before chilling out with Gilgamesh. We will recount of the wolf Skoll’s quest for mouthwash, after he swallowed the sun on Ragnarok. We will spin new stories of the old gods, for a land and age that feel no need for any of their own. And by doing this, we will choose who to let speak, we will give a voice to the unheard, shift perspectives and points of view, manipulate details to let the tales within the tale shine brighter (Tymoczko 2007). We will adapt to the audience, but tell our own tales, with our agendas, our ideologies, our points of view (Holman and Boase-Beier 1998: 9). For, in the end, myths reflect values held dear by the society and culture that created them. In recreating them, translators imbue them with their own belief system. Sneaky. The serious version also contains horrible things like memetics, norms and DTS, stylistics, psychoanalysis, anthropology and sociolinguistics. Oh, and is about 20000 words long. Aren’t you glad I wrote the abridged version? People I have intentionally plagiarised: Mike Carey, Percy B. Shelley, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, J.R.R. Tolkien, Cesare Pavese. ---- Alex Valente translates Italian and French into English, and English and French into Italian. He will be starting a PhD in Literary Translation at UEA in October 2012, on the translation of comics (which are really just myths in disguise). He can be found in front of a computer screen reading messages to alex.r.valente@gmail.com.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Sense and Sensibility... and Sensitivity

As students of Literary Translation, we are encouraged to grapple with both, the questions that are directly related to translation practice as well as those that concern some loftier matters. In laying claim to the title of translator and thinking over the responsibilities this title implies, one comes across the issue of identity, among others. In real-world terms, considering this issue might mean the need to take in the scope of various actuals constituting the field and the industry of translation. However, a year of academics makes for good time to consider more elusive aspects of translation and translator's identity. For example, the general concept of 'meaning' may maintain its ability to perplex, yet this perplexity does not translate into an equal amount of confusion over the meaning's place in the work of the translator. The intuitive consensus is that 'meaning', alternatively 'sense', is the translator's primary concern, and the manner it is handled in depends on his or her identity characteristics. Another couple of aspects that fall under the rubric of tricky or elusive are sensitivity and sensibility. Of the two, sensibility seems to be somewhat more ambiguous, if for no other reason than because it sometimes is used interchangeably with 'sensitivity'. Yet, when it comes to the translator's role, distinguishing between the two may have its benefits. It can be seen as part of what Maria Tymoczko refers to as 'self-reflexivity', whereby one makes an effort to become aware of just what parts of one's identity and personality go into the translation process. Lawrence Venuti brings up the issue of sensibility in 'The Translator's Invisibility'. But, rather than talk about sensibilities shared by the author of the original and translator, he employs the term 'simpatico' to designate the kind of affinity that may exist between the two and may be considered by some as most opportune for translating. In the end, he wants to impress on the reader that the notion of 'simpatico', as appealing as it may appear, is largely a mystification, and does more harm than good. To understand his view and put oneself in a position to agree or disagree with him, one would do well to acquire a clearer sense of 'sensibility' as opposed to 'sensitivity'. 'Sensibility' describes one's personality. In other words, it is made up of qualities inscribed within a personality, and ultimately they dictate just how one expresses oneself in response to his or her surroundings. In the case with the translator, this largely means how he or she expresses oneself in response to the specifics of a translation task at hand. 'Simpatico' implies an expectation that a translator's sensibility can be a copy, or at least a close representation, of that of an author, and these two individuals can parallel each other in terms of their 'how'. It is not difficult to appreciate how unrealistic this sounds. Therefore, while thinking about 'sensibility' is important as part of exercising 'self-reflexivity', the translator should be careful not to make a mistake of trying to compare it with the author's sensibility. By contrast to sensibility, practically speaking, sensitivity is outward-oriented. Another way to put it is to say that it is a quality that allows one to take notice of details. So, if sensibility is a matter of 'how', sensitivity in its turn is a matter of 'what'. For translators, this means a capacity for detecting features of the original text, arguably what makes up the initial stage of any translation. Drawing a line between the two in this manner is helpful because, as a result, the translator is brought to recognize that, to have the one and the other assist rather than impede his or her translation efforts, one can start by knowing one's sensibility but can continue by cultivating one's sensitivity. Olessia Makarenia is currently working on her MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. Captivated by the magic of English language and the wonder of Russian literature, she is determined to do her bit by introducing some of the latter into the former and pass occasional, sensitive, judgement on the work that others have done so far.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Further… and further… and further study

I have always been a real geek (after school Latin club: yes please!), and coming to UEA to study the MA in Literary Translation has been a way for me to indulge in further geekery, as well as to propel myself along the path to becoming a professional translator. Now that the MA is coming to an end, however, with my dissertation due in only two months, I am already starting to think about what I might like to study next.

I am writing a dissertation about the phenomenon of pseudotranslation, which is when a text is claimed to be a translation although no source text can be identified, i.e. it is original writing under the guise of translation. Although earlier examples do exist, this phenomenon can be seen as linked to the rise of the writer as original genius during the eighteenth century, because it plays on ideas of authorship and originality which were cementing at that time (there are many other interesting aspects of, and motivations for, pseudotranslation but you’ll have to read my dissertation to find out about those). To learn about this period I have had to delve into the history of English literature, and this research has been fascinating but equally hard work because although I studied languages for my BA and hence know a lot about Latin American literature in particular, I didn’t study English beyond GCSE level. This has made me feel like there are gaps in my knowledge which I will have to plug if I am to fulfil my potential as a literary translator. I know a lot about the literature of my chosen source culture, but perhaps not enough about that of my target culture. What this boils down to, I think, is that although I have read extensively in English, I have never read critically in English.

The MA has also confirmed my suspicion that to translate literature into English requires me to be a great writer in English. I have particularly enjoyed the workshops which ran during our second semester and were based on the kind of workshops that take place on a creative writing course.  In each of these sessions we discussed a piece of translation by one member of the group and suggested ways in which it could be improved as a text in English; from these sessions I learnt more about translation as a writing practice than from any other part of the MA. In the end, translations are rarely read alongside their source texts, and to be successful they must be able to stand independently from the source text as well as to read brilliantly. I imagine that it is through lots of practice and by engaging in close readings of texts (translations and otherwise) that I will move towards consistently achieving this goal.

The upshot of having become aware of all this is that I feel like I could do with a degree in English and Creative Writing so as to produce my best work as a translator. My plan once I finish the MA is to launch myself head first into the world of freelance translation, but the idea of further study is already tempting me. The thing is, I know that if I did take up another course, I would get to the end and feel the same as I do now, that there is so much more to learn. I think I shall have to accept that this is a lifelong challenge and engage in further, and further, and further study accordingly.

Lucy Greaves translates from Spanish, French and Portuguese into English. She is currently studying the MA in Literary Translation at UEA, and is particularly interested in Latin American literature. Contact: lucygreaves@gmail.com.