Thursday, May 21, 2015

Word Count Ratio Tool

We all know that 5000 words in, say, German does not equal 5000 words in Russian. That can make it hard to work out fees. This word count ratio tool might help with that.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Translation vs. Interpretation

As I’ve mentioned before, many people seem confused about the difference between translation and interpretation. So any articles that can help illuminate this for folks (especially clients) are welcome. Check this piece out.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Guide to Contacting Translation Agencies

Many translators work with translation agencies, but it can be difficult to know how to first make contact with them. Someone sent me this guide to contacting translation agencies.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

New Translation Statistics

Here are some fascinating new translation stats.

“How many translations are published in English and how accurate is the often quoted figure of 3%? Which are the most translated languages and which literatures are we missing out on? A new report from Literature Across Frontiers (LAF), Publishing translated literature in the United Kingdom and Ireland: 1990 – 2012, finally answers many questions surrounding translation statistics. The report, prepared by Alexandra Büchler and Giulia Trentacosti, is a welcome addition to the translation reports and surveys published on LAF’s website and will be launched in electronic format on Monday 13th April, on the occasion of the London International Book Fair 2015.

The key findings presented by the report are based on analysis of two distinct data sets: raw data extracted from the British National Bibliography for the period 1990 – 2012 and processed data for the period 2000 – 2012. The raw data make it possible to produce statistics comparable to those published by other book markets, while the manually processed data provide an annual list of literary translations comprising fiction, poetry, drama, children’s books and creative non-fiction, so far for the period 2000 - 2012. The processed data sets have been further analysed with respect to genre and source language.

LAF director Alexandra Büchler said: “The report brings us, for the first time, reliable data and statistics on the publishing of translations in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Our analysis shows that the often quoted 3% estimate indeed corresponds to the established average of all translations recorded in the British National Bibliography over the past two decades. This is embarrassingly low, compared to the percentages recorded in other European countries, including large book markets with healthy domestic book production such as Germany, France, Italy or Poland. Literary translations represent a slightly higher share, consistently exceeding 4% with a peak of 5.23% in 2011. The statistics show a steady growth of literary translations over the past two decades in absolute numbers and this is very encouraging. General translations grew by 53% between 1990 and 2012 and literary translations by 66%. This is of course reflected in only marginal percentage growth due to the growth in the overall publishing output. Also encouraging is the diversity of source languages with small European languages like Swedish, Norwegian and Dutch among the top ten translated languages alongside two non-European languages, Arabic and Japanese. On the other hand, most Eastern European languages are seriously underrepresented and we are clearly missing out on entire swaths of literary landscapes in our immediate neighbourhood.”

The next step LAF plans to take will be to publish the long awaited database of literary translations for the period 2000 – 2012 and to conduct further analysis which will tell us more about the trends and patterns of publishing translations beyond the basic quantitative information brought by the present report. Another task will be to process the raw data for the earlier period and subject them to a similar analysis.”

Friday, May 01, 2015

More on Hyperpolyglots

In the last post, I discussed Michael Erard’s book Babel No More. In the book, he offers some resources for learning more about hyperpolyglots and about learning languages in general. I haven’t yet been able to get any of these books/websites, but I hope to. Here’s a selection:

Andrew Cohen: Strategies in Learning and Using a Second Language

Earl Stevick: Success with Foreign Languages

Carol Griffiths: Lessons from Good Language Learners

Erik Gunnemark: Art and Science of Learning Languages

Polyglot Project: http://www.polyglotproject.com/



He also recommends the ASSiMiL language courses.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Babel No More

What is a hyperpolyglot? Someone who knows many languages. But how many? Six? Eight or more? Eleven? Or even 30? And what does “know” mean? Being able to speak, write, read and listen like a native speaker? Being able to talk about daily matters? Having a basic conversation? Just saying a few words? Or…?

In Babel No More by Michael Erard, Erard travels around the world to explore what it really means to learn a language, how the brain deals with language, and how you can learn many tongues. He meets researchers, neuroscientists, people who know many languages, and others, and he visits multilingual groups, such as in India.

He shows how our view of language in general and multilingualism in particular has changed over time. Erard writes, “Go back to prehistory, a time of linguistic wildness, when we can imagine that each roving band of humans grunted its own dialect, and uncountable versions of half-congealed speech codes could be overheard at every cave and watering hole. Any one of these codes had a range, not a center nor an edge; not until bands clashed, merged or partnered and settled into villages did they acquire a physical place, a homeland. Over thousands of years, these became city-building empires that swept many languages away. On borders and in cities, people spoke several languages…so did everyone in geographically isolated places where trading and navigating required knowing the languages of one’s equally isolated neighbors. All this was endangered, thousands of years later, in the era of the nation…monolingualism became the standard model in most places, because the boundaries of the nation were drawn to include all the people who spoke alike. This unity was threatened by multilingualism and its taint of barbarity, impurity and unnatural mixing.” (p. 90)

And now, he adds, many counties just want one national tongue. I live in England, where there are people from all over the world, but English is the only language most people know. Young people might study other languages, but not seriously. “Politicians lectured Britons on learning languages so they could get jobs in the European Union, while universities removed foreign-language requirements and shut down language departments when enrollments dropped. Further, the government was constantly exporting English teachers, textbooks, courses, and programs, helping the country to earn £1.3 billion a year. In other words, learning language was for citizens of other countries-who would then compete with Britons for jobs. The irony was underscored by the fact that by 2005, immigrants had transformed London into a place where at least 307 languages are spoken, making the capital of one of the most monolingual countries in the European Union the most multilingual city on the planet.” (p. 71)

In other countries that Erard visits, such as Germany, a number of people want to learn multiple languages. But why? Some because it’s fun or a challenge, while others need to for work. Still others want to understand how language works, so they see learning languages as a sort of course in linguistics. Others learn many languages in order to have many selves. Erard interviews some people who dedicate their whole lives to learning languages, sometimes even to the detriment of their jobs or families.

But how many languages can you really know? Erard suggests we have too high expectations for our language skills. You’ll never speak another language like a native. “If you want to be better at languages, you should use native speakers as a metric of progress, though not as a goal…Embrace your linguistic outsiderness-it’s the way of the world…A language isn’t reserved for the perfectly calibrated native speaker. Words have currency even if they’re not perfectly wrought.” (p. 261)

He also offers advice from hyperpolyglots: “Some studies of successful language learners have suggested that they’re more “open to new experiences” than the rest of us…we have a self that’s bound up in our native language, a “language ego”, which needs to be loose and more permeable to learn a new language. Those with more fluid ego boundaries…are more willing to sound not like themselves, which means they have better accents in the new language.” (p. 238)

So have the courage to continue with your language studies and to dare to speak other tongues, even if you think you’re not that good at it!


Most of us will never know 15 or 30 languages. But it’s fun to read about them and to learn from them in Babel No More.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sign Language and Music

The sign language interpreter for Melodifestivalen (the Swedish run-up to Eurovision), Tommy Krångh, has rightfully made the news recently. His interpretations of pop songs in the contest are fantastic; they’re moving and theatrical. I’m so glad we all can have a chance to see them and learn from them, and I’m also glad that they are bringing new awareness to sign language interpretation. Check out some of his work here and read about him in this article.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Monday, April 06, 2015

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Language-Learning Apps

A few weeks ago, I referred to one language app, and now I’ve been told about another, the “Vocabulary Trainer”. It’s a “a mobile app to learn the most frequent words, travel phrases and slang (in total over 10,000 words and phrases) in over 30 languages.” It sounds intriguing, but I’m not sure if I think apps are the best way to learn languages. They can help in the moment, but I wonder if the material actually stays with you. What do you think?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bilingualism

I read a couple of interesting articles recently on bilingualism. It’s such a shame that in English-speaking countries, we generally don’t start teaching children another language until they’re on the older side. And yet we know very well from research that the earlier we start the better. When will we learn?

The first article talks about how bilingualism changes children’s beliefs. “Most young children are essentialists: They believe that human and animal characteristics are innate. That kind of reasoning can lead them to think that traits like native language and clothing preference are intrinsic rather than acquired. But a new study suggests that certain bilingual kids are more likely to understand that it's what one learns, rather than what one is born with, that makes up a person's psychological attributes.”
The second piece looks at bilingualism from an older person’s perspective to explore what advantages speaking more than one language has on our brains as we age.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Missing Translators

I really like this visual guide to translations that will be published in English in 2015, but one thing I noticed is that very few of the books list the translator’s name on the cover, or otherwise give any indication that that these books are translations. So while it’s pleasing to see the increased numbers of translations coming out in English, it’s all still rather frustrating. Why can’t we honor the translators and promote the fact that these books are translations?

Friday, March 06, 2015

Vegetarian Translation App

As a translator, I’m often suspicious of computer programmes or apps that purport to do what we do, and to do it as well as we do. But there are some instances when an app would be helpful, such as when travelling.

So I was intrigued to learn about this vegetarian translation app. It seems as though it would be very helpful; I haven’t eaten meat in over 15 years and I’ve often had trouble while on trips. The app includes 50 languages, including Chinese; China was probably the hardest country for me to visit as a vegetarian. I kept being told that supposedly vegetarian dishes had pork in them and that I shouldn’t worry as “pork isn’t meat”! If only I’d had this app then!

Do you know of other translation apps that are actually useful and accurate?

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Translation Journal

I was pleased to see that Translation Journal seems to have relaunched. It contains a number of interesting articles about translation (I’ve written for it in the past) and it’s worth looking at.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Advice for Translators

This list offers advice for translators, and it includes a mention of me.

Tip 1 is to “Make your skills known to family and acquaintances. A friend of a friend of a cousin can become your best client.”

I always advise students and other new translators to do this. Treat yourself like a professional and tell everyone you know that you’re a translator. You never know who might need your services! 

Check out the other tips too.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Market Research

Check out this journal. It accepts work translated to English, as long as it hasn’t previously been published in English, and is on Jewish themes.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

FAQ – Hours

I receive a lot of emails from people looking to get into translation and many of the questions I’m asked are common. So occasionally I try to answer them here.

One that I get asked is how long the hours are. This is one of the hardest questions to answer, because it depends. How many hours you work depends on how much work you get asked to do, how much work you want to do, what type of projects you take on, and how much time and energy each assignment requires.

You could take on one short translation job each month or you could work more than full-time as a translator.

Personally, I’ve been at both extremes, and it’s depended on my circumstances (i.e. how dependent I am on the income from translation and what other jobs I have). You can fairly easily build up a career as a freelance non-fiction translator, but to work full-time as a literary translator is generally harder.


How many hours a week do other translators work?

Monday, February 09, 2015

Arrant Pedantry

Check out this blog. It has a lot of fascinating posts about “editing, usage, prescriptivism and descriptivism, and other language issues.”

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Little Red Schoolhouse

I was recently told about the Little Red Schoolhouse writing method and form of writing instruction, which was started at the University of Chicago in the 1980s. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it before.

According to this website,

“LRS is an approach to writing instruction that proceeds from several core principles:
 
• Readers come to any text with a fairly predictable set of questions and expectations. (These expectations vary somewhat according to the community or discipline: literary critics v. behavioral psychologists v. political scientists.)
 
• Effective writing anticipates and responds to these predictable questions and expectations.
 
• In order to produce effective writing, good writers employ a fairly predictable set of routines in order to plan, draft, revise, and edit.
 
• Students who come to understand readerly expectations and writerly routines produce more persuasive arguments more efficiently.
 
• Most students already have good intuitions about what readers want and what writers do: our job is to help them articulate and define those intuitions, so that they can more consciously control their writing.
 
• Our teaching begins with intuition then proceeds to the principle.
 
• Students learn routines best by "over-learning" them; that is, by practicing until the routines are internalized and students can produce them with minimal effort. Because reading and writing are complicated tasks, it's best to break them down into manageable pieces, or sub-routines, for students.
 
• Once students are comfortable with the routine, they can learn and practice techniques for manipulating their writing to produce a range of effects.”


It sounds quite basic and sensible, and worth looking into for anyone who writes and/or teaches writing.

Friday, January 30, 2015

World Lit for Children

Many people have told me that children are essentially conservative readers and that they don’t want to read about people from other countries. That definitely hasn’t been my experience. In fact, I think children are curious and interested in the world beyond their homes and their countries.

Here’s a family reading children’s lit from around the world in 2015. It will be fun to see what they read and to follow their progress.

What world lit would you recommend for young readers?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Crowdfunding Translations

Crowdfunding and sponsoring are major trends these days. They seem to be ways of avoiding big companies, or minimizing stress, or trying out more unusual or avant-garde projects, or to help pay for things that otherwise wouldn’t get paid for. I’ve helped sponsor a book, for example, and I’ve heard of crowdfunding for clothing lines, films, performance art, and even funerals.

I was recently told about sponsoring translations. What do you think of that idea?

Here’s the information I was given about this particular project:

“Haute Culture Books, publisher of limited edition volumes is about to begin its first Book Angel project with the first ever English translation of 'Truth & Justice' by Anton Hansen Tammsaare.

With the support of the Tammsaare Museum, National Library of Estonia, Tartu University Library and Stanford University Library the project allows Book Angels to sponsor the publication of this classic piece of Estonian culture opening it up to the English-speaking world after a 70 year wait.

By sponsoring a hardback print version of the book, Book Angels support the distribution of free e-books of the text allowing a global audience to discover literary treasures seldom seen in the English language.


More information can be found at www.hauteculturebooks.com and www.hauteculturepress.com and if you have any further questions don't hesitate to contact me.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SELTA Blog

SELTA is the Swedish-English Literary Translators’ Association, of which I’m a member. SELTA has recently updated its website, adding more material, including a blog.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Break

Time for a break from blogging. Have a lovely holiday season and happy new year! See you back here in 2015!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Round-Up of Articles

Here’s a load of reading/viewing for the holiday season. It’ll keep you busy if you get tired of all the eating and shopping and spending time with relatives!

TED talks can be quite interesting. Here’s a TED blog post about learning languages.

This infographic is on second languages.

Here’s an article about translating Ibsen. The book I edited most recently also has an article on that. 

A piece on translating Chekhov has the headline “Any English-language version of Chekhov is doomed. The nature of translation means that to think otherwise is folly.” What do you think?

This review of a new book by translator and writer Tim Parks refers to translation.

How many words for death are there?

It’s impressive how one actor does accents of the British Isles.

Finally, an article on constructed languages.

Monday, December 15, 2014

End of the Year

It’s the end of yet another year. What are you proudest of in terms of your translation work? What did you most enjoy translating?

I loved translating poetry by Edith Södergran and also parts from Kristina Sandberg’s newest novel (both works were originally written in Swedish). Kristina recently won the August Prize in Sweden and is getting a lot of praise, which she deserves, so I hope more of her work make it into English soon.


And what are your translation goals for 2015?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Round-Up of Articles

It’s time for another round-up of articles!

This article is on Gabriel García Márquez and Roberto Bolaño and their translators. Translator Natasha Wimmer says, “A lot of translators enjoy being the power behind the throne.”

Here’s a piece on Yiddish.

I like Oliver Burkeman’s writing and in this article on “invisible” jobs, he mentions interpreter. Translator isn’t listed, but many people think it should be.

Check out how animals sound in different languages.

Are there untranslatable words? That’s a regular topic of discussion.

Here are some collective nouns. What would we call a group of translators?

Friday, December 05, 2014

Multiple Personalities

This article discusses whether people have a different personality for each language they speak. I’ve often felt somewhat different when speaking Swedish than when speaking English. It’s not just about having a different vocabulary and way of thinking about the world; there’s something about me that feels other. Do others feel the same (or, rather, different)?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Translation and the Publishing Industry

A few months ago, I was asked some questions by email by a student writing an MA thesis on translation. They are the kinds of questions that come up a lot in regard to the publishing industry, so I thought they’d be worth posting here. I just gave my own opinions – what do you think?

What do you think are the main reasons foreign authors get translated into English?
Frankly, it’s often the bottom line. An author (often of thrillers or other genre fiction) sells well in their native country, and publishers here see that and want to cash in on it. That’s one reason why we don’t see as many literary works translated, unfortunately. Another reason is the topic/genre/style – if one text does well, publishers jump on any similar ones.

Do you think the setting of the novel a deciding factor in publication?
Yes, it can be. There are trends in translation, as hinted at above. For the past few years, Nordic, especially Scandinavian, thrillers have been popular. Publishers have been publishing all sorts of Nordic thrillers (and there has been a lot of Nordic crime on TV too), some of which is of dubious quality. In research that I carried out, I found that most readers didn’t differentiate between, say, Iceland and Sweden, and didn’t really care where the book came from. In some cases, they didn’t even know they were reading translations. They felt that all those countries were the same, but they liked the fact that the isolated, often cold settings seemed to reflect the crimes and the criminal mentality. Such readers were willing to read any Nordic noir, whether the books were set in Helsinki or Oslo. So I think the setting matters in a general sense, but that readers may not care quite as much as publishers think they do.

Do you think foreign authors are marketed in a different way to domestic authors?
They can be. The covers often attest to that, showing that these books are from a particular country (i.e. Nordic thrillers often have snowy, barren settings on their covers). But I also think publishers try to hide the fact of translation to a certain extent. Publishers underestimate readers and think the general public can’t handle translated lit, so they might compare X foreign author to Y domestic author in order to make the work seem more palatable. Or they might keep the translator’s name in small letters.

How important a factor is the author’s nationality?
Clearly, certain countries/ethnicities are more accepted than others, and some languages are much more translated than others (French, German, and Spanish come to mind). I keep referring to Nordic lit and that seems much more acceptable to us in English-speaking countries, perhaps because Nordic people aren’t seen as too different or too foreign. Publishers seem to feel that readers might have a harder time connecting to characters in, for instance, China or Latvia or Venezuela. Again, I think the public is underestimated here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Joy of Invisibility

Sometimes it’s good for translators to be invisible. This article is about bad writing about sex, and it names and shames the authors and their books. However, the author (conveniently?) forgets that some works have been translated. So perhaps the translator should get some of the credit (or shame) too.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Good Ideas

I was reading Michael Rosen’s great new book Good Ideas – a book that is indeed filled with good ideas for parents, teachers, and anyone really – and he has a section on getting children interested in language or using language as a way of interesting children in the world around them (pp. 235-9). Looking at signs in museums or supermarkets, reading horoscopes in foreign newspapers, checking for English among foreign words, and so on are just a few ways. I recommend the book as a whole, but these pages in particular for those who want to start making their children aware of linguistic and cultural differences.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Round-Up of Articles

It’s time for another round-up of articles!

I studied Latin when I was in grammar and high school and I’m so glad I did. This article discusses “taking an ancient language associated with the academic elite and reviving it as a remedy for the nation’s reading problems”.

This piece is on the word “literally”, which my students use way too often in speaking and writing. 

This article is on academic writing, which is often quite poor, I think.

Speaking of academia, this post explores the crazy hours many academics work (and some just purport to work).

This list of the best love poems is quite odd. They only list some poems as translations whereas quite a number are clearly translated, so something has gone awry there. What would be on your list? 

Finally, check out this cartoon about how works get translated.

Monday, November 10, 2014

No More 2%?

This article in the Guardian suggests that British readers are reading more translations these days. Do you think that’s true? What about in other English-speaking countries? (And yes, I’m quoted in the piece.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Path to a PhD

I get a lot of emails from people asking me whether they should get a PhD in translation studies and, if so, what they should research for their dissertations. I’ve already written quite a bit about that on this blog (see Getting a PhD and What Can You Study When You Do a PhD in Translation?, for example).

One of the most common recent questions has been what path you need to take if you know for sure you want to get a PhD in translation studies one day. People ask me whether they should study languages, literature, linguistics, translation studies at the undergraduate or MA level, or some other topic entirely.

This is a very individual choice, and I’m loathe to tell people how to shape their lives and their careers. Obviously, to apply to and get accepted to a PhD program in translation studies, you need to show that you have the requisite level of skill in your chosen language/s and literature/s and other relevant subject area/s. You’ll need to prove that you have the scholarly background necessary for doing strong critical work in the humanities (i.e. a BA in sports science probably won’t help). You may also need to show your expertise as a translator, especially if you want to do a creative-critical PhD. But how you get these skills and how you show them in your application will vary.

Personally, my BA is in literature and creative writing and I have an MFA in creative writing. I also worked as a practicing translator for some years before applying for my PhD studies. That pathway worked for me, but I also know people who went for BAs and MAs in translation first, then directly on to a PhD, and still others who did undergraduate degrees in fields such as law or medicine and then switched to languages and translation for their MAs. Others focused on language at the undergraduate level and then came to literature and literary translation as MA students. There is no one right way.


So my simple advice is to consider what your interests are and where you eventually hope to end up. If you want to become a pharmaceutical translator, then an undergraduate degree in medicine might serve you very well. If you know you want to be an academic who researches the translation of opera, then studying languages and music as an undergraduate might be a good choice. And so on. Think about who you are and what will inspire you, and take it from there.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Twilight of the Eastern Gods

This originally appeared in the Wales Arts Review

Twilight of the Eastern Gods
by Ismail Kadare
193 pp., Edinburgh: Canongate, 2014.
translation by David Bellos from the French translation by Jusuf Vrioni

Reviewer: B.J. Epstein

Twilight of the Eastern Gods is, at its heart, a novel about words and writing. It’s about telling stories, and the importance of literature. It is also an ominous tale about politics, history, and geography, exploring the Soviet era and its concomitant political beliefs. Since the time and place frequently are depicted as rather creepy here, writing, too, can seem to be a suspicious activity.

The main character is a young foreign writer who has gone to study in a literary institute in the Soviet Union. All the students are well-known writers from their own regions, but despite their drinking and partying, they are not typical students. “At long last, after overcoming their adversaries, having accused them of Stalinism, liberalism, bourgeois nationalism, Russophobia, petty nationalism, Zionism, modernism, folklorism, etc., having crushed their literary careers and banned the publication of their works, having hounded them into alcoholism or suicide, or, more simply, having had them deported, that is to say, after having done what had had to be done, they had been inspired to come to the Gorky Institute to complete their literary education.” (pp. 43-4) Completing their literary education, it seems, involves dedicating themselves to Socialist Realism, which doesn’t quite work for our protagonist, who sometimes thinks about and employs the folklore of his native country in his writing and his everyday life.

In other words, though the Institute and the harsh political situation seem to conspire to disenchant the students in regard to literature (and also in regard to other aspects of their lives, such as romance), the protagonist still retains his passion for the written word, even if he just barely does so.

From a translation angle, an interesting aspect of this book is that it is a relay translation, albeit one that was delayed by thirty-three years. Jusuf Vrioni translated Kadare’s novel from Albanian to French, and preeminent translator David Bellos used Vrioni’s text to make the novel available in English (rather than translating from Albanian to English, in other words).

Bellos includes a helpful introduction to the novel, explaining some of the context behind it. He notes that the work “re-creates Kadare’s experience of this strange ‘factory of the intellect’ [i.e. the Gorky Institute for World Literature in Moscow], set up to produce new generations of socialist poets, novelists and playwrights.” (p. v) Kadare apparently wrote and rewrote chapters of Twilight of the Eastern Gods over fifteen years, and the novel wasn’t first published until 1978 (the French version by Jusuf Vrioni appearing three years later, and it included sections that Kadare felt he had to take out of the Albanian original). Some aspects of the novel would be hard, or harder, to follow without Bellos’s information, or even without larger knowledge of the historical period (for example, Antaeus the Greek’s situation, pp. 74 fwd.).

While the novel is about the general themes mentioned above, it is based on an actual event: Boris Pasternak being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, much to the displeasure of the Soviet powers-that-be. Bellos discusses how “[t]he account of the Pasternak campaign given in Twilight of the Eastern Gods has nothing fictional about it: the discovery of a part of the typescript in the Writers’ Union residence, the co-ordination of the press, radio and television campaign, the roles of specific individuals, right down to the inexplicably sudden halt – all these things really happened…it is also clear from this account of the persecution of Pasternak that Kadare could imagine finding himself in the same situation.” (p. ix) Indeed, Kadare did face similar charges and complaints to Pasternak, “but in the end his real response to the constraints of living as an international writer under a paranoid, isolationist Communist regime was the write a novel that is also a declaration of fidelity to Albania and its ancient folk culture.” (p. x) This duality – loyalty to both a place and to freedom of ideas – comes through very clearly in the novel.


In short, Twilight of the Eastern Gods is a fictionalised account of Ismail Kadare’s own experiences, and it sheds light – even if only twilight – on a challenging historical, cultural, and political period, while also encouraging the reader to recognise and admire the power of literature.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Typical Lament

On recent evening, I got in the bath and picked up a novel that had been recommended to me. I was ready to relax and enjoy some pleasure reading. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it past the page of epigraphs. The reason was because the author quoted several sentences from a variety of other novels, none originally written in English, but of course didn’t mention the name of the translator.

In other words, the author quoted Proust and Dante and some other writers in English, but failed to show any awareness of the fact that these writers had been translated to English, and that the quoted words had been written by someone else.


How can we educate people even more?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Translated Literature for Children

Listen to this brief radio program on translating for children by translator, writer, and chair of Society of Authors (and my former colleague) Daniel Hahn.

I have said much of what he says, but I suspect he says it better!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

More on the Nobel Prize in Literature

If you can read Swedish, this article on the Nobel Prize gives a bit more insight. Thank you to Duncan Large, now the head of the BCLT, for sending me the link.