Friday, October 12, 2007

What Have You Translated This Year?

I got this idea from Engimatic Mermaid, except I have chosen just five of my many translation projects.

Five Things I Have Translated This Year

1. Contracts (a surprising number of them!)
2. A short story
3. Lots of recipes and texts about food
4. An analysis of nurses and their workplace situation
5. A text on eggs and microbiology

Who else wants to play?


Eric Dickens said...

What have I translated this year?

1) A postmodernist novel about Bertolt Brecht from the Estonian. (Mati Unt's "Brecht Appears By Night", forthcoming, The Dalkey Archive Press, Illinois). I also translated the Brecht poems included from the German, instead of via the Estonian translation, which seemed daft to me.

2) Three chapters from a Swedish detective novel, hoping for work. None has ensued so far.

3) A test translation from Dutch (not completed yet).

4) A rushed project from Swedish, for the money, which subsequently got stopped halfway and the text changed totally. (Grrrrr!)

5) Several poems for a Canadian anthology by Ann Jäderlund and Johanna Ekström (Swedish); by Mårten Westö and Lars Huldén (Finland-Swedish) and by Elo Viiding, Doris Kareva and Hasso Krull (Estonian).

6) A chapter or so from a Swedish novel, to add to an article I've written about the author.


Fifteen years ago I worked in-house at a translation company where you were treated like a slave on a conveyor belt. When you finished one text, no pat on the back. Just go to the tray and pick up the next. I hope never again to have to translate management documents by semi-literate people. But beggars can't always be choosers.

Ten years ago, I had a disastrous three-month career translating Estonian laws into English for EU accession. I hated the job and I was a complete disaster at it. On the other hand, I have won the Estonian state translation prize for the translation of literature into a foreign language twice (2004; 2007). So I know where my talents lie - not in translating legislation!

Andrew Shields said...

1. Four sets of Liner Notes for Intakt Records in Zurich (for which I get paid, of course, but I also get lots of exciting CDs from them).

2. Five poems for the Hamburgerklangwerktage.

3. Prose and poems by Julian Schutting and Franzobel for an Austrian publication about European writers traveling in Iran.

4. More prose for Franzobel for a reading he gave in Dublin.

5. Right now, a short prose piece by Ilma Rakusa.

My day job is at the University of Basel, so I have not done as much as Eric D.!

Eric Dickens said...

It's nice to hear that there are translators out there, and that there are a few who keep the lamp of literary translation alight.

In all fairness, Eric D. is 54 years old. If you are in your 20s or 30s, you haven't clocked up as many years during which to do things.

Another factor is that if you are an academic or university librarian by day and a translator by night, you know which side your bread's buttered on - and you don't often pay for the butter by translating poetry.

B.J. Epstein said...

I am definitely impressed by the variety of work you two have mentioned, and how you manage to do so much literary translation. As Eric implied, literary translation is not where the money is to be made, unfortuantely. Also, of course, is the issue of whether publishers are interested in translated works. From your lists, I feel more hopeful about the status of translated literature in English.
Eric, you work from many languages, so it would be interesting to hear how you manage to keep the languages separate and also keep your language skills updated.

Best wishes,

Sarah Alys said...

1) Five episodes (so far) of an animated TV show called Gurren Lagann, which just finished airing in Japan.

2) Music cue sheets for various foreign TV programs that air on the Anime Network to file with the various concerned parties.

3) Miscellaneous haiku, literary snippets, dialogue from video games, and sketches from esoteric TV shows which were referenced within another TV show called Paniponi Dash!. (I also translated the last four episodes of the show itself.)

4) At least one TV project that has never seen the light of day.... :(

5) Commentaries with the director and voice actors (and they all seemed to talk TOO FAST and/or MUMBLE!) over episodes of the animated musical Nerima Daikon Brothers. I translated that whole show and wrote liner note inserts too, actually, but that was last year. ^o^

I need to expand out into other areas! 2007 was all TV or entertainment industry work...

Andrew Shields said...

Andrew S. is 43 years old, just to put the facts on the table.

I started out 12 years ago mostly doing art catalogues, with some poetry, but have not done any art stuff for quite a while.

B.J. Epstein said...

I think the TV and entertainment work sounds interesting! What areas would you like to expand too?

Best wishes,

B.J. Epstein said...

Eric and Andrew,

You are both experienced literary translators. I wonder if you have any advice for people who want to get into literary translation?

Best wishes,

Eric Dickens said...

My age, and that of Andrew Shields, demonstrate the fact that literary translation is maybe not the swanky name-dropping-at-cocktail-parties career that a 23-year-old can use to become a world-beater.

"Hi, I'm a literary translator!"

"Oh, how interesting...!"

And that was the death knell of that conversation.

When you're reading things, keeping languages separate is dead easy. There are words on the page, formed in one language, and your brain sucks them in.

Much more difficult is code-switching without whoopsies. I was pleased, this summer, when I travelled to Sweden and managed to switch over from Dutch without mishap. They are both connected Germanic languages, with much in common.

However, during a curious incident in the chemist's a couple of days ago, when the postman recognised me there and gave me my post, instead of shoving it through my letter box, I found myself turning to the pharmacist's assistant and let slip, here in the Netherlands, the word "tre" (Swedish) instead of "drie" (Dutch). The fact that I'd just been handed my copy of a Finland-Swedish newspaper called "Ny Tid" triggered this slip off, no doubt.

Conclusion: language is context. If your life is interrupted unexpectedly by a strange context from another language, especially a closely related one, interference may occur.

Sarah Alys said...

Well, I do love the TV and entertainment work. So do want to keep doing that. And I love doing songs (in a masochistic sort of way), which makes me wish Japanese poetry were more like Japanese songs, because then I could go to town on poetry. Unfortunately it's a totally different animal... but I digress.

I'd like to do more with print media. I work almost exclusively on visual media, and "I'm creating subtitles" is such a different type of task from "I'm creating a book," or almost anything else really. I suppose the closest analogy would be a parallel text, except with the added constraint of speed.

So I would love to get into more types of print--short stories, novels, comic books, nonfiction articles...heck, even advertisements or instruction manuals could be an interesting change!

B.J. Epstein said...

I agree that life is context, Eric, but nevertheless I do sometimes say something in Swedish to people I know can't understand!
What is different about Japanese poetry, Sarah? And are you registered with translation agencies or could you register with more of them, so you could get a bigger variety of work?

Best wishes,

Andrew Shields said...

I mostly translate poetry, which is -- at least at the beginning of a "career" -- mostly a matter of taking the initiative to translate things that have not yet been translated, and then trying to get them published. In the process, I started to get commissions, then larger projects, then book projects (of which I have not had that many, though).

This approach should be avoided for translators of prose fiction, because if you start translating something, a potential publisher might well say "thanks for drawing our attention to this; we have bought the rights and have hired an experienced translator to do the published version."

So in a sense I am not sure, actually, how one breaks into the prose translation market.

B.J. Epstein said...

Thanks for your comment, Andrew! Why do you prefer to focus on poetry?
As for prose, I've been told that picking a short story or a chapter from a novel or even an entire novella, translating it, and trying to get the rights to publish it is also a pretty good method, though sometimes you may find that someone expects you to pay for the rights or to spend a lot of your time trying to get a publisher to accept it.

Best wishes,

Andrew Shields said...

I prefer to translate poems because they are the most interesting thing to translate, I guess. :-)

B.J. Epstein said...

That's as good a reason as any, Andrew!

Best wishes,