Friday, July 30, 2010

Creative Constraints

I’m a great fan of Italo Calvino, and I’m generally interested in Oulipo and similar literary movements. Sure, sometimes it seems too “shticky” (Jonathan Safran Foer springs to mind) but when done well, it can make you think about what literature is and what it could be. I recently read John McGreal’s novel The Book of IT, for example, which employs non-standard spelling and language as part of the method for telling the story. I gave a selection to my undergraduate literature students as a way of challenging them to think beyond the traditional style of literature and the typical ways of using language, and then I asked them to write a work with self-imposed constraints.

Oulipo and writers who work in that vein create artificial constraints for their writing. In a way, this is how translators always work – while a writer might decide to write a novel without a particular letter or based on, say, the five senses, our constraint as translators is the original text. This forces us to be very creative within the limits imposed by the writer. So while some of these literary movements seem very modern and daring, in fact they are doing what translators have always done, but what translators rarely get credit for.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It’s a Crime to Ignore Translation

Yes, we know how popular Stieg Larsson’s books have gotten and how people in English-speaking countries and elsewhere are suddenly becoming aware of Nordic crime fiction (note: they aren’t showing much interest in Nordic literary fiction, unfortunately), but it’s no surprise that articles about the phenomenon still fail to mention translation. Here’s a typical article on Larsson’s work and Nordic crime fiction in general. It does not include a word on how these books make it into English (or other languages) and onto the international market.

How can we educate the reading public, including book reviewers, about what translation is and what it involves?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Swedish References

I maintain a list of references on my main website and that prompted someone to let me know about this other list of mainly Swedish references. I also note that is tweeting a Swedish word each day at WordSweden. Are other countries doing the same with their languages?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Word Nerds ‘R’ Us

This list of the “50 Coolest Online Tools for Word Nerds” is definitely for me. It has links to references sites and sites where you can play games, among many other things. As a proud word nerd who plays Scrabble regularly and works with language on a daily basis, I enjoyed the list.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Job in Translation

I thought some of you might be interested in applying for this job. I teach at the University of East Anglia, which is where the British Centre for Literary Translation is based, and part of my job involves working with the BCLT as well. The BCLT is currently looking for an interim director. Here are the details:

Ref: ALC173

£37,839 to £43,840 per annum

The School of Literature and Creative Writing is looking to recruit an Interim Director to oversee and manage implementation of the Centre's 2010-11 plan, and to liaise with members of the School, especially those working in Literature and Translation, and with a number of external bodies. You should have a relevant postgraduate degree and experience of funding applications, arts administration and events management, as well as knowledge of the literary translation community in the UK and beyond.

This full-time, fixed term post is available from 1 October 2010 until 31 August 2011.

Closing date: 12 noon on 6 August 2010

Monday, July 05, 2010