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Monthly Archives: April 2016

A feast of translation

Last week, I escaped from my attic hidey-hole for a few days, and headed off to London in search of translation adventures. After a smooth, book-filled journey down to King’s Cross, my first port of call was the Free Word Centre for a Translation Symposium. The day featured inspiring and motivating talks and discussions with authors, translators and facilitators of all kinds from the world of literary translation. Aside from the interesting organised sessions, it was also a welcome opportunity to meet and catch up with some of my ‘virtual’ colleagues face to face. Some of the many moments which have stuck in my mind from during the day, include Sarah Ardizzone’s reminder about the importance of ‘professional pride’ amongst translators, listening to Robert Chandler explaining how he chose the poems he did for the Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (a truly excellent book and highly recommended), and being regaled by Alice Guthrie’s entertaining samples of Arabic idioms translated into English.

This was followed by two equally worthwhile days at the London Book Fair. LBF is a huge annual event, bringing together all kinds of players in the book publishing industry, from important-looking executives, costumed actors giving readings, and publishing representatives from all over the world, to authors, illustrators and, of course, translators. I divided most of my time between the talks and discussions at the Literary Translation Centre, and the Read Russia stand which also had a very full programme of events. I met some of the best translators in the profession, listened to authors discussing their work and sources of inspiration, absorbed huge amounts of useful information, and found myself infected with the enormous levels of enthusiasm, dedication and determination. Needless to say, the two days passed very quickly, and it seemed only a few moments before I was back at King’s Cross, boarding my train back home.

I would like to thank the organisers of both events for their meticulous and highly successful planning and execution, as well as expressing my gratitude to the many people I met in London, for sharing your passion, experience and energy. I hope we will meet again some time, and meanwhile I wish you every success with your own projects.

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Fortune is a Circle

I was recently very honoured to learn that one of my translations had been shortlisted for an award. The Compass Award is an annual competition for the translation of Russian poetry into English. Last year the selected poet was Boris Slutsky and translators from around the world were invited to produce English versions of any of his poems. Many congratulations to Peter Oram, Robin Kallsen and Lawrence Bogoslaw on their success, with the winning entries being published in the Cardinal Points Literary Journal and the Storony Sveta Annual. Details can be found here: http://www.stosvet.net/compass/BorisSlutsky/slutsky.html.

The poem I chose was ‘Счастье – это круг’ [Fortune is a Circle], a beautiful reflection comparing life to a clock face, while we are the hands turning around it:

Fortune is a circle. And a person,

slowly, like a clock hand,

turns to the end, or rather to the start…

Poetry translation is, in my opinion, the most difficult form of translation, but also the most fun. While it might be possible to translate commercial texts at a rate of several hundred words per hour, a mere couple of verses of poetry can take all day. It is an excellent workout for the brain, perhaps comparable to cryptic crosswords in terms of mental exertion and wordplay. As well as conveying the meaning, it is also important to preserve as much of the style and the music of the original as possible, but producing a translation which reads as a poem in its own right is no easy feat. Poetry translation competitions are an excellent excuse to experiment with word painting and play with language, as well as discovering and reading poetry which is new to me, and I thank the competition organisers for offering me that opportunity.

This year’s poet will be Bella Akhmadulina, and I am looking forward to exploring her work and attempting to render it into English.