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Literary London

Last week I went on a whirlwind trip around London for a selection of literature-related events, in particular the London Book Fair and the Translators’ Association annual Translation Symposium. I listened to a wealth of words of wisdom and encouragement from eminent translators, authors and publishing professionals, and chatted with so many people who had all come together to celebrate a common love of literature. To list every event I attended and to relate all my interesting conversations would take far too long, so here are just a few of the main impressions I came away with.

First of all, despite the looming cloud of Brexit and the fact that the Translation Symposium took place in Europe House just across the road from crowds of demonstrators and TV crews outside the Houses of Parliament, literary translators remain a positive bunch. Everyone was clearly motivated by an irrepressible passion for sharing good literature across political, geographical and cultural borders no matter what. The Literary Translation Centre at the London Book Fair, which seems to grow with every passing year, as well as LBF’s decision to showcase literary translation by nominating a representative translator for each show (Jeremy Tiang was this year’s inaugural translator) bears witness to this.

The LBF seminar guide referred to authors as ‘central to our business’ and, of course, without authors, the world of literature would simply not exist. Fittingly, a large area was set aside for a packed schedule of author events. In the same guide, the tag-line for the Literary Translation Centre was ‘Making words travel’. Without translators, literature would remain hidden away in its own cultural ‘slot’ where no-one else can see it.

There was much discussion about self-publishing, which is becoming increasingly popular in our modern, digital era. Although it gives more control to the author, it also requires a range of additional skills, and demand for related services has increased accordingly, including editing, cover design, marketing, financial advice, and much more. There are all kinds of assistance available, both formally from professional bodies, and informally from friendly colleagues happy to share their own experiences.

Now I’m back at home in a much calmer Lincolnshire, it’s time to look through my notes, develop some of the ideas that I picked up, and put some of the things I learned into practice!

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