Translation Matters

Started a post last month as the translation of a note on translation from Pierre Assouline’s blog La République des Lettres. Got side-tracked, but here it is, with another couple notes on recent matters of translation that have come to my attention:

Auteur et traducteur fifty/fifty

Philippe Claudel’s novel Le Rapport de Brodeck was given the annual Independent Foreign Fiction Prize awarded by the British daily paper to a foreign novel translated into English. What is most interesting is not that this is the first French novel given the prize since Frédéric Beigbeder’s five years ago, but that the jury had the good idea to split the  £ 10 000 award fifty/fifty between the author and the translator, John Cullen. A way of showing the readers that the translator is something like a co-author of the book they hold in their hands. Is this already the case in France?

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Meanwhile,  Katy Derbyshire, on her lively love german books blog, comments on an annual summer meeting of German translators. Below, the opening paras of her post; you can read the full article here.

Wanted: Lively Young Men. On A Translators’ Get-Together

It’s that time of year again. Every summer the German literary translators meet up in the small medieval town of Wolfenbüttel for workshops and socialising. This year there were about 170 of us, plus a smattering of editors and interested parties.

The fun starts on the Friday with a lecture, this time an impromptu talk on the influence of translation on the European image of the Orient in the 18th and 19th centuries. In fact, the “translators” of 1001 Nights and other texts did more than a little compiling and inventing, which has a knock-on effect to this day – Aladdin and Sinbad, for example, aren’t actually mentioned anywhere in the existing Arabic manuscripts. The Arabic translator Hartmut Fähndrich did a great job of filling in for a speaker gone AWOL, entertaining and informing us in his own inimitable way.

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In a little essay on “The Poetics of Islam” that first appeared in issue 20 of XCP, and now reprinted on their blog, here, Kazim Ali also has a head-scratching moment concerning the translation of the Qur’an:

One significant verse of the Qura’an appears near its beginning “This is the book. In it there is no doubt.” Growing up under the shadow of such an authoritarian dictum I continually wondered at my own doubts, engagements with faith, forays away, through, and within dogmatic teachings. Only last year, in a new and wonderfully acclaimed translation I read a new rendering of the same verse: “There is no doubt this book is a guide for the faithful.”

I have a feeling I had better learn Arabic because those two renderings do not read the same.

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