Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Literary translation - some initial comments

I am a British literary translator and have been translating literature, on and off, for about 20 years now. So I have clocked up quite a lot of experience of the good and bad sides of this activity.

The textual side of literary translation of literature is mostly a joy, but external factors, such as payment and professionality are still lagging behind. The principal problem is that there is a perception among some people that while translating legal and business documents is work, translating poetry and novels is a "mere" hobby.

If you spend half your life building up skills in the source language, target language and the culture and history of the country or countries you deal with, you don't want to be treated like an amateur who translates a few poems at the weekend. Literary translation would, in an ideal world, be a profession, not something that lecturers and university librarians do now and again in moments of inspiration. We literary translators also want to be paid. Novelists don't write their books for nothing; nor should the translators of those novels be expected work for a pittance or token sum of money.

But I am adamant to discuss questions of style, context and so on, not let this blog descend into a prolonged bout of whingeing. Because on the whole, I have enjoyed literary translation from several languages, and think it a worthwhile career.

I shall go into more detail, and introduce various topics, as I proceed. This is just for starters.