Monday, January 11, 2010

Translation Prizes Go to Titles, Not Translators

The British Times article on the 10th talks about the August Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck prizes for Translation, presented by the Times Literary Supplement’s Translation Prizes:

"The translators of seven books published in English last year, each out of a different language, will be honoured. The paradox of their work is that successful translators pass unnoticed. A good English translation will read as if the book were written in English in the first place. A translation that is clumsy or stilted will scream its presence."

"Among this year’s award-winners, The Accordionist’s Son by Bernardo Atxaga, translated from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa, dramatises the Basque country after the Spanish Civil War. The novella Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig, translated from the German by Anthea Bell, is one in a series of recent translations of the work of an outstanding 20th-century writer. An Austrian Jew who committed suicide in exile in 1942, his library in Salzburg having been razed by the Nazis, Zweig is revered in France as well as Germany and Austria. Yet he is unjustly barely known among English readers."

Well, well.. Many excellent writers are unjustly barely known in the English world, because the English world is not interested of poking its nose into the realms of others, whereas it pushes its own literary and not so literary works (Why is Stephen King translated??) into any other language where the populace is silly enough to want to fork money for it.

This weekend, Brisbane is hosting yet another Bookfest - the world's largest fundraising second-hand book sale. It has been my habit to attend each and every and look for books translated into English from other languages. They open a more interesting world to me than reading the local same-thing, same-thing porridge. The reason why it is quite easy to find them is that local libraries get rid of them very quickly on the basis that they are not being borrowed by the public. Suits me!

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