A week on from the BCLT Translation Summer School, the inspiration bouncing off the walls at UEA is still with me.
Ever since I started concentrating on translation full-time, I’ve realised how beneficial it is to take part in events like these. Trips such as the Goethe Institut visit to the Leipzig Book Fair in 2010, along with the London Book Fair’s annual Literary Translation Centre, have been major sources of inspiration for me in the past. They remind me that I’m part of a community (although maybe ‘remind’ is the wrong word – thanks to the internet, I’m always aware of the virtual network of translators all over the world, both those I’ve met and those I haven’t) but meeting up, face to face, with other translators for a week of intensive collaboration is something else entirely.
It was everything I hoped it would be, and a whole lot more besides. The German workshop group concentrated on an extract from Sabrina Janesch’s ‘Katzenberge’. Sabrina was a joy to work with; fascinated by the translation process and happy to debate the very finest of details in her text, yet ultimately leaving the final decisions and responsibility with us. It was now our text, she said, and we had to decide. The experience of working with her, the other translators, and our workshop leader, Shaun Whiteside, was incredibly thought-provoking, so more on that very soon.
Another great aspect of the week was all the linguistic ‘mingling’. A lot of the translation events I go to tend to be focused on German language literature, but I’m always eager to learn more about the different – and similar – linguistic and cultural challenges faced by translators from other languages. There were six language groups there: German, Spanish, English (into Italian), Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. One of my personal highlights was realising how lyrical Japanese can sound: the voice of their writer in residence, Mieko Kawakami, who spoke and wrote in Osaka dialect, was truly entrancing. Equally so was their group presentation on the final day, which culminated in one of the translators smashing an egg against his head – a tribute to Mieko herself, who allegedly spent hours in the bathtub doing exactly that in her search for the perfect ‘sound’ word in Japanese.
The week was full of inspiring moments; new languages, authors, friends and ideas. And I’m sure that inspiration will last a long time yet…