Pitching a literary translation project: some resources

November 19, 2016 8:05 pm

I’m in the process of trying to put together a pitch for a translation project, so thought I would gather together some useful resources I’ve come across.

One of the areas that often seems to be neglected is the question of how to deal with the holder of the rights. Not only do you need to know that the rights are available, but also whether the holder is happy for you to go out and pitch on their behalf. While, in principle, there is nothing they can do to stop you, in practice it seems both a question of good manners and of good business to have some kind of relationship (or at least approval) with the holder of the rights.

“Avoid the obvious word, even if it is the literal equivalent of the original”

September 24, 2016 8:27 pm

I love this from Michael Hofmann. There is really a whole philosophy of translation packed into this one small paragraph.

Image result for michael hofmann

One of his guiding principles for translating, he says, is to avoid the obvious word, even if it is the literal equivalent of the original. When the opening page of a Roth novel contained the word Baracke, he insisted on going with “tenement” rather than “barracks”. In the second paragraph of Hofmann’s version of Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa doesn’t ask “What happened to me?” (Was ist mit mir geschehen?), but “What’s the matter with me?”. He liked the phrase, he says, because it sounds like someone having trouble getting up after a heavy night. “Nobody will notice, but you have taken a step back from the original. You have given yourself a little bit of self-esteem, a little bit of originality, a little bit of boldness. Then the whole thing will appear automotive: look, it’s running on English rather than limping after the German.”

The quote comes from a longer article in the Guardian, which is well worth a read.

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