The Linguist

The Linguist 52,2

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 9 of 35

LITERARY TRANSLATION The final edit Miranda Moore speaks to the editors of books in translation and asks if they need to be linguists themselves 'I have this big fear that the greatest book that's been written is out there but it's in another language and I don't have access to it. It tortures me,' confides Jesse Coleman, Associate Editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It is one of the main reasons he joined FSG, an imprint of Macmillan. Around 10 percent of the company's output is novels in translation. 'The fact that I'm making these books available – that I'm playing a small role in giving these books a chance to be read more widely – is why I do it.' The publication of translated literature in English remains low. Translated books account for less than five percent of novels published in the UK – a figure that drops to 3 percent in the US. There are companies that are committed to bringing out foreign-language works in English – among the larger ones are FSG, Bloomsbury and Harvill Secker, a Random House imprint that publishes around 50 percent of its titles in translation. There are also smaller and independent publishing houses that specialise in books in translation, such as And Other Stories and Bitter Lemon Press. But how does a publisher select books written in another language? And how does an editor work on a novel in translation and make sure it is true to the original? When the editor can't read the source language, decisions about which books to buy depend almost entirely on reports from readers who do. Establishing a reliable group of readers, therefore, is vital. Coleman started with a large pool and has whittled that down to a small group that he trusts so completely that he will now buy publishing rights without looking at a single page of the original book. Freelance editor Briony Everroad adopts a similar method. 'If you're going to publish a 10 The Linguist APRIL/MAY wealth of titles from around the world it's not possible to understand the source language every time. You have to have a lot of trust in the reader and the translator,' she says. Selecting the right translator for each book may well be the most important part of the job. Sometimes an established author will want to work with their regular translator; more often, the editor will commission at least two sample translations of around 15 pages. 'Each translator will have their own interpretation of the voice and that way you get to see two or more different approaches,' explains Everroad. 'It's not about which translator is better, but about which one has managed to grasp that particular book.' Occasionally experienced editors will know exactly who they want to use for a given book, especially if they can read the original. When Coleman signed up Emmanuel Carrère's Limonov, he immediately thought of translator John Lambert. 'Limonov is a rather dark novel and I knew that I needed someone who could handle the material and also see TRANSLATORS' PRIZE Launched in 2010, the Harvill Secker Young Translators' Prize celebrates the work of young translators at the start of their careers. Open to anyone in the world aged 18-34, it invites entrants to translate a short story into English, written in a different language each year. Details for the 2013 competition will be announced at the London Book Fair (15-17 April) and the deadline for submissions will be in July. For information, see the underlying black humour and render that in English,' he explains. 'John had translated several Jean-Philippe Toussaint books for Dalkey Archive and I was impressed by his ability to bring humour – especially Toussaint's dark, dry, brand of humour – into English.' It helped that Coleman could read and understand the subtleties of the original. 'In other cases I'll contact several translators who I've worked with or whose work is relevant.' A foot in the door If editors tend to source translators based on their previous work, how can newcomers hope to break into the field? In 2010, Everroad established the Harvill Secker Young Translators' Prize, which is one way for those aged 18-34 to make a name for themselves. 'Getting known as a really reliable reader is another helpful way of getting a foot in the door,' she advises. And sending in a sample translation can, occasionally, lead to a commission. When FSG acquired Laurent Binet's phenomenally successful debut novel HHhH they received several unsolicited sample translations, many from people who had never translated before. Novelist Sam Taylor was among them. 'The sample wasn't perfect but he had nailed the tone,' says Coleman, who had read the French original and found the voice to be the most important thing. His colleagues agreed, so Taylor was offered the job, given a 'pep talk' and asked to send in the first 50 pages when they were finished. More commonly, the Editor won't see the translation until it is complete. In the meantime, marketing plans may be devised and jackets commissioned based solely on the readers' reports, especially if there is a

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