“If a translator feels solitary then they’re not doing their job. You should be listening to the author at every turn of the page.”
It’s a very interesting time for fiction in translation, and the Bookmachine and TLS event showed us the two sides of a successful book; the author and the translator. Elif Şafak is a Turkish author, whose work has been translated into over 20 languages and now writes in English. She was a judge on the panel of this year’s Man Booker International Prize. Sophie Hughes is a translator and literary critic. This year, she received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for her translation from the Spanish of The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán.
Set in The Library in Covent Garden on Wednesday the 21st of June, the two were interviewed by Toby Lichtig, Fiction and Politics Editor at the TLS. It was a night of cocktails and conversation about global literature and bringing together different cultures.
The IPR team loved the event and enjoyed catching up with old friends and new. Here are some of our favourite points from the event:
- On average, translated literary fiction is selling better in the UK than literary fiction originally written in English. Elif told us excitedly that sales had doubled over the last 15 years, although these deals were from cultures similar to that in the UK. Publishers are not seeing the commercial viability of stories from other cultures and different reference points.
- A language never maps into another perfectly. There’s a lot of editing and unfortunately a lot of cutting. But every language has its own rhythm and a way the words fall on the page. Language often changes because the words simply don’t have a translation.
- Just because Elif is a bilingual writer doesn’t mean she would consider translating her own books. “There’s a skill that Sophie has,” she explained. “It’s a skill I don’t have, and one I envy. It’s a craft in its own right.”I found it fascinating how they thought the prize money should be split. The translator believed it should be split 75/25 with the majority going to the author and the author believed it should be split 50/50 with the translator. Both were huge admirers of one another’s work.
- “Social media has become incredibly important in getting the word out there about these amazing International titles” Sophie stated. “You couldn’t reach that sort of audience before.”
- Sophie felt that the Man Booker International Prize is much more interesting than the Man Booker Prize. “Imagine it like a football team” she said. “If you’ve only got English players, your team will be good, but if you got to pick from the world’s players, your team will be incredible.”
Effi Paul is the account manager at IPR License