06 October 2015

FT feature article on translation

On 6 October, Andrew Jack published a feature article entitled Translators: Publishing’s unsung heroes at work under the FT's Emerging Voices report.

Here are some excerpts of special interest to translators:
A shift in the style of translation towards fluency and accessibility may also have helped. Specialists talk of a “domestication” of translations into an English that provides a smooth read rather than reproducing the quirks of the original. “There is a noticeable trend to try sounding like the living language as spoken,” says Cullen. (John Cullen translated into English from French the Algerian writer Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation , one of the African novels on the longlist of the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices fiction award.)
Robin Moger, who translated Women of Karantina, by Egyptian writer Nael Eltoukhy, argues that there has been a particularly distinguishable shift in translations from Arabic, which was long dominated by a small group of university specialists.
“It was very academic, carried out by people on the mature side of middle age, who came from a place where literature is not read but consumed in academic circles as teaching aids,” he says. “I got a review from one who didn’t like the fact that the book reads fluently. But you are translating many other things apart from the work or the syntax. You are trying to relate enjoyment, tone and voice.”
“People don’t realise that apart from grappling with the grammar, you are stepping into a whole different culture. The reader shouldn’t feel it’s a translation, just that they are being taken somewhere else.” (says Melanie Mauthner who translated Scholastique Mukasonga, shortlisted for the Emerging Voices fiction award from French into English)
“Often it’s not the original language that makes translation difficult, but trying to work out what it will sound like in English,” she says. “It’s primarily about music — trying to make the music of English echo the music of the original.”

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Full circle

After completing a BSc in physics and maths in Australia and extended travels in Africa I found a job in Paris that left me with considerab...