Yesterday I was at an event headed
NOT JUST FOUND, BUT OUT THERE IN TRANSLATION! How translated literature can be funded and made visible in the market place
held as part of the Children’s Bookshow.
Two sessions with practitioners who make translation mainstream.
The event consisted of two panel discussion. The first panel, chaired by Daniel Hahn, consisted of
Sasha Dugdale, editor of Modern Poetry in Translation
David Fickling, publisher at David Fickling Books
Sam Hutchinson publisher at bsmallpublishing
Julian Evans, writer, translator and biographer (Norman Lewis)
Hahn began by promising “an unstructured conversation” about publicity and marketing.
The panel had quite a lot to say on the subject and there was only time for a couple of questions from the floor. After David Fickling had confessed to a certain sense of guilt in the largely one-way direction of ‘publishing to the world’ I had wanted to ask about the dynamics of marketing a proposal to publish a work in translation. Who is most active in this regard? Is it the author’s agent, the author’s foreign publisher’s rights department, the translator, a reading scout? It’s something I have no idea about. Are international book fairs the main movers and shakers in this regard, or are books in translation likely to originate in other ways?
A question directed at the second panel covered similar territory. A translator asked the Arts Council representative to imagine a scenario: if she the translator were to find a book in a language that was under-represented (an Arabic book from North Africa, for example) but was unable to persuade any publisher to take it on, would it be worth applying for Arts Council support. The response was that such support would normally only be given to a recognised publisher in whom the Arts Council would have confidence in seeing the project delivered. But the questioner was told would be worth a try, to see if normal rules of engagement could be bent.
I’d be more interested in discovering how translated books that get published in English with NO Arts Council support come into existence.
Sam of bsmallpublishing had a very practical mercantile approach. For him it was a straightforward case of ensuring a publishing project made money. He had some interesting observations about Twitter. Because MFL (modern foreign language) teaching has become mandatory in primary schools and because bsmall has many dual language titles on their list, teachers are often referencing them in their tweets at 11 o’clock at night. Does he respond there and then when he’s supposed to be at home relaxing or wait until the morning when he’s back at work but when the teachers will also be in their classrooms and far less likely to be on Twitter.
The second panel chaired by Boyd Tonkin, consisted of
Tereza Porybna from the Czech Cultural Institute;
Nicola Smyth, Relationship Manager Literature, at Arts Council England;
Graham Henderson, founder of Poet in the City
Ghassan Fergiani, owner of Queens Park Books and West End Lane Books
Andrew Fusek Peters, poet
I found Graham Henderson of Poet In The City a very switched on member of this panel, with interesting things to say about the new synergy between traditional print publishing and the digital, online world. In his view it’s not about a cut-throat battle between real books and ebooks. It’s much more a question of how, especially in a world where review space in the print media is declining, online activities and interaction (Twitter, Facebook, websites) can be used to alert the audience to good literature and events.
Just when the panel seemed to be meandering, Fusek Peters jumped to Boyd Tonkin’s aid and read a few translated poems aloud, including one from the Czech which he had translated with his mother and read first in the original language and then in English.
Earlier I had been to the Edward Steichen exhibition at the Photographers Gallery, taking advantage of free admission between 10:00 -and 12:00. Marvellous as it was (and I shall certainly try and return for a second visit before it closes in January) I have to say I was transfixed by the fashion/art sliding slideshow on the top floor of work by Viviane Sassen. In some ways the Steichen showed the limitations of a traditionally print-framed exhibition. The photos are no more surprising and have no more impact on the wall than they do when reproduced in a book. This is not usually the case with painting. There is nearly always an element of surprise in seeing a painting ‘in the canvas’ so to speak, when previously you have only experienced it as a print in a book or as a digital reproduction on a screen. Where galleries can excel in exhibiting photography is in a sense of size and dimension – displaying imagery on a grand scale, which is exactly what the Sassen show does. The slideshow lasts for a full 45 minutes. I stayed until I was sure I’d seen every image in the loop.