We were delighted to see that the Society of Authors has issued an open letter, suggesting that publishers should properly recognise the role that translators play in foreign language versions of their books.  The letter has the support of over 1,000 writers, including many famous names, such as Philip Pullman, Mark Haddon, the historian Simon Schama and Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo.

The letter has received a lot of coverage in the media, not just in obvious places such as The Bookseller, but also on Radio Four’s Today programme. Jane Shilling, writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, commented, “It is a reform long overdue: without translators, our horizons contract to a tiny monoglot bubble. “Translating,” as the prize-winning translator David Bellos put it in his glorious book on the subject, Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, “is a first step towards civilisation.” The very least that translators, those agents of civilisation, should expect is equal billing on the wealth of writing to which they offer us access.”

We couldn’t agree more!

We at Global Connects love reading books and, in light of our language backgrounds, we particularly love reading books that were originally written in a different language. We would like to show our gratitude to our amazing translators who help us experience new novels and cultures from around the globe, especially those books originally written in languages we don’t speak. We decided to check in with some of our Translation Project Managers to see what kind of books they’ve enjoyed reading in translated versions.

My brilliant friendOur new Junior Translation Project Manager, Mairi Maclean, encountered a marvellous story where a translation of a book has been viewed as a catalyst for the commendations and prizes the original version of the book received. Mairi’s university lecturer extolled the virtues of the translator by referencing Howard Goldblatt, who has translated over 50 books over 40 years: in the first four years of the Man Asian Literary Prize, three of the winners were translations by Goldblatt. This just goes to show the importance of a good translation. Mairi is currently reading a series of books translated into English called ‘My Brilliant Friend,’ by Elena Ferrante, before she watches the HBO mini-series. Mairi speaks Italian but has found the original Italian version difficult and expensive to get hold of … sorry to mention Christmas so early but maybe a potential present from Santa if he’s listening?

Hungary Shakespeare street signsReka Toth is another of our Project Managers and she had an interesting observation about translations of Shakespeare in her native Hungary. As detailed here “All villages in Hungary have streets named after those outstanding people who translated Shakespeare.” This is an example of the importance placed upon translators in a country that perhaps relies more on translations than we do in the UK. In Hungary, more importance is put on the translator to become an author of sorts and put their own stamp on a translation, making it not just a translation but a book in its own right.

Our Lead Project Manager, Clara Johnston, spent her year abroad at University in Córdoba, Argentina and so has a passion for all things Latin American. She recently came across Charco Press whose ambition is simply, to bring “the very National Book Foundationbest of contemporary Latin American literature…to you in English translation for the first time”. This is an amazing way of opening South American literature to a whole new audience, many of whom would never have previously been able to experience it. However, if you do want to read these wonderful books in the original Spanish, please take a look at our sister company Lorca Spanish and sign up one for their intensive language courses. Clara’s not just interested in Latin American literature; her most recent read was ‘Winter in Sokcho’, by Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins, which has been longlisted for the 2021 National Book Awards for Translated Literature.

Hopefully we’ve given you some food for thought and motivated you to take a look at some gloriously translated books…I’m off to the library now, feeling truly inspired!

Fiona Woodford, Head of Language Services, Global Connects