25 Avr

Although things are far from perfect, French literary translators have it better than their foreign counterparts. That is one thing that came out of Pierre Assouline’s report on the living and working conditions of literary translators. The report came out last year and was introduced at Paris book fair during the very first Rencontres de la Traduction, an event meant to reestablish a dialogue between editors and literary translators. I attended this year’s second edition of the Rencontres. I didn’t take any notes, which means I have to rely on my memory to share a few tidbits:

  • The day was organised around four round table conferences: the first devoted to the evolution of translators’work due to new technology, the second about the challenges of translating Japanese litterature, the third about the way a panel of translators work and the final on the topic of retranslation.
  • I was pretty excited about the first conference, but it turned out to be the most disappointing. Most of the talk seem to revolve around how translators were now able to contact authors by email. Not a very recent evolution if you asked me. There was hardly any discussion about the impact of e-books.
  • I didn’t feel that concerned about the translation of Japanese litterature. Turned out I was wrong! The second conference was a blast. I learned that out of around 630 books translated from Japanese into French, less than 30 are novels, the other 600 being mangas. I really enjoyed comments from Patrick Honoré, who translates both Japanese novels and mangas. He compared translating mangas to translating a novel… with only dialogue. He also observed how mangas have made Japanese culture less foreign to French people.
  • The third conference gathered several translators with completely different backgrounds. Nice to see the diversity of our profession!
  • Finally, the last conference dealt with retranslation. Quite a few great books have been translated several times in history and there seems to be a trend for retranslation nowadays. It is not just a fad though, as more often than not, it gives a new light to the text!

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