The Sound of Translation

Feels like ages since I last posted anything to the blog . . . but at least I have a good reason. Following our Best Translated Book Award Party in New York (more on that later), I left for Salzburg, Austria to spend a week in the castle below talking about translation.

Seriously. And in case you’re wondering, yes, this is the same Schloss Leopoldskron from The Sound of Music. OK, so none of the scenes from the Sound of Music were actually filmed inside the Schloss, but the Venetian Room—where we had our final reception—was recreated in a studio for the movie’s ballroom scenes, and the film was shot in the surrounding area. Nevertheless, it’s not often that one gets to stay in a legitimate palace with the largest marble dining hall I’ve ever seen, a cathedral, and a library that looks like this (and includes a secret passageway):

(Hard to convey a sense of scale, but translator Daniel Hahn took that picture of me from across the library.)

Over the next week I’ll write a bunch of short pieces about the conference itself and the various ideas that came up. It was an extremely interesting, and productive conference that had the goal of establishing certain action plans to address the “critical role of translation in a global culture.”

I’m not going to list all 70+ people who attended, but I will say that it was a remarkable gathering of people from all aspects of the industry. From translators like Jason Grunebaum, Esther Allen, Michael Henry Heim, and Wen Huang, to representatives from cultural organizations including the European Commission, NORLA, International PEN, and the Ramon Llull Institute, to publishers like Dalkey Archive, Open Letter, and Hanser Verlag, to media folk like Boyd Tonkin, it was a truly global gathering of people interested in international literature.

The seminar was rather intense, beginning with breakfast at 8am and lasting until after 9pm with some time for lunch, dinner, coffee breaks, etc. But even though we paused to eat every three hours (in the most gorgeous room I’ve ever dined in), we never really took a break from talking about publishing, about books, about translation. (Although it’s worth pointing out that 90% of these conversations were filled with laughter—translation people are simply a lot of fun.) It’s incredible what can happen when you put a bunch of engaged intellectuals in a fairy tale setting for a week . . .

After traveling for 21 hours yesterday—from Salzburg to Frankfurt to D.C. to New York to Rochester—I’m not in the best of minds to break down all that went on . . . but starting on Monday I’ll start writing about some of the topics, ideas, and action plans that came out of this meeting. And I’ll try to include more pictures . . .

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