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World Literature Weekend: Translation: Making a Whole Culture Intelligible?

with Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-winning translators Anne McLean, Anthea Bell, Daniel Hahn and Frank Wynne

Where: London, UK

Chair: Kate Griffin, Arts Council England

Anthony Burgess insisted that ‘translation is not a matter of words only’. Umberto Eco has said that ‘translation is the art of failure’. So, what do translators hope to achieve? What are the practical aspects of the job, and the principles behind it? The panellists will address the status and perception of international literature in the UK today, how appropriate it is for monolingual reviewers to comment on translated work, whether re-translating ‘classics’ differs from ‘front list’ translation and how to go about translating a book originally written in Arabic from, say, French. Finally, is there any hope for the future when only 3 per cent of books published in English are translations?

Anne McLean translates Spanish and Latin American novels, short stories, memoirs and other writings by authors including Julio Cortázar, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, Javier Cercas and Tomás Eloy Martínez. Her translations of two Colombian novels – The Armies by Evelio Rosero and The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez – have been short-listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, which she won with Javier Cercas for his novel Soldiers of Salamis in 2004.

Anthea Bell was educated at Somerville College, Oxford, and is a freelance translator from German and French. Her translations include works of non-fiction, literary and popular fiction. She has translated German classics such as E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Life and Opinions of the Tom-Cat Murr and a number of novellas by Stefan Zweig, as well as Freud’s The Psychopathology of Everyday Life in the New Penguin Freud series. Translations for young people comprise, among others, books by Cornelia Funke, Kai Meyer and Christine Nöstlinger from German, and by René Goscinny from French. Translation awards include the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (UK) and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize (USA) in 2002, both for the translation of W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, and the 2003 Austrian State Prize for Literary Translation.

Daniel Hahn is a writer, editor and translator. His translations include four books by Angolan novelist José Eduardo Agualusa (the process of translating the most recent, Rainy Season, has been recorded in a blog at www.translatedfiction.org.uk) and the autobiography of the Brazilian footballer, Pelé. He is the author of The Tower Menagerie (a work of narrative history), and most recently compiled the new Oxford Guide to Literary Britain and Ireland. His forthcoming projects for 2009 include a national writing competition for secondary school students which he is coordinating for Human Rights Watch; a short life of William Blake; and the translation of The Piano Cemetery by Portuguese novelist José Luís Peixoto.

Frank Wynne developed a passion for languages while living in Paris in the 1980s. He has been a literary translator for more than a decade and has translated works by, among others, Michel Houellebecq, Ahmadou Kourouma, Guy Goffette, Pierre Mérot, Petr Král and Jules Verne. Current translations include novels by Almudena Grandes, Yasmina Khadra and Alonso Cueto. With the author, he jointly won the IMPAC prize in 2002 for Atomised, his translation of Michel Houellebecq’s Les Particules élémentaires, the 2005 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for his translation of Frédéric Beigbeder’s Windows on the World and the 2008 Scott Moncrieff Prize for translation for Holiday in a Coma/Love Lasts Three Years. He was Translator in Residence at the Villa Gillet in Lyon in Spring 2007. He has travelled widely and currently lives wherever he can afford to.

Ticket prices include postage. Concessionary rates available for LRB subscribers, Friends of the British Museum, students and OAPs – please call +44 (0)20 7209 1141

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