Like many literary translators, Cristina Vezzaro from Italy was tired of the fact that she rarely got acknowledged in reviews of the books that she translated. So she decided to take the initiative and do something against the traditional invisibility of her profession. First she devised a questionnaire for writers to find out what the transfer of their works into other languages means to them and what value they see in the work of their translators. Then, in March 2013, Cristina launched her Blog for Authors & Translators. Since then, this exemplary project has served as a lively forum for mutual exchange, and has already found the support of some renowned authors.
Making the invisibles visible
Siri Hustvedt, for instance, answers the question „What’s the first thing that occurs to you when you think of the profession of literary translator?“ as follows: „I think of the profession with profound admiration. I think of all the books I have read, which would have been unavailable to me had they not been translated into English. Without translation, my literary life would have been greatly impoverished. I would have developed another mind altogether. (…)“ Davide Longo muses: „Literary translation implies curiosity for different worlds and countries, willingness to research, mental flexibility, capacity to get in touch with the style and thus the language and thus the person of the writer.“ Robert Menasse explains: „I have translated from Brazilian Portuguese – and in doing so, I have learned how incredibly difficult and demanding this work is.(…) I have deepest respect for the work of serious translators, and from what I see and from what I hear, translators get way too little money and recognition. That’s why I always suggest translators should receive not only the (usually little) money they get as per contract, but also half of my royalties for each and every book that is sold.“ Catherine Dunne reports: „In Dublin, the literary prize ‚The Impac Award‘ is a prize that focuses largely on literature in translation. It has established the principle of awarding its prize money to the winning author AND to the translator – a principle of which I highly approve. Perhaps this is something that other prizes might emulate?“
When asked „Is it difficult for you to entrust your literary work to a translator, or do you trust them blindly?“, Fouad Laroui admits: „Both. One the one hand, I totally trust him or her, on the other hand I ask myself if he or she is aware of all the linguistic and cultural connotations. As a writer, I move between several languages and between at least two cultures. It is not easy to see this behind words or expression that at first glance belong to the French language.“ Altaf Tyrewala explains: „Of course I trust them. It is often the publisher who chooses the translator.“ Sibylle Lewitscharoff says: „I feel honored when one of my books is translated into a foreign language. (…) I also think that a translator should be allowed to take liberties. After all, the text is supposed to work well (…) in his or her language.“
Vezzaros Blog for Authors & Translators bears witness to the respect that a lot of internationally published authors have for their translators and their work. Many of them are happy to hear from their translators and to answer their questions, and sometimes they even become friends. Benjamin Stein gives a reason for this: „Translations are very important for me. Authors are somehow locked in their own language. Only through translations can they break free, towards readers in other countries, with different stories, different priorities in life and literature. This is why I always try to meet my translators: I want them to know what I mean by literature, how I create my stories and structure my language before they begin to translate my texts. (…) Without them, the book would not exist in any other language. In a different way, but no less than the writer, they are artists. So far these encounters have always been very enriching, also an a personal level. I’m not really surprised by this. If somebody shows so much empathy and understanding of art, I think you inevitably find a mutual level, both artistically and personally.“
A blog that calls for participation
Vezzaro’s Blog for Authors & Translators presents articles in different languages. The success of this project is based on active participation: Writers of all countries, languages and literary genres are invited to join and thus contribute to a growing public awareness and appreciation of the work of translators, and of writers in general. In the Interview area, Vezarro offers two questionnaires – one for authors and one for translators – in several languages, as well as an e-mail adress for those who wish to to send their filled-out questionnaire for publishing.