Posts Tagged ‘nobel’

Photo: Jennifer Croft via the First News.
The translator Jennifer Croft will no longer work with publishers who don’t put her name on the cover.

There’s a book by French-to-English translator Kate Briggs called This Little Art. Briggs and others have been opening my eyes lately to the notion that translators are almost on the level of the author they translate. They write a new version of the book. It’s an art.

Alexandra Alter wrote an interesting story at the New York Times about another translator, Jennifer Croft. She knows her worth.

“When Jennifer Croft talks about translating the Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Flights, she sometimes affectionately refers to the book as ‘our love child.’

“ ‘It’s Olga’s, but also it has all of these elements that are mine, these stylistic elements and these decisions that I made,’ she said in a recent interview.

Flights was a labor of love for Croft, who spent a decade trying to find a publisher for it. It was finally released by Fitzcarraldo Editions in Britain in 2017 and Riverhead in the United States in 2018, and was celebrated as a masterpiece. The novel won the International Booker Prize and became a finalist for the National Book Award for translated literature, helping Tokarczuk, who was later awarded the Nobel Prize, gain a much larger global audience.

“But Croft also felt a twinge of disappointment that after devoting years to the project, her name wasn’t on the book’s cover. Last summer, she decided to make a bold demand:

“ ‘I’m not translating any more books without my name on the cover,’ she wrote on Twitter. ‘Not only is it disrespectful to me, but it is also a disservice to the reader, who should know who chose the words they’re going to read.’

“Her statement drew wide support in the literary world. Croft published an open letter with the novelist Mark Haddon, calling on publishers to credit translators on covers. The letter has drawn nearly 2,600 signatures. … Her campaign prompted some publishers, among them Pan Macmillan in Britain and the independent European press Lolli Editions, to begin naming all translators on book covers.

“Croft’s latest published translation is Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob, a 900-plus page historical novel about an 18th-century Eastern European cult leader named Jacob Frank, whose story unfolds through diary entries, poetry, letters and prophecies. …

“This time, Croft’s name appears on the cover. Riverhead added her after she and Tokarczuk requested it. Croft is also being paid royalties for The Books of Jacob, which she didn’t receive for Flights. (Translators, who typically receive a flat, one-time translation fee, don’t automatically get a share of royalties from most publishers.) …

“ ‘She is incredibly linguistically gifted,’ Tokarczuk said in an email. ‘Jenny does not focus on language at all, but on what is underneath the language and what the language is trying to express. So she explains the author’s intention, not just the words standing in a row one by one.’ …

“For Croft, the campaign to bring greater recognition to translators isn’t just a plea for attention and credit, though it’s partly that. Croft also believes that highlighting translators’ names will bring more transparency to the process and help readers evaluate their work, the same way they might assess an audiobook narration for not just the content but for the performance.

“Translation isn’t just a technical skill, but a creative act, she argues. ‘We should receive credit, but also have to take responsibility for the work we have done,’ she said. …

“That work often entails much more than rendering sentences and syntax from one language to another. Translators also find themselves in the role of literary scout, agent and publicist. Many are constantly reading in the languages they’re fluent in to find new authors and books, then pitch them to publishers. When English-language versions come out, translators are often called upon to facilitate interviews and join authors on book tours and manage their social media accounts in English.

“Translated literature accounts for just a fraction of titles published in the United States. Despite the success of books by international stars like Elena Ferrante, Haruki Murakami and Karl Ove Knausgaard, many publishers still worry that American readers are put off by translations. …

That belief has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since 2010, fewer than 9,000 English-language translations of fiction and poetry have been published, and in 2021, just 413 translations were released, according to a database of English-language translations that is compiled and maintained by Chad W. Post, the publisher of Open Letter Books, and is available on Publishers Weekly’s website. …

“An even smaller number of titles feature translators on the cover. Less than half of the English-language translations released in 2021 had translators’ names on the covers, Publishers Weekly reported last fall.”

More at the Times, here.

Read Full Post »

24 Hours in Oslo

Because we went to Sweden by Norwegian Air, we took a bus back to Oslo to catch our homeward-bound plane, allowing a day for sightseeing in the city first. My husband had been there in the 1960s; I had never been.

As I came out of the bus station wheeling my bag, I saw an activity that I had recently read was occurring in several countries. A barber was giving a haircut to a homeless man. Another man explained to passersby about an effort to raise money for one homeless person at a time. I was so happy to find a good place to unload the rest of my Swedish kroner.

Here are my Oslo photos. Some are self-explanatory, but you might be puzzled if I don’t explain the bubbling water: it kept the eggs hot at our amazing hotel breakfast.

The first of three museums we visited was the Edvard Munch Museum, where the author Karl Ove Knausgaard had curated a show. I love Munch, and although I would have liked some wall text about what was going on in his life when he painted various pictures (a fantastic 2001 show at Boston College did that), I came away with some good ideas for representing the bark of pine trees.

The Nobel Peace Museum had an outdoor mural to free-speech heroes around the world and a moving photography show about Syrian refugees in Lebanon and how they longed for home. The main exhibit felt ironic though, given that Peace Prize recipients have sometimes been tyrants. And this hit me hard: hundreds of prizes, so little peace.

The wall text at the Ibsen museum was great and got me interested in reading more of his plays. The book below is not unique in using Munch cover art. Many Norwegian books use Munch paintings on their covers. He captures something powerfully Norwegian.






















































Read Full Post »

At their wedding, Suzanne and Erik seated me next to Erik’s uncle on one side and Jonathan on the other. Jonathan was into literature. In fact he wrote a poem for Suzanne and Erik that he read as a toast. (You would not believe how many toasts Swedes give at weddings. It’s an awful lot of fun!)

Jonathan knew a lot about American and English poets, and I asked him to suggest a Swedish poet that I could read in translation. I figured that Google Translate might not be optimal for poetry. He recommended Tomas Tranströmer. After the wedding, I bought Tranströmer’s The Half-Finished Heaven, translated by Robert Bly. (Who knew Robert Bly translated Swedish?)

Last week, Tranströmer was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature. Here is a short Tranströmer poem from the book, illustrated by a photo my husband took before Hurricane Earl in 2010. (The photo is called “Red Sky at Morning, Sailors Take Warning.”)

Storm, by Tomas Tranströmer

The man on a walk suddenly meets the old
giant oak like an elk turned to stone with
its enormous antlers against the dark green castle wall of the fall ocean.

Storm from the north. It’s nearly time for the
rowanberries to ripen. Awake in the night he
hears the constellations far above the oak stamping in their stalls.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: