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Starting out in literary translation
Thread poster: Phillippa May Bennett

Phillippa May Bennett
Portugal
Local time: 17:22
Portuguese to English
Sep 4, 2006

Hi all, I'm quite new to this and this is actually the first question I've asked. I did my degree in Portuguese and French, studying French, Brazilian, Portuguese and African literature. Until now I've been mainly translating texts in the human rights and social sciences field etc I'm really interested in getting involved in literary translation, something I started at University (translation of poetry, short stories) but so far have not continued.
I imagine many people must ask this question, but if anyone could give me any tips for 'starting' up in the literary field I'd be really grateful.
Thanks again,
Phillippa
ps I did have a look in previous topics and apologise if this is a repeat question!!


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:22
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Tepid water Sep 4, 2006

See http://www.proz.com/post/395698#395698
for a discouraging reply I gave recently to a similar question. That answer was headed "Cold water" because the questioner was hoping to translate from her French mother tongue into English -- an aspiration pretty well doomed to failure, given the resolute belief among most customers that truly bilingual translators are as rare as hens' teeth (Vladimir Nabokov IMHO being one).

This answer is headed 'Tepid water' because you are at least proposing to translate into your mother tongue -- though the fact that you're claiming both directions is a marketing faux pas. So too is the sheer range of literature you have studied. Makes you sound like a Jill of all trades rather than an MA of one. Specialisation is often the route to success in translation.

Having done a small amount of literary translation myself, I understand the attraction. But -- here comes a bucket of tepid water -- you might be wise to make it a hobby rather than a career.


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Phillippa May Bennett
Portugal
Local time: 17:22
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting Sep 4, 2006

Thanks for your comments. Just after posting my question I found your comments entitled 'cold water'. It was interesting to hear your opinion on the subject. I would never dream of marketing myself as a 'jill' of all trades, especially regarding literature. It was more of a point to illustrate my background so far (my literature based degree). My main interest lies in translating Brazilian fiction to English, perhaps I should have mentioned that in the original post. I am however very new to this!

Even if it does become more of a hobby than a career I'm willing to take the risk (but at the same time keeping my other specialist subjects going)!

Thanks


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Sophia Hundt  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:22
Russian to English
+ ...
Disagree with Peter Sep 5, 2006

Dear Phillippa - please do not get discouraged!

This is exactly and almost exclusively what I do - translate books to be published in English, only I do non-fiction, at least I haven't done any fiction yet. (And, yes, I translate into English - not my native language - but someone does polish it for me to assure flawless English).

My story is similar to where you are starting at: I started translating on the regular basis about five month ago. Like yourself, I have a background in literature and humanities, since I was an English major in an American college. I guess I was lucky -right away I landed a book deal (three weeks into my traslating career) - it was a shorter non-fiction biography of an artist, Russian and French to English, for a publishing house. I found it by bidding on a job post on a website just like this one. They asked me to do a short sample and it had been accepted. I've been translating quite a bit for them since (parts of books, like introductions and such), and then someone contacted me through my profile on a similar website for another book translation. I took it on and they liked it too. And then another one. (All of that was non-fiction, though.) So I found that the more you do it, the more connections your establish, and then more comes your way.

So, the bottom line is - there seems to be a good deal of book translation out there - even watching for book translation jobs on this and similar websites is a first step to getting started, but usually this allows you to establish long-term relationships. Then you can also look at the websites of various publishing houses and see if they have a need for a translator. Then there's also such thing as ALTA - American (?) Association of Literary Translators, and I think if you get on their listing you may expand the range of your options.

Mind you, you probably cannot make a living, especially when you're just starting out, finding enough book deals - so you need to be open to other types of translation as well, as long as you're comfortable with the subjects you take on. Doing more than one language (if you can) also helps to have a larger range of opportunities. So while I think that you probably cannot be expecting to do books exclusively or feed yourself doing just that, you can find enough to be happy with the work you do and add to your income.

Good luck!


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Phillippa May Bennett
Portugal
Local time: 17:22
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Inspiring Sep 6, 2006

Thanks Sophia, your comments really made me feel a lot more positive and inspired to continue! It was great also to hear how you've recently just started out in the freelance translation world. I'm still in the process of organising myself and from November should be pretty much translating full time.

I'll definitely keep hunting on websites and also looking on publishing house websites as well, as you suggested.

Thanks again for all your help!

Phillippa


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Sandra Petch
Local time: 18:22
French to English
+ ...
A literary translation competition Sep 7, 2006

Hello Phillippa

Why not try this (see below)? I had a shot in 2005, thoroughly enjoyed myself, was amazed how difficult literary translation is (and didn't win a prize, but I wasn't expecting to!).

Perhaps you might consider mixing literary and non-literary translation as regretably literary translation isn't especially well-paid.

Best of luck!
Sandra


British Comparative Literature Association
British Centre for Literary Translation
John Dryden Translation Competition 2007

* General Information
* Judges
* Rules
* Entry Form
* Results
1995 - 2006

GENERAL INFORMATION
The British Comparative Literature Association and the British Centre for Literary Translation (University of East Anglia) are pleased to announce their continued joint sponsorship of a translation competition for 2007. Prizes will be awarded for the best unpublished literary translations from any language into English. Literary translation includes poetry, prose, or drama, from any period. First prize: £350; second prize: £200; third prize: £100; other entries may receive commendations.

The entry fee is five pounds sterling per entry. Prize-winners will be announced in July 2007 on the BCLA website, and prizes will be presented later in the year. Winning entries will be published in full on the website, and extracts from winning entries are eligible for publication in the BCLA's journal Comparative Critical Studies.

If you join the BCLA between 1 August 2006 and 31 January 2007, you may submit one entry free of charge. Note this on your entry form.

Failure to comply with the competition rules will render entries ineligible. Ineligible entries will not be returned.

More information can be obtained by e-mail from .

CLOSING DATE FOR RECEIPT OF ENTRIES:
12 February 2007


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Phillippa May Bennett
Portugal
Local time: 17:22
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Brilliant! Sep 8, 2006

Dear Sandra,
Thanks ever so much. I'd most definitely like to give it a try, even if just for a bit of fun and something to work towards!
I most definitely want to do a mixture of literary and non literary translation, not only for money purposes but I also enjoy the 'other' types of translation I do!
Thanks again for your help,
Phillippa


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Veronica Coquard
France
Local time: 18:22
Member (2007)
French to English
Links to other literary translation competitions Sep 27, 2006

Hello Phillippa,

I have been doing some research into the same questions. Here is a UNESCO website listing a whole variety of competitions:

http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=1539&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=-473&URL_PAGINATION=40.html

Best of luck!


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Phillippa May Bennett
Portugal
Local time: 17:22
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Nov 13, 2006

Hi I only saw your reply now! Thank you again for your help.

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