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Literary translation site (with a commercial background)
Thread poster: Terry Gilman

Terry Gilman  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:07
Member (2003)
German to English
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Nov 20, 2002

Copied from the British Council\'s listserv for literary translation.

dear friend or acquaintance,

November marks the opening of, a free web site for

literature in English translation. In addition to a cross-referenced

database of translated works from a dozen languages,

contains the thousand or so reviews published as the \"Babel Guides\"

series by Boulevard Books since 1995.

We are inviting publishers, translators, translation organisations, embassies and all interested individuals to help build the site into a valuable reference and promotion point for \'your\' literature and we are ready to discuss all kinds of collaboration, partnership and sponsorship.

Develop your interest in translated literature by browsing the site and participating in the forum!

for a novel november,

the team


More about the backers from the site:

A word about Boulevard

BOULEVARD BOOKS now based in Oxford, England was set up in 1990 to bring world literature (where possible by younger, lesser-known writers) to English-speaking readers. A task we have persevered with despite the frenetic competition in the new fiction market. We are proud of our select list of titles from Italy and Brazil and today detect more awareness, particularly amongst journalists and librarians, of the importance of work not originally written in English for a healthy “culture of the word”.

Perhaps in a small way our series the BABEL GUIDES launched in 1995 with the Babel Guide to Italian Fiction (which the Gaurdian welcomed as “an admirable and inviting guide to Italian literature” has helped with this, “showing us a way to preserve local culture in the face of world cultural homogenization” as the Publisher’s Weekly “London Diary” noted. This series, now in its ninth language volume and still expanding, aims to put a handy key to world literature available in translation into the readers’ hand. Its innovation is to review translated books rather than collect general author entries and it also lists translations with their original titles and other useful information.

This year we have launched an academic series “CONSONANCES” to bring more adventurous thinking from foreign scholars into the worldwide realm of English. If it eventually succeeds in garnering the same prestige as the “Babel Guides” series we will be very satisfied.


Don\'t know the Babel Guides myself, but was recently floored when one of the people I work for (an ENS) asked me to remove a reference to the tower of Babel from a white paper because he and his colleagues had never heard of it. (I had been embarrassed about it\'s being an overused cliche.)


The site is a beta site and has been getting a lot of criticism, e.g.,


without wishing to give the impression of kicking a man when he\'s down, I would like to report briefly on the only Babel Guide I know and which I found riddled with slips, errors, mistakes (choose your word).

The Babel Guide to Italian Fiction, in the first edition at least, does not inspire confidence.

A few examples on the simple level of transcription:

Pirandello\'s Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore somehow becomes Quaderni di Seration Gubbio, and the short review blunders on talking about a character called Seration.

Gadda\'s Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana becomes Quer Pasticcio Brutto de Via Merulana.

This example also shows how the English convention of using upper-case for titles is imposed on the original Italian titles (although without consistency). Another (in my opinion) debatable editorial decision was to insist (in the database at the back of the book) on using the (in itself rather odd - Amazon doesn\'t/don\'t sell books that way) English method of separating and post-positioning the article in titles in Italian too, with results like Iguana, L\', or even more bizarrely: Autobiografia, L\' di Guiliano di Sansevero. Again, this rule is applied with cavalier disregard for consistency: Eco\'s Il pendolo di Foucault becomes a more zappy Pendolo di Foucault (it\'s difficult at this point not to mention examples of the havoc wreaked by the sleeping or non-existent proof-reader: Donna della domenica, The). Add to this the almost systematic spelling mistakes (double consonants are such a pain in Italian; e.g. Tabucchi\'s Filo d\'Orriizonte instead of Il filo dell\'orizzonte) and the reluctance to write the third-person singular form of the verb \"essere\" with its proper accent è (If the title of Carlo Levi\'s book is really Christ and stopped at Eboli, perhaps both an exclamation mark and a re-evaluation are required) and we have a pasticcio that might tempt Gadda from his grave to write a sequel, ... in Via Aldbourne, possibly. I could go on, but I\'ll rest my case here. unquote


[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-11-20 14:01 ]

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-11-29 08:48 ]

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