The European Translators' College: An Institution to Watch
Thread poster: Parrot

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:56
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Spanish to English
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Aug 19, 2004

The dream was an old one. The Caliph Al-Mamoun founded the Bait al-Hikma and centralised the translation of the numerous manuscripts he acquired for fabulous sums around Baghdad. The name meant "House of Knowledge", and it was perhaps the precursor of today’s book production lines, with its master-translators, apprentices, glossaries, master-illuminators and librarians. It was, for a fact, the precursor of the School of Toledo, which arose more than 300 years later, presumably around the Cathedral of that city, the library of which housed – and still houses – its manuscript collection. Authorities have claimed that it remains largely untranslated.

Whatever those translators did (or did not), both institutions had one thing in common: masters and apprentices came from all over the world, and the best among them became great names in learning. The centres themselves were world-famous. In both cases, the translator attained a professional status and respect he had not known before. In at least the case of Al-Mamoun, he had ideal working conditions and all the resources that the money of that day and age could place at his disposal.

This was the dream behind the Europäisches Übersetzer-Kollegium Nordrhein-Westfalen in Straelen e.V. when, in 1978, it was sponsored into being by the likes of Heinrich Böll, Samuel Beckett, Max Frisch, Robert Minder, and Mario Wandruszka. Last June, it hosted a reading by Günter Grass.

Today, it hosts literary translators seeking the seclusion and concentration it offers, selected from those who apply all over the world. Currently, it has residents working in Arabic, Chinese, Lithuanian, Polish and Hungarian, among other languages. Its 110,000-volume library is representative of some 270 others and keeps on growing. Guests bring their own work, and funding for them is made available from multiple sources, among them the Ministry for Urban Development and Housing, Culture and Sport of North Rhine-Westphalia, the European Commission, the DAAD, the Foundation for Arts and Culture of North Rhine-Westphalia, etc.. Since the year 2001, it has sponsored a prize in the amount of € 25,000 for outstanding achievement in literary translation into or out of German.

More details available in German at:
http://www.euk-straelen.de/v2/index.php

An English-language prospect may be viewed at:
http://www.euk-straelen.de/

The EÜK Translator-in-Residence is a model that the centre seeks to present to transmit the meaning of the literary translator’s role in the process of cultural exchange.

Applicants for EÜK Translator-in-Residence are selected in spring. The position for the year 2005 is still open. North Rhine-Westphalia provides a monthly allocation of € 1,500 for this position.

Requirements are stringent. But as Bogart once told Bergman, "We’ll always have ProZ.com..."



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Federica D'Alessio
Italy
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That makes me dream... Aug 19, 2004

Thank you Parrot for such an amazing information!

I've just one question for you, maybe a little OT: do you know if the School of Toledo was a direct descendent of the Bait al-Hikma, as a result of the "Al-Andalus" experience?

I'm asking you this because I'm quite interested in the Al Andalus, a large part of Spanish and Mondial history which is really unknown and interesting in terms of cross of cultures etc, but also quite difficult to study, it seems it has disappeared from books of history (especially here, in Italy).

Thanks again!

Federica


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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Dreaming is what this is about Aug 19, 2004

Dear Federica,

You've put your finger on it. Dreaming is what this is all about. Many of us right now won't make the grade that some of the projects publicised in this forum require, but who knows? With the dream showing us the way, we just might in the future.

The Olympics are not about winning. They're about striving, with the goal of excellence on an ever-moving horizon.

In some cases, the only obstacle between us and our goals may be a bit of financial or logistic help, and this is what "Professional Development" tries to procure.

Regarding your question on the Bait al-Hikma and Al-Andalus, the myths and legends alone would fill a book. "Direct descendants" are a bit hard to pinpoint, but the Bishop of Toledo knew about the existence of the Baghdad school (before that, such jobs might have had to be sent to certain university-type institutions in Persia).

There was a slight difference in circumstances, as well. The funds of the Cathedral of Toledo were the result of an accumulation "inherited" by the Reconquista in that city. They just might have made Al-Mamoun faint with pleasure, if you consider he went out of his way to acquire his funds, and one story had it that the inhabitants of a city, seeing it was imminent that he would invade them, conspired to have a certain work by Aristotle sent to him as a gift. The ploy was successful - he called off the invasion.

The "peace of Toledo" was another dream, contrived to heal the wounds of war by proving that all three cultures involved in that conflict could live together in the pursuit of a common wisdom, in the very shadow of the Roman Empire and the Visigothic kingdom.

We will always need dreams.


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Dogan Sahin
English to Turkish
+ ...
Dreaming Land Aug 20, 2004

Hi
Im a Turkish Translator living in the Dreaming land `australia`.
The institute in question indeed sounds like a dream..translating all night and day...and seeing the result.
I wouldnt mind.
Respects
Dogan Sahin
NAATI 8071
AUSIT, ITIA Member


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Abdelazim Abdelazim  Identity Verified
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In Gold Aug 21, 2004

Dear Ms. Avanceña,

It has been said that the Caliph Al-Ma'amoun used to pay his translators in gold. The amount of gold would equal the weight of the book translated.

It also known that Ishaaq (Isaac) Bin Hounayn, the Great Translator, used to deliver his book translations to Bayt Al-Hikma in very heavy fortified papers and thick book covers. The official in charge of receiving the translations had used to object to this "provoking" act of Bin Hounayn and to send complaints to the Caliph who used to laugh and to tell the infuriated official to accept Bin Hounyn's output and pay the translator whatever weight of gold his book equals.

What do you think Bin Hounayn's freelance rate was ?

Regards,

Abdelazim R. Abdelazim,
Arabic / English, BA,
ATN/ATPS Certified Translator,
Sun Certified Programmer,
http://www.nour.co.nr/


[Edited at 2006-03-07 13:30]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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Yes, I've been revising the matter Aug 21, 2004

Abdelazim Abdelazim wrote:

Dear Ms. Avanceña,

It has been said that the Caliph Al-Ma'amoun used to pay his translators in gold. The amount of gold would equal the weight of the book translated.

It also known that Ishaaq (Isaac) Bin Hounayn, the Great Translator, used to deliver his book translations to Bayt Al-Hikma in very heavy fortified papers and thick book covers. The official in charge of receiving the translations had used to object to this "provoking" act of Bin Hounayn and to send complaints to the Caliph who used to laugh and to tell the infuriated official to accept Bin Hounyn's output and pay the translator whatever weight of gold his book equals.

What do you think Bin Hounayn's freelance rate was ?

Abdelazim R. Abdelazim
Arabic / English


since Federica asked her question, and the "myths and legends" have started coming out one by one. Al Mamun (the spelling will vary since this is transliterated out of the Arabic) DID cart off libraries by the camel-load. 400 camels seems to have been the record. He also spared Constantinople from sack and ruin when the city decided to surrender the library.

Corrollary to that, he seems to have been the first person on historical record to penetrate the Great Pyramid. It's also on the record that, by that time, there was nothing to be found any longer.

And while he was at it, he repeated Eratosthenes' experiment on measuring the roundness of the world (and it's approximate size), although he did it in Mesopotamia instead of Egypt.

As to rates... Rembrandt used to charge by the number of people posing. There came a time when the Abstract Expressionists took a leaf off that and charged by the square inch...

Down to 0.02/word ... we've come a long way (backward)!


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Lorenzo Lilli  Identity Verified
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gold?! Aug 23, 2004

Abdelazim Abdelazim wrote:

It has been said that the Caliph Al-Ma'amoun used to pay his translators in gold. The amount of gold would equal the weight of the book translated.



I wonder why nowadays publishers don't do it Anyway thanks again Parrot for this interesting piece of advice.

[Edited at 2004-09-13 20:56]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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Gold -- and it wasn't a very good economic policy Aug 23, 2004

The treasury complained. It would've been cheaper to use the average freelance rates of the World Bank translation services survey (0.16 USD): http://www.proz.com/topic/24005

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Federica D'Alessio
Italy
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Thank you Parrot and everybody.... Aug 24, 2004

...for making me think once more the importance of saving cultures, and how proud I am to be a translator (although not paid in gold!).

I would like to know If there's something I can read about the Al Andalus experience, in Spanish or English (Spanish better...) and also about the ancient history of Baghdad.

Please, Parrot or anybody, go on telling us about the History of translation and the history of translators, 'cause it's really hidden, and maybe for this reason, very very amazing.

Thank you!

Federica


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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A gift for the lovers of Al-Andalus Aug 25, 2004

That's a tall order, Federica, and I hope other people will take you up on that. Doing research on the History of Art, for example, I've found it indispensable to have a parallel History of Science (where studies are somewhat scarce) and in reconstructing that history I've found the Bait al-Hikma unavoidable (and the Vatican Mythographers as well, and here you have a scenario rather like Eco described in Il nome della rosa). In fact, rather than the "House of Wisdom", which you'll find in some Internet translations, it might have been called "House of Science" (the German "Wissenschaft" jives better with the Arabic triliteral root HKM [no keyboard for this]). Maybe I'll write something longer about that later, but other people will have certainly done more exhaustive research on the matter.

Al-Andalus was probably no relation -- call it more competition. Because when the dust of Islamic conquest had settled down, the key authority figure here was an Omeyan Caliph, i.e., a descendant of the previous ruling Umayyad dynasty (I'm trying to give you an extreme indication of the possible spellings to look for in case of Google searches), and he set up his capital in Córdoba, rivalling the status of Baghdad as the capital of the Abbasid Caliphs.

However, the earliest legend about this conquest was the story of the Visigothic King Roderic and Count Julian (Conde Don Julián on Google). Like many warrior-kings, Roderic took "hostages", close relatives of the lords who had promised him alliance, giving them honoured treatment at his court at the same time that they stood "guarantors" for the pledge. In the case of Count Julian, who supposedly ruled Ceuta, he took the nobleman's daughter, who goes down in literary tradition as "La Cava". But he found "La Cava" pleasing, and since she didn't want him, he raped her.

Julian was, of course, enraged, and so the story goes that he let the Arabs in. You'll find the poem below:

http://www.gksdesign.com/atotos/romancerodonjulian.htm

It ends with the penitence of Roderic upon losing Spain.

But once again, these are "myths and legends" -- the givens are too far back to confirm as historical at all, although they may make nice literature.

Hope you enjoy them!


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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TiR: Current Invitation for Applications Sep 13, 2004

(Taken from the EÜK press release for TRANSLATOR IN RESIDENCE 2005)

The EUROPEAN TRANSLATORS' COLLEGE in STRAELEN and the FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS OF NORTH RHINE WESPHALIA are inviting applications for the position of

EÜK TRANSLATOR IN RESIDENCE

The position is open to literary translators from different countries having German as a source or target language who, in addition to their own literary translation activities, shall help organise EÜK activities and give prominence to the role of the literary translator in the cross-border transmission of culture and literature for a term of three to six months.

Applicants must
* actively and professionally exercise the profession of literary translators,
* give proof of a correspondingly appropriate publications list,
* be conversant with and accept the structure and working programme of the European Translators’ College through previous working stays,
* be ready and in a position to promote guest integration and cooperation among colleagues.

This service comes with a monthly stipend of € 1,500.

Free-form applications must contain
* Curriculum vitae
* Complete list of publications
* Short description of current translation project (with publisher's data)
* Short synthesis of subject matter and media for adults and schoolchildren, preferrably with special emphasis on specific genres and specialised subjects (for ex. books for children and the youth, poetry, non-fiction, etc.)
* Publishable text and photo regarding translator's life and translated works
* Data regarding term and possible length of stay (three to six months between January and December 2005)
* To be submitted on or before (postmarked) the 1st November 2004 to:

Europäisches Übersetzer-Kollegium
z. Hdn. Karin Heinz
Kuhstraße 15 - 19 / Postfach 1162
D-47628 Straelen

All applicants shall be notified of the conclusive decision of the Board.

Besides an apartment at the EÜK, the Translator in Residence may, at his/her request, avail of housing for family accommodation. The pertinent information is to be included in the application.

Straelen, August 2004

*****************************

POSTSCRIPT:

This profession being a small world, it will come as no surprise to some that our friend, Christa Schuenke from the VdÜ, who organised a wheelchair drive for the Peruvian literary translator Juan del Solar last summer, was EÜK Translator-in-Residence from January to March 2002.

Christa, who initially did not expect her appeal to be aired at ProZ.com, was overwhelmed by the solidarity of literary AND non-literary translators alike, sent warm words of thanks to all our members through the German forum moderator and, as well, conveyed the deepest gratitude on the part of Juan.

Juan, who is currently translating the works of Elias Canetti, was himself a resident of the EÜK in 1998 when he suffered the stroke that left him in a wheelchair.

That drive to aid a colleague in distress is still open:
http://www.proz.com/post/160563#160563
http://www.proz.com/post/161337#161337



[Edited at 2004-10-16 10:13]


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