Several months ago I heard a famous literary translator give a talk about the difference between translating and being a translator. The former is the process of taking a text in one language and putting it into another. The latter is everything that comes with doing translation as a profession: building relationships with writers, researching book markets, selling to publishers, promoting books you've published, the list goes on. For a new literary translator like me, the message was clear: there’s a lot more to being a translator than you think.
Sean Gasper Bye
Sean Gasper Bye is the 2013 British Centre for Literary Translation mentee for Polish. He also translates from French and Russian. Sean grew up in Holicong, Pennsylvania and studied Modern Lanugages at University College London. When not translating, Sean works at Goldsmiths, University of London and regularly acts and directs for the Invisible Theatre radio drama company.
I sometimes try to stop and feel the pain of people reviewing translations. Knowing that the translation is a key part of the text, but rarely able to read the original, reviewers must make educated guesses about what the translator has done right or wrong, and what has been added or subtracted. This is a challenge: do you credit the author with structure, characterization, and pace, and credit the translator with the flow and musicality of the prose? It’s rarely so simple—indeed, a poor translation can cause structural problems with a book.