Feature: Prizes

Prizing Translation: Opportunities for Translators

Despite the widespread belief that people in the UK are just not interested in foreign languages, there is a growing group of literary translators who, alongside numerous counterparts around the world, are fighting for the art of translation and are helping to achieve significant developments in the world of literary translation. Experienced and emerging literary translators alike are playing an increasingly important role, not only working tirelessly to allow English speakers vital access to texts from a wide range of source languages and cultures, but also acting as scouts and agents, discovering works and approaching publishers, sealing deals and publicising their work. This commitment has certainly contributed to the recent increase in sales of translated literature in the UK, helped along by bestselling authors such as Jo NesbÝ and Stieg Larsson.

For me, halfway through an MA in Literary Translation and hoping to emerge from the other side with at least one foot in the literary translation door, the willingness of established translators to offer support and advice to those just starting out has been particularly encouraging. Even at this early stage in my career I feel part of a huge support network that is committed to helping its members. The highly successful Emerging Translators Network (a forum in which translators can pool ideas and ask and answer questions), founded by Jamie Searle Romanelli and Rosalind Harvey in 2011, has shown the desire for concentrated information and increased networking opportunities.

In 2014 this need to pool and share information was recognised by New Books in German, the Germany Embassy London and the Goethe-Institut London, who collaborated to put together a database of all the possibilities open to translators to help kickstart or further their careers. I took on the task of translating and compiling the resulting research and, in November 2014, the new Opportunities for Translators database was published on the New Books in German website. This database contains a host of information on translation programmes, grants, competitions, awards and residencies. Although the focus is on programmes available to those translating into or out of German, some of the initiatives are also open to other language combinations.

Among the programmes mentioned is New Books in Germanís own Emerging Translators Programme, an annual programme founded in 2011. As-yet-unpublished translators are invited to submit a translation into English of a short extract from a German novel, and the six successful applicants are then commissioned to prepare a further sample translation for New Books in German and to attend a translation workshop with translator Shaun Whiteside. Other competitions featured include the Harvill Secker Young Translatorsí Prize (which focuses on a different language combination each year) and the John Dryden Translation Competition, held annually in February and open to translators from any language into English. Prizes such as the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, for which books published in the UK that have been translated from any other language into English are eligible, are available for published translations. Residencies can be a great way for translators to escape the demands of daily life and focus on a specific project; the Looren Translator House in Zurich and at the Baltic Centre in Visby, Sweden offer support for translators working on projects to be published.
The view from a workspace at Looren Translator House
Monica Mutti
The scope of the database has opened my eyes to the incredible number of opportunities open to literary translators. With brief details on each programme and links to the relevant websites, this is a unique source of information and a must-read for all translators wanting a change of pace or scenery, or for those needing ideas for how they can get their talent discovered.

By Alyson Coombes