Thursday, October 19, 2006

ALTA conference report: Collaborative Translation

This was a very well-attended panel moderated by poet & translator from Slovenian, Kelly Lenox Allan. Jean Anderson, Anne Magnan-Park, Mary G. Berg, Martha Collins, Thuy Dinh, and Dennis Maloney were on the panel.

Martha talked about her translation process with Thuy Dinh and her poetry and folk songs. Jean Anderson told us about translating from Maori, and, with Anne Magnan-Park, cotranslating Electric City by Patricia Grace. How the works are "very New Zealand" with Maorisims. Non-standard English. What to do with it in translating it into French. Not standard French. Not Berber or Arab-influence French. So, it's difficult!

Anne adds that Jean is being way too humble: she has been knighted by the French government! Anne emphasizes the importance of working very closely with a publisher - that it's important for the publisher to understand the collaborative nature of the work, especially because of the hybridity of the work! Very good point. Details like *not italicizing* the Maori-isms. Also, Patricia Grace did not want to have a glossary. The reader feels unsettled and uneducated. It reverses the position of power. But, next time there might have to be more compromises. Jean then added that Maori doesn't have a plural and they really didn't want a French person come in and add "s"s on the ends of the words. If it had been published in France we don't know what would have happened; publishing in Tahiti was a good choice. How is it in the French dictionary? "Maori" is in the dictionary. "Pakeha" is not, so it got to stay the same. Anne: growing up with French, it was very satisfying and liberating to get to debunk the French language.

Patricia Grace's first collection reads like a manifesto... the characters chant, and speak very strongly. Electric City's setup is very different. The characters are trying to build a connection. The reader has to establish that connection. Maori structure and syntax in French will not necessarily connect well with the French reader.

Jean: We asked Patricia (for feedback) The accusation of "bad translation" or error (with work that's ungrammatical on purpose) is obviously much more of a danger with translations, and reviewers. So I try not to put too much of it in the first 20 pages... *everyone laughs*

Question: how do we find people to translate/work with?

- at ALTA!
- on the ALTA web site, look up your language and find the other people working in it.
- we should have a database on the web, sponsored by ALTA
- go to other conferences

Daniela Hurezanu - had same problem with French and non-standard English translated into non-standard French and "corrected"... non-consensually. WS Merwin. *everyone sighs and groans in sympathy* *and everyone wants to know the name of the magazine.* Like, "shot" meaning a photo in English, "corrected" to be the french for "gunshot" - with clumsy dictionary use. And this, from another poet.

Dorothy Gilbert continues the thread of exposing French editors who mess things up in the name of "correctness". Something about head lice. British, too, were just unable to deal with the rudeness of head lice... and in a playground scene, with particular inappropriateness, changed eraser to "rubber"...

We all send out waves of comfort and sympathy to the mangled texts and maligned translators.

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