Monday, October 23, 2006

Conference reports from Sweden and Seattle

Here's Johannes Görannson of Exoskeleton, reporting on his experience of the ALTA conference. He wrote about Korean translators and translation and about meeting Quick, go read it just to see if he mentioned you! (Oh. Wait. Correction: He's in Georgia, or maybe Alabama... he's in an indeterminate location. With a cat, until you open the box.)

Richard Jeffrey Newman posted on poetics blogThe Great American Pinup and It's All Connected, in excellent detail. He wrote about the average age of translators represented at the conference and would like to see more younger translators.

I agree! In fact, I stood up at the ALTA general meeting with some practical suggestions of how to make the conference more welcoming and relevant & interesting to younger translators:

- more roundtable discussions
- more workshops
- peer mentoring, structures to encourage it
- regular old mentoring, ditto
- funding for younger people and/or people at beginning career stages and/or freelancers who aren't associated with a university
- spontaneous programming, unconference style
- more transparency in the panel organizing process

Anyway, Richard also wrote in fascinating detail on the "Translating the Erotic Mode in Persian Poetry" panel:
To the degree that sex is about the body, the way we talk about sex is a way of talking about what bodies are for in a very literal sense. So, for example, if we talk about sex as being only or primarily about reproduction, bodies are there to reproduce and to be reproduced. While if we talk about sex as being about enjoyment, then bodies are there to be enjoyed. It would be fascinating to push this consideration of how to translate the eroticism of one language/culture into another into a consideration of the cultural construction of the body in each culture, to get at an even deeper level of significance.

The Mandarin also had a few things to say about the "clouds and rain" of Seattle. I look forward to reading what he has to say about his panel on sexual themes in classical Chinese poetry. We translators are a racy bunch!

How did I know they were blogging about the conference? Because I'm tapped into the great hive mind, that's how, and because I technorati-ed "literary translator" on the main blog search engine.


C. M. Mayo said...

"the great hive mind"-- I love it, Liz!

Jessica said...

As one of people who lowered the average age of conference attendees by a couple of decades, I agree with you on all these points. We should think of ways to encourage new/young/non-academic translators to get involved. I hear rumors that this will be the focus at next year's conference, although I'm not sure how exactly.

Also, you mentioned "more transparency in the panel organization process" -- can you elaborate?

Laura the 06 Host said...

I've been reading Liz' blog on the conference with great interest as Host Committee Chair, and here are some musings on this post.

The average age. First, translators in previous eras often came to translation as a second career, not straight out of college. I myself did not start translating until I was 40. Second, it's hard to have a career in translation without having established a place in a paying career, since literary translators are often self-supporting. Third, since literary translators cannot support themselves by literary translation, younger translators cannot easily afford a conference, even one as cheap as ALTA. And for those who think ALTA is expensive, let me tell you, it is CHEAP! (SASS usually runs me twice as much, ATA four times as much, conferences in other fields, which I am aware of since my husband is in computer science, run $400 for attending before you even start thinking of room, board and flights). Fourth, since the practitioners of literary translation do not earn much, they also cannot endow much. To endow monies in order to provide funding is where other fields get their big bucks, usually from former practitioners in those fields. In some ways, it can be a really vicious circle, much like capitalism in general.
Personally, I think translators should be earning in the six figures for their contributions to humanity, but since I, at least, am still in the four figures, I can contribute time but not money. This was the case for all the host committee as well, all of whom were free-lancers without institutional support of any kind.

As far as panels go, I am not sure of what Liz meant, but I will mention how the process works. ALTA sends out a call for panelists. Some people respond. We send out another call for panelists. More people respond. The deadline appears. A great number of people respond. The deadline passes, and people ask us why they can't get their panel in because they were not aware of the deadline.
OK, the panel suggestions are in and we start playing matchmaker to those panels which are not full, which can be combined with other panels. We publish a preliminary panel, where people can request being placed on a panel with open slots. This was published on the website and in the newsletter. At this point, some panels are not going to work, either because there is only one person on them, or because some people must drop out, and we did our best to mix and match.
We had a great deal of interest in this conference and from the beginning could not accept every panel. The entire seven member host committee was involved in the panel process from day one.
The host committee does not go out and solicit panels. The panelists must come to the host committee.

May I repeat? The panelists must come to the host committee, the host committee did not go out and solicit panels. In other words, ALTA members themselves are responsible for putting together and submitting panels.

Each host committee is different, each conference is themed differently. But one thing remains the same -- the ALTA member is responsible for bringing the panel proposal to the committee and not the other way around.

Does that help, Liz?