A few more thoughts on translating, from Monday’s translation seminar:
Translator and academic Adam Talib, from Britain, spoke about the ‘renaissance in Arabic literature (in translation)’ over the past decade, the current energy in this field and the increasing diversity of titles available, such as writing by women. In addition, Arabic literature itself is improving by moving away from saga and allegory, and creating works that are ‘international, communicative and explanatory’; world literature, but still within their own contexts.
On the importance of translations, saying that ‘Arabic translations are like eavesdropping on national conversations’ – a lovely thought, but also, to me, a call to arms for everyone to be thinking more widely about reading more broadly.
Adam also spoke about the problems that translators face in their work, saying that the three things they need most are editorial support, money and time.
In particular publishers do not offer great editorial support to translators, often leaving them to do all the work. The panel in general agreed that publishers need to hire or train editors who understand the challenges and opportunities of translation, and who can offer proper support to their translators (rather than just letting them do it and not offering feedback or help, which seems to be the trend now).
Personally I am in awe of translators. A good translation needs to be thoughtful, sensitive and deeply aware of the text; it is almost more like rewriting than an act of translating.