What is literary translation?
Literary translation refers to the translation of literature, namely novels and stories, articles, and other works that do not belong to the business or technical writing category. Literary translation is not literal translation (word for word) or loose (unofficial) translation.
I did some research to write this blog post and I have to say, I was astounded by the fact that a lot of articles or information I found had been published at least three years ago for the latest and I even found reports that were over a decade old. This goes to show the status of literary translation in Canada. A few businesses or translation stakeholders blog about literary translation. There is, however, one champion organization: the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada.
“representing literary translators in Canada, the LTAC is committed to furthering the interests of literary translators in national organizations such as the Public Lending Right Commission and the Creators Copyright Coalition.”
(See their mandate.)
Since I rely on pieces written so long ago, be indulgent if you find yourself offended by the content of this blog post. Few articles and reports are written on literary translation and the corpus I work with is very restrained.
In Canada, literary translation is divided in two categories:
- English to French:
With such a vast pool of books written in English, one would think English-to-French literary translators in Quebec are so busy they have not set foot outside their office in years. I am chagrined to report that reality is not so.Major publishing houses that take on American literature mainly use European translators who do not know anything about the American cultural, social, or natural realities. As for Canadian English literature, it seems Quebeckers are now open to Canadian English authors and these authors’ works are translated by North American English-to-French translators.
One truth remains: English-to-French literary translators are not legions in Québec.
If you know of publishing houses that hires English-to-French translators, please leave their name in the comment section below.
- French to English:There is a French-to-English literary market, and there are literary translators in Québec. QC Fiction is a prime example of the Quebec literary translation industry. Quebec novels are translated into English by French-to-English translators who reside in the province of Quebec.
Organizations that decide to translate literary works into French or English could be eligible for grants.
Indeed, I have a dream!
Overall, translation is a trade that does not get the due respect, mainly because translation is a trade practiced behind the curtains, an obscure and costly step in the publication process, and a trade that struggles to be acknowledged for the mastery it requires.
“Knowing two languages (or more) does not make you a translator any more than having ten fingers makes you a pianist.”
To become a literary translator, does this mean I need to write a novel in English, self-publish it, and then translate it myself?
Conflicting practice? If I am the author of the original version, and I translate it, does it make me a translator or the author of a work in other language?
Now this brings up a question (and a blog post) for another time!
(2013) Found in Translation
If you can read French, there are also interesting reads in the French version of this blog post.