Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Literary Translation

I mentioned a while ago in passing that I was working on a literary translation, so I wanted to share a little with my readers about this project of mine. I'd worked as a translator for years before I discovered that one could be a scholar of literature and make a living at it. Still, translation retained its magic for me. I used to translate non-literary text, so this is my very first attempt at literary translation. The book was published by Igrulita Press, a publishing house that is dedicated to promoting Russian-language writers all over the world.

The novel I'm translating is part of the book titled Stories of Similar Epochs by Michael Blekhman. (The book is only sold in Russian at this point, so please don't go off buying it unless you are a Russian-speaker.)

This writer is heavily postmodern, which makes his writing incredibly hard to translate. Everything is a literary allusion, a play on words, a historical reference. This can never be a word-for-word translation because that would make the novel completely useless. There are books that you read for the plot and don't care much how they are written. John Grisham is a perfect example of this kind of writing. Reflection, which is the novel I'm translating, is the exact opposite of this kind of writing. It's driven by the beauty of the language, not by the desire to create a fast-paced plot with a lot of twists and turns.

When my translation finally appears in print, it will be almost as much my work of literature as it is the author's. 


Pagan Topologist said...

Nice! Did the author choose you as translator, or the publisher? If the publisher, I am really impressed. I am still impressed if the author did, but maybe less so.

Clarissa said...

You shouldn't be impressed at all. The author is my father. :-) And he didn't choose me. I just informed him that I'd be translating his novel. Nobody is more familiar with his writing style than I am, so it makes sense.

Pagan Topologist said...

I recognized his name as your father. I thought that it would be a wonderful coincidence, and a wonderful compliment to your literary skills, if the publisher had asked you to do the translation without knowing that.

Clarissa said...

My father has been mentioning me to the publishers every 15 seconds (and to everybody else as well), so they could have hardly failed to know me. :-)

Nobody thought initially that this novel could even be translated into English because it's too difficult. I still think that I might be crazy to have come up with this idea.

I really enjoy the process, though.

eloquentellen said...

Hey Clarissa! I'm also doing a literary translation (French to English)... I pitched it to some publishers and found one that said yes. I'm blogging about the experience and trying to find other literary translators to check out my blog and maybe give me some ideas.

It's translationasart.blogspot.com Check it out?


Clarissa said...

It's great to have a person who is also from Quebec here. Welcome!