Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Parkbench's First Full Translation an Entertainment Weekly 'Must'

Achtung Johnny Cash fans!

Parkbench translator Michael Waaler has brought German graphic artist Reinhard Kleist's prize-winning biography of Johnny Cash to new heights with the success of its English translation. Published by indie SelfMadeHero, the translation of Cash: I See A Darkness was launched in style with a party in the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, sponsored by Chivas Regal.

Michael Waaler, a British translator living in Hamburg, specialises in translating graphic novels for publishers like Carlsen Verlag, Yen Press and TOKYOPOP. (Watch this space for news of his first German-language comic from Carlsen, A Kiss from the Dark from Carlsen, due out early next year.)

Predictably enough, coverage of Cash in the US has been great. It hit Entertainment Weekly's 'Must' list, and was included in the San Francisco Chronicle's comics gift guide. In the UK, Michael Faber called it
'a tour de force'
in the Guardian with a big ole Kleist drawing of the MIB himself, and Stephen M. Deusner in the Express Night Out called the graphic novel
'the ideal medium for Cash's biography ... Cash may be six years dead, but the Man in Black is alive and still kicking.'
But the Parkbench prize for press coverage goes to the Financial Times, the only paper to mention the translator. Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, a man with the enviable title of 'the FT’s pop critic', calls the book 'seductive'.

'Enough with the blurbs,' you say. 'It's a graphic biography, so what does it look like already?' Want visuals? Have a peek at Esquire for some choice spreads and check out a video interview with author Reinhard Kleist:

The Man in Black and White from SelfMadeHero on Vimeo.

Christmas is coming, folks. Just saying. Too lazy to buy it in your local indie? Order a signed copy from Forbidden Planet, or in Ireland from Books Unlimited.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Parkbench: older, wiser and back to blogging.

Well, well, well. The intentions were good, the plan to blog was there, nay, *cringe* articulated repeatedly in print, right here, visible on the web for all to see.

Suffice to say, it has been a busy year. Moving home to Ireland, becoming self-employed, establishing a company in an under appreciated area of a volatile industry and completing an intense, year-long M.Phil at the same time did a fine job of filling all the hours in every day.

Four essays, six portfolio entries and one, full, annotated translation later, the degree has come to an end, and with luck, the new year will bring word of a good mark. Meanwhile, it's been back to properly full-time Parkbench.

I got my second Frankfurt under my belt in October, and had the pleasure of meeting some truly dedicated US publishers of literature in translation, and a selection of right-minded rights folk from across the Continent. Interestingly, all of the rights people I spoke to expressed their frustration with the translations they were using to sell rights that year, which I thought very intriguing altogether. This common strand ran through discussions with tiny independents, literary strongholds and commercial publishers alike, regardless of original language or genre. Some sought help editing their sub-standard translations, others hoped for a future budget that might provide for retranslation, but few were happy with the translations they had in hand, but time pressures meant that they were all they had to offer at the Fair. Any thoughts on this phenomenon would be much appreciated – comment below!

I also got to meet up with some friends from SYP days, who in turn introduced me to International Young Publishers of the Year from recent years, which in turn put me in touch with a man who might just need Maltese translators – but more on that later. Just today, one of the SYP crowd pointed me in the direction of this wonderful teacup storm about the cover of one of my favourite books, Remainder by Tom McCarthy, the UK edition of which I reviewed a couple of years back.

Meanwhile, I'm back to the editorial work in a big way, and looking for translation projects for one and all among the Parkbench freelancers. From the English-language side, I have a HUGE recommendation for Irish freelancers looking to work on their finances this coming year: banking, taxes, pensions, household budgets. Don't yawn! Truly, no one was more surprised than me. Email me for details.

I'm tempted to cram all our news into this one post, but I'll leave it at that for now! More to follow – really.

Monday, 23 February 2009

OYEZ, OYEZ: Trinity Translation Conference coming up

The second Trinity College Dublin translation conference

'Translation, Right or Wrong'

will take place on

Friday 6th and Saturday 7th March 2009

The latest version of the programme is available here.

Keynote speakers are Josephine Balmer and Lawrence Venuti.

The website includes a booking form;
further information can be obtained by contacting cato@tcd.ie

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Contracts & new work

Well, it's been a while, but that means I've been busy and that's why we're all here, right? As a fellow freelancer reminds me, busy is good.

While it was all Dutch, all the time before Christmas, the new year has brought a lot of Norwegian work my way, and some Swedish. Funny how these things build in waves, but of course one successful translation rights sale begets more attempts. Sadly, the Swedish project, a non-literary job, remains unconfirmed – Parkbench's first and only interaction with the dread Current Economic Climate – but two full-length literary projects are confirmed and going ahead. Details on signing!

Made a Brazilian friend on Twitter, and through the meanderings that such interconnectivity encourages, found her blog. There (stay with me, now) I was reminded of PEN's excellent details for literary translators, to be found here. Listen up: PEN provides a model contract for literary translators, in addition to dos and don'ts and a heap of very useful bits and bobs for those of you who mayn't have a lot of experience in these things. OK, it's US-based, but it still gives you general structures and bare-bones information that is much the same the world over. I should say that from a Parkbench point of view, it's infinitely easier to work with translators who know a bit about what they want, and more importantly, what's reasonable to expect, and what they're likely to get from negotiating a publishing contract. 

I've also had a new kind of business – and I do like a new income stream. The Parkbench name is making the rounds in (non-literary) institutions on the Continent as a place to go to get your translation edited. This is something of a head-scratcher, insofar as I'm surprised, not being an expert in business translation, that there are so many translations out there that need fixing up, but I suppose to a point it's no different to a source text needing a thorough going-over. Some jobs are monolingual (i.e., editing an English version) and some bilingual (i.e., checking the French against the English translation). It's work that I enjoy – although I'd very much like to get in some editing of literary translations – but I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience of this kind of work, as it raises interesting issues for the translator who edits.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

New year, new courses, new post

So as you may have gathered, the final months of 2008 were toughies. Enjoyable, but six or very long weeks of work and college assignments made this Parkbench very glad to get to Christmas in one piece.

The unfortunate thing about November and December was that they saw few of my efforts spent on translation. Work was all editorial for me, but some of our other freelancers enjoyed foreign-language reader reports, particularly in Dutch, a sample translation from the Norwegian for Cappelen Damm, and a very exciting full translation project, the details of which are still to be ironed out... more anon.

College, too, saw little in the way of actual translation. That said, we had an excellent seminar in which we indulged in 'translating' from fellow students' literal translations and a great little experiment along the lines of Chinese Whispers: English > Russian > German > English > Italian, etc. Another of our core courses took the form of an excellent lecture series (something of a lucky dip as we never got a schedule, but hey) with 'visiting' lecturers from across Trinity's excellent language departments. I enjoyed all of them enormously, despite having but two of the languages of the literatures presented. In no particular order, we examined the issues presented by translations of Catullus, Goethe, Borges, and Irish, Italian and Romanian poets, among others.

Despite this, the bulk of our time was spent reading primary texts in English or in translation and wading through literary theory. Though literature courses are always worthwhile for the translator, many of us wished for a more translation-focused and less comparative-literature-focused approach; our course is turning out to be much more a combination of the two than I realised, which is a great loss, I think, in an M.Phil that is but one year long. I had to work to fit my essays into the field of translation, but in the end was happy with 'Translator as Trickster' on the translation of magical realist texts Il barone rampante by Italo Calvino, Le Roi des Aulnes by Michel Tournier and O Vendedor de Passados by José Eduardo Agualusa, and for our theory class, a take on George Steiner's process of translation and how it changes the author's relationship with his text, using examples from the lives and works of Beckett and Kundera.

This last essay set me up nicely for my new option, Censorship in Czechoslovakia and Ireland, 1920–80, which I'm rather looking forward to, particularly as I will be presenting on the unusual historical importance of Czech lit in translation. This term also sees us with guest translator Peter Sirr for a course the doings of which will be posted here on a blog. Am most impressed. Have a peek there and you can read as we read. 

And with that, off to class!