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!