Thursday, 12 August 2010

Dorothy Parker Factfile

So, if you haven't figured it out by now, yours truly has a longstanding affiinity for all things Dorothy Parker. For the reason behind the name, trawl the Parkbench website for RHJ writing small and purple.

Everyone has their special subject for Mastermind, and mine is Dorothy Parker –– or so I thought. I now hang my head in SHAME, and know that I am not the true blue Parkerite I once thought.*

I now can't remember how I came upon this link yesterday, but it stopped me in my tracks. Rarely do I learn something entirely new about Mrs Parker, but keeping in mind that I rarely get to the end of a biography that I'm reading for pleasure (sure, we know how it ends), I suppose this one passed me by.

From Bal'more's own City Paper, sniffs the errant Washingtonian, I bring you this sad tale with a happy ending.

No, go read it.

In the category of 'I didn't think there were any more reasons to admire the work of the NAACP', this is surely top of the list.

*That said, I was once mighty impressed with myself for catching a misattributed Parkerism in the pages of the latest hot book by one of this country's leading media lights. *pushes glasses up nose and snorts* Many thanks to Kevin Fitzpatrick of the Dorothy Parker Society for his back-up on that one.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

OYEZ! OYEZ! Last call for entries in Harvill Secker's Young Translators' Prize

This just in from Harvill Secker's publicity department:


Only a few weeks left to enter HARVILL SECKER’s
prestigious new prize for young translators

The Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize has already received lots of entries from budding translators - we are sending out last call for entrants to make sure no one misses out. The deadline for entries is 31st July 2010.

The annual Young Translators’ Prize will be presented to a translator at the start of their career and will focus on a different language each year.

Harvill Secker, part of The Random House Group, launched the prize on April 19th= in conjunction with Waterstone’s, to celebrate 100 years of publishing quality translation. In 2010 – the inaugural year – the chosen language is Spanish and entrants will be asked to translate ‘El hachazo’, a short story by the Argentine writer Matías Néspolo.
The short story and details on how to enter can be found at The prize is open to anyone between the ages of 16 and 34, with no restriction on country of residence.

The winner’s name will be announced at the FreeWord Centre during aspecial evening event on 30 September 2010. The winning translator will receive £1000, a selection of Harvill Secker titles and Waterstone’s books.
One of the judges, Margaret Jull Costa (translator), commented ‘There are very few prizes open to the young, unpublished translator, who is either trying to get a toehold in the world of literary translation or who simply loves translating. All praise to Harvill Secker, then, for instigating this Young Translators’ Prize.’

The other judges are Nicholas Shakespeare (author) and Briony Everroad (editor). Prize founder, Briony Everroad comments, ‘I think translation is terribly important, and excellence in the field can often pass unnoticed. The aim of this prize is to encourage a new generation of talent, and I hope that it will provide a much-needed opportunity for young translators to gain wider recognition for their work.’

For more information please contact:
Sue Amaradivakara, Harvill Secker publicity

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Parkbench shares the anniversary of its founding with an infinitely more important local event: Bloomsday. Today, Parkbench turned two, and Bloomsday was celebrated for the 106th time. I would be hard pressed to make further comparisons between the two on any front, but, wearing my anorak, I do quietly enjoy the fact that a Dublin-based literary business was founded on a decidedly literary and decidedly ‘Dublin’ day.

Without sounding too much like an annual report, it has been a tough year for publishing, and thus for Parkbench. That said, it has seen a few important developments. I got an M.Phil in Literary Translation from Trinity College, Dublin, where I met and worked with an impressive team of new literary translators, some of whom have worked for Parkbench on sample translations for a French publisher and a Greek film festival. We kept up a steady online presence, through which we found translator Michael Waaler, who did the wildly successful translation from the German of Cash. My own first full translation from the French was published just this month, The Hot Rock, and there’s another in the pipeline: Kiki, a graphic biography of Man Ray’s model and the toast of 1920s Paris.

Also through web connections, we came across Sorcha Grisewood, a Dublin native now living in Abu Dhabi, where she works as a teacher. She caught my eye on the Publishing Ireland website for having a Masters in Translation Studies from Dublin City University and for her interest in breaking into publishing. Sorcha now works remotely as a part-time researcher for Parkbench, exploring new possibilities for our translation work abroad, and she has been delivering the goods by email and Skype for some weeks now, and her work has been invaluable.

By way of diversifying, Parkbench will be a patron of the Ranelagh Arts Festival, a local Dublin festival offering an impressive week-long programme of theatre, literature dance, music and the visual arts in area venues starting on Dublin’s Culture Night on 24 September – so be there or be square!

So, onwards and upwards. Plans for the coming year include building relationships with more Continental publishers, and closer to home, with our many arts and theatre festivals across the country.

Keep an eye on the Parkbench facebook page and Twitter account to keep in touch about all things translation and publishing, or indeed just drop us a line.

All the best,

Nora Mahony

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Translation Competition Launched by Harvill Secker

Harvill Secker, publisher of some of the finest literary translation going in this hepped-up commercial world, has done a good turn for young translators.

It goes a little bit like this: Argentina is guest of honour at Frankfurt this October, so they picked an Argentinian writer, Matías Néspolo, whose work is to be translated for their inaugural competition. Journalist for El Mundo, poet and novelist, Néspolo is renowned for the versatility of his style and tone. Fellow blogger Juan Pomponi does a nice run-down of his most recent work (Sp) if you'd like to get a handle on the author.

The job at hand is to translate one of his short stories, and the prize? £1,000.

Harvill Secker editor and competition judge Briony Everroad is very excited about the competition, and we were keen to get her take on this new venture:

Harvill Secker specialises in publishing international writing, and in our centenary year we decided to launch a prize to celebrate the wonderful work of translators. Around half of our list is comprised of works written in languages other than English, and it would not be possible to publish these books without translators. It’s a terribly important art, and excellence in the field can often pass unnoticed. The aim of this prize is to encourage a new generation of talent, and I hope that it will provide a much-needed opportunity for young translators to gain wider recognition for their work.’

I don't know about you, but one word leaps out of this quote for me: ART. OK, so translation is Harvill Secker's stock and trade, but it's refreshing to see it recognised as a creative talent.

As for that 'new generation of talent', translators aged 16 to 34 are encouraged to send in their translations by 31 July 2010. All details, entry form and Spanish-language text available here.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Tim Parks on the Dumbing-down of International Fiction

Tim Parks' article this week in the New York Review of Books blog, 'The Dull New Global Novel' has been making the rounds on Book2Book and through the translation and publishing Twitterati. Parks makes a noteworthy observation on contemporary writers avoiding terms, expressions and even character names that might be hard for translators to work with, or for foreign readers to understand from a cultural standpoint. Such a fear of foreignization (in the translation theory sense) is of course worrying, and would, if left unchecked, create a very bland 'world lit' altogether.

The thought of writers consciously depriving their own native readers of shared cultural references is to my mind grim, as is the assumption that an international readership couldn't somehow keep up with all the reference tools we now have at our fingertips. It is, after all, the author's creative choice to hedge his bets in this way, and the publishers' choice to encourage it.

Because ultimately, this is a debate for, by and about publishing insiders, not readers. I wonder about statements like this, on the effect of near-simultaneous publication in multiple languages:

Thus a reader picking up a copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, or the latest Harry Potter, or indeed a work by Umberto Eco, or Haruki Murakami, or Ian McEwan, does so in the knowledge that this same work is being read now, all over the world. Buying the book, a reader becomes part of an international community. This perception adds to the book’s attraction.

I think that this is a prime example of the publishing world losing touch with the reading public. I seriously doubt that most readers of commercial or literary fiction in translation ever think about their latest purchase being read around the world. Precious few are likely to give the success of the book in its home market a passing thought, unless they have a particular connection with that country, in which case they'd likely be reading it in the original language anyway.

Besides, as Parks himself says, international success (not the success of the book in its home market) is the mark of truly having made it in publishing:
In recent months authors in Germany, France and Italy—all countries with large and well-established national readerships—have expressed to me their disappointment at not having found an English language publisher for their works; interestingly, they complain that this failure reflects back on their prestige in their home country: if people don’t want you elsewhere you can’t be that good.
Interestingly, it's not quite clear who these 'people' are; only the publishers and the authors (as informed by their publishers and agents) are mentioned here, and because selling books is their business, their disappointment is in part fuelled by a desire to improve sales.

All that said, Parks' argument regarding the inflated importance of international literary prizes struck close to home. I was recently asked by Maltese publisher Merlin Library to consider the work of local author Pierre J. Mejlak, and as I worked up a proposal for a few publishers of translation, I noted with relief that he recently won a Europe-wide short story competition. All the easier to sell you with, my dear, I thought. To be fair, Malta is not France, and its national prizes (all of which Mejlak seems to have won) are unknown beyond its borders. Equally, to successfully promote just one author from such a small country would do wonders for its literature as a whole, and help to support its publishing industry. Though the national literary world may be best positioned to judge its own authors, if we don't know that world, why should we heed its judgements? Perhaps I'm a dirty pragmatist, but as so little literature in translation is sold, I'd rather help to disseminate what published translation there is than quibble about how those rare sales are made.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Seasonal Freelance Perk: Snow Days

Parkbench does it in the snow.

No big deal right? Well, it depends. I have a couple of jobs on the go at the moment, and so I'm juggling deadlines. A snow day for my clients is a work day for me; I just put on a wooly jumper and walk down the hall. They're behind, or working away from their servers on laptops or Crackberries, or they managed to get into the office, but the boss didn't, or the production manager didn't, so they're stuck waiting for a signature or a file. They can't get to the post office; the courier's not working.

'Sure', says you, 'but they get a day off, you don't.' Nyeh. I get something better – I get ahead, with no interruptions.

I'll take my snow day when the sun shines some quiet afternoon.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Translator Michael Waaler on CASH: I SEE A DARKNESS

As previously noted, translator Michael Waaler's work on the German-language original of Cash: I See a Darkness by Reinhard Kleist was so effective that the sound of the man in black himself was said to ring off the pages. So much so, in fact, that the fact that the prize-winning graphic biography was translated at all went almost entirely unnoticed – but not, of course, here!

Said Waaler of the project and on finding Johnny Cash's voice (again) in English:

"I'd long been a fan of the comic, so I was really excited when Parkbench contacted me about translating it for SelfMadeHero. The level of dedication of all those involved in creating the English edition was fantastic and absolutely essential for what was in some ways a peculiar task. There we were, translating dialogue originally written in German for a huge American icon. On the one hand we had to remain as close to the source material as possible, but on the other hand, adapt it to its extremely distinctive setting. So, I'm really happy the comic's been so well received!"

What, you say? You weren't given a copy of CASH by your delinquent loved ones this holiday season?! Well, well, well. You might just have to treat yourself.