Interview | Aneesa Abbas Higgins | Translator of the Week

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up here in London – my father is Indian and my mother English, and at the time we were a fairly unusual family to say the least. I was always a great reader – and music has always played a big part in my life too. I’ve lived in America and in France – and I’ve travelled quite a bit, but now I spend most of my time either here in London, or in a small village in France. I sing in a choir, and spend most of my time when I’m not working either reading or coaxing my garden to grow. My family is very important to me.

Did you grow up learning and speaking different languages? What fiction in translation did you read, or rather, was available?
My father’s language is Urdu – but I grew up speaking English. I heard Urdu spoken around me, but not enough to learn to speak it myself, although I have made repeated efforts and I have made some progress. But I fell in love with French as soon as I started it at school. After that, I added German and Russian, but French was the language I absorbed the most thoroughly. As for fiction in translation, I’ve always been a voracious reader. As a child I read everything I could lay my hands on and never thought about whether or not it was translated. I remember my father reading me stories by Prem Chand when I had one of the childhood diseases we all used to succumb to, and I started reading the Russian classics as a very young teenager. Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot made a huge impression on me. And I read Anna Karenina for the first time around then too.
Continue reading Interview | Aneesa Abbas Higgins | Translator of the Week

Interview | Sophie Lewis | Translator of the Week

Sophie Lewis is a London-born writer, editor and translator from French (since 2005) and Portuguese (since 2012). She has translated works by Stendhal, Verne, Marcel Aymé, Violette Leduc, Emmanuelle Pagano, Noémi Lefebvre, João Gilberto Noll and Sheyla Smanioto, among others. She was Senior Editor at indie trade publisher And Other Stories from 2010 to 2016. In 2016 she co-founded Shadow Heroes, a workshop series introducing aspects of translation to GCSE-level students. She is now Managing Editor at the Folio Society. This Tilting World by Colette Fellous, published by Les Fugitives on 16 September, is her latest translation.

Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in London?
I grew up in Islington in North London. I’m happy to call myself a born and bred Londoner, though my parents were not from here, nor were their parents from where they grew up.
I spent my childhood and adolescence in London, and was back and forth between Oxford, Paris and London as a student. My big, very sensible adventure was a move to Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of 2011. My husband got a teaching job there and we took a weekend to decide this was a great plan, despite never having set foot on the continent before. It was a great plan. We stayed for four and a half years. Now we’re back in London we can’t help speculating about making another similar move, though to somewhere as different again. Languages play their part, of course. Continue reading Interview | Sophie Lewis | Translator of the Week

Spotlight | The seemingly unstoppable boom in indie publishing & The Republic of Consciousness Prize

Indie Publishing vs. Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

With commissioning editors at mainstream publishers increasingly under the corporate cosh, any literary submissions calculated to sell less than 5000 copies are turned down regardless, which leaves the field open for independent publishers to come in and have a go at the roulette table imagining winners that might come their way.

An experienced commissioning editor may be able to spot high-quality writing and know their target readership, but s/he is no less a gambler than anyone else playing the publishing game. Their gut instinct counts for little in the corporate boardroom nowadays, even though the way in which advances are calculated is an inexact science, and tales of legendary rejections make for juicy water-cooler chat. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected 12 times before being picked up; Gone with the Wind got the thumbs down 32 times; Under the Frog 22 times; Dune 20 times; and The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected so many times it was self-published.

Smaller publishers generally avoid formulaic writing for the genre market, provide greater personalised support, and as opposed to a vanity press do not ask the author for money. Added to which crowdfunding has become a more than viable option, not only to raise funds, but to develop a community of readers ahead of publication (Peirene Now! No. 3, Shatila Stories was recently successfully funded with 327 backers pledging £13,350 via Kickstarter). Best not confuse authors self-publishing their own books only generally via a digital platform such as Amazon or Kobo with indie publishers; the term indie authors would be more accurate.

According to a recent report in The Guardian, “Independent publishers have unleashed a boom in sales,” and “turnover across the Arts Council England-funded portfolio surged above its budget by almost £100,000 this year, reaching £277,930.”

Continue reading Spotlight | The seemingly unstoppable boom in indie publishing & The Republic of Consciousness Prize

Interview | Julian Evans | Translator of the Week

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I spent half my childhood in eastern Australia, on the edge of the Coral Sea, where I went to a school whose motto was “Every pupil a good swimmer”. That sub-tropical beginning, living barefoot, catching lizards, going to the beach every week, meant that when my parents brought me back to foggy, suburban south London, to an undreamt-of land of rain, shoes and no lizards, I was instantly on the lookout for another somewhere to run away to. Luckily I was sent to France at the age of thirteen on a school exchange, and that was it. I found languages easy to learn – French and German first – and I followed that relaxed path through school and 3 years at Cambridge, but as Søren Kierkegaard says, life is understood backwards but has to be lived forwards, so while I was successfully getting out of England as often as I could, I began to understand that easy didn’t necessarily mean the same thing as satisfying. So I tried other things: I wrote (in secret), I pestered a publisher for a job, I interested myself in what was being written in France and Germany. When I became a publisher’s editor and bought the rights to a French novel by Michel Déon called Un Déjeuner de soleil, I awarded myself my first translating job. Later, when I started writing more determinedly (i.e. wanting to get published), I realised what a really useful starting-off point translating had been. Looking back much later, I see that I’ve been incredibly lucky: languages seem to have taken me everywhere I’ve wanted to go.
Continue reading Interview | Julian Evans | Translator of the Week

Interview | Frank Wynne | Translator of the Week

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Sligo, Ireland and while I was a good student, and a precociously gifted musician, I did very little to maximize my talents. I went to Trinity College Dublin to study English and Philosophy, but as a young gay man just coming out (in a conservative, deeply Catholic country), I feel in love, slipped off the radar and left university without finishing my degree. It was the end of my first real relationship that prompted me to move to Paris (to a country and a city I have never visited, with rudimentary secondary-school French that I had never been called on to speak aloud). From there, a series of curious but fortunate accidents led to me translating bandes dessinées, working as a publishers’ reader and finally, in 1998, embarking on my first literary translation. So, while I am passionate about languages, and cannot imagine anything more fulfilling than literary translation, I can hardly claim that I had a career path, or worked towards it. In fact, it never occurred to me that I would be “allowed” to translate novels, assuming vaguely that such herculean feats were reserved for some rarefied species.

When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you?
From a very early age, I was a voracious reader – not that our house was filled with books or my parents were particularly bookish, but I haunted the local library and read anything and everything I could lay hands on. My early reading tastes were probably no different to any boy of my generation: C.S. Lewis, Emil and the Detectives, Richmal Crompton and later Tolkien, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein and A.E. Van Vogt. By my teens, I was reading Joyce and Woolf and Dostoevsky (I was idiotically precocious, and my reading of them was through a glass darkly) and marvelling at what words could do, how they could create worlds, affect moods, inspire thoughts, mould dreams. I was determined to be a writer. I wrote my first (truly awful) novel at about fourteen, my second (modernist, sub-Salinger) novel at about sixteen. Thankfully, neither has survived to embarrass me. Books, for me were both a world, and an escape from the world.

Continue reading Interview | Frank Wynne | Translator of the Week