MET workshops

Editing literary translations: a hands-on experience inspired by MET’s Sea of Words project

As translators and editors, we help authors achieve the English texts they wish to publish. When we do nonliterary work, this entails using accepted terminology, respecting genre conventions, and so on. But in an effort to help authors pass as native English speakers, must we sacrifice an author’s voice or stifle our own creativity? Do we flatten authors’ texts when we’re overcautious? Do we sometimes succumb unnecessarily to the tyranny of corpora and genre conventions? Do we stay so “close to the center” that we fail to lend our better authors strong voices?

This workshop, inspired by MET’s ongoing Sea of Words project*, presents holistic tasks based on a literary text: through editorial work and discussions, participants will explore the nature of a specific text, the author’s voice, and our own roles as wordsmiths and facilitators. Our aim is to give participants a taste of what some of us in the Barcelona area have been enjoying—and benefiting from—since the spring of 2011. The experience has the potential to give us a new perspective on our work.

Developers: Kelly Dickeson, Aisha Prigann

Facilitator: Kelly Dickeson

Purpose: To provide a setting in which language professionals—even those who do not normally work with literature—can gain valuable insights about text management through a collaborative literary editing task.

Description and structure: The workshop will open with some background information on MET’s Sea of Words project* and a very brief discussion of why group-based literary editing is of interest to both literary and nonliterary language service providers. We will then split into small teams to edit an excerpt from an English translation of “Origini,” a short story by Italian author Alfredo Zucchi. After the first round of editing, we’ll introduce a few translation-theory concepts that might provide a framework for discussing the issues that arise when we edit. The teams will then regroup for a second round of editing, and we’ll leave time for each team to share their results and experiences with the entire group.

Who should attend? Any curious translators, editors or other language professionals. Participants do not need to know Italian (the source language of the story to be edited) or have any professional experience with literature.

Outcomes: The tasks and discussion have the potential to help us gain insight into ways of broadening or deepening our engagement with texts and how to manage them. The facilitators gained a heightened awareness of the trade-offs involved in translation choices; a new appreciation of the reader’s tolerance—even desire—for the unusual; and familiarity with a less rigid, more “writerly” style of working.

Pre-workshop information:

  1. Participants are asked to familiarize themselves with the objectives of MET’s ongoing Sea of Words project by reading the description of this year’s Barcelona-based workshop.
  2. On your enrollment, we will send you two of the short stories we worked on during the first year as “before/after” files—for relaxed reading. We hope these files will further clarify the project for you, illustrate the quality of the stories, and whet your appetite for the workshop.
  3. Shortly before METM12, you will receive the English translation of an excerpt from the short story “Origini” by Alfredo Zucchi. You will be asked to read the translation and do a short pre-workshop task involving the first paragraph. There is no requirement to know the source language (Italian).

About the developers

Kelly Dickeson translates freelance in a range of fields and has recently been focusing on medicine. She joined the Sea of Words project in 2011 out of pure curiosity and has now been enthusiastically involved for two years.

Aisha Prigann specializes in translations for the arts and culture sector and writes a commercial blog as well as her own works of fiction. A strong interest in literature and literary translation led her to join the Sea of Words project in 2011. In 2012 she took on the task of collating editorial input for one of the stories.

* MET’s Sea of Words project was conceived as a setting in which participants can discuss the linguistic, psychological, ethical and cultural issues involved in helping authors achieve the English texts they wish to publish. Now in its second edition, the project revolves around the group-based editing of the English translations of prize-winning short stories from the Sea of Words International Short Story Contest, sponsored by the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) for Dialogue between Cultures.