Monique Truong on the Art of Translation

Monique-Truong-214x300I’m just back from the opening ceremony of the 2015 Festival Neue Literature and the presentation of the Friedrich Ulfers Prize to legendary editor Robert Weil. There were speeches, good ones, by Weil and his laudator Harold Augenbraum. And as part of the ceremony, Festival Chair Monique Truong gave a welcoming address that turned out to be an eloquent ode to the art of translation. It was lovely. She started out quoting Benjamin, and then launched into thoughts of her own. I especially appreciate what she had to say about what the experience of being translated has meant to her as a writer in terms of contemplating her own work. Here’s an excerpt from her speech:

As an author of two novels that have been translated into thirteen languages, I know firsthand how each of these translations and their respective translators has helped to expand my world. I mean this beyond the sense of my ability to reach new readers. For me, the benefit of being translated begins at the moment of correspondence with the translator. Their questions often require that I re-examine my word choices, my double entendres, my euphemisms, and the implied and secret meanings of my character’s vocabulary. I reveal to my translators the hidden codes of my text. In fact, I consider it less of a revelation and more of an entrustment. I have created my art form, and it is now their turn. I have been fairly compensated for my art form, and they should be as well.

You can read the rest of her address on the Publishing Perspectives website, where it was posted earlier today. And when you’re done reading it, please join us for Festival Neue Literatur, including a panel about literary translation on Saturday afternoon featuring several translator-editor pairs (including me).

Big thanks to Monique Truong for her kind and wise words!

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