New Opportunity to Get Started in Fiction Translation

I’ve always wondered how you get started in fiction translation. I mean, translating a novel seems like such a huge endeavour, and how do you get commissioned to do that? I guess you could translate short stories or something, but how many of those get published?

So becoming a literary translator seems like one of those Catch-22 situations in which you need a body of work to secure a publisher, but you can’t build up a body of work because you don’t have a publisher. I wonder how many people have relied on connections to break this cycle and get their first gig. (By the way, I’d love to hear from translators who have found a better way than this!)

New Translation Prize Launched

Anyway, I just heard about a new prize that may change this. The Peirene Stevns Translation Prize, which was launched today, will give new and aspiring literary translators a chance to compete for a prize. They’ll each translate the first chapter of a book, and the person who submits the best translation will win £3,500, a writer’s retreat, and a contract to translate the whole book.

The first year’s prize is for Italian translators, so if you know anyone who fits the bill, please let them know about it. The deadline is 31st December 2018. It’s only for people who’ve never had a full work of fiction translation published before, and you have to pay an entry fee in the form of a one-year Peirene Press subscription.

More Details

You can find the full details on the prize page. Or here’s some information in video form, if you prefer that:

Why I Love Prizes

I suppose I’m writing about this prize because it reminds me of how I got my first novel published. I like the idea of an anonymous contest that just judges the quality of someone’s prose and awards the prize based on that. I remember the feeling of winning the prize, and I want someone else to experience that. And of course, although the cash and the writer’s retreat are nice, it’s the contract that will really make the difference for the winner. I long ago spent the money I won, but it’s the contract that changed things for me.

Although this year’s prize is for Italian translators, I think there’ll be opportunities for translators from different languages in future years. If you decide to enter, good luck! And if you know of other routes to get started in fiction translation or useful resources for aspiring literary translators, please leave them in the comments below.

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There are 6 comments

  1. I think that prizes for new writers or new translators are a great thing. Translating goes indeed seem so daunting. By coincidence I have been doing a tad of research looking to decide which translation of Anna Karenina to read. Obviously we are talking about some real heavy hitters in the world of translation. With that, everyone had to start somewhere.

    1. Hi Brian
      That’s interesting! I’d love to hear more about that research. I’ve always wondered how people evaluate translations and translators. For example, I often hear reviewers remark on the quality of a translation, but how do they know, unless they speak the original language? I can judge the quality of the English prose, but how well it reflects the nuances of the original work is another matter. I’d love to hear more about your process. I think it would make an interesting blog post on your site, if you want to write about it 🙂

  2. Hi Andrew! As you say, this is a valuable opportunity as translation is probably one of those closed worlds where you can’t get anywhere without a reputation… and you can’t get a reputation unless you’ve produced work. And with good reason. A translation is a major undertaking – a while back I interviewed several literary translators on my blog and discovered what it takes to produce a faithful adaptation of a novel. You asked about other resources… so if I may, I’ll post my link here

    1. Hi Roz,

      Wow, that’s such a useful post. Thanks! It answers a lot of the questions I had.

      For anyone who’s read this far and is looking for more info on becoming a literary translator, I’d really recommend clicking that link.

  3. Cheers! If I was replying in the spirit of the post I should be able to wield that word in another few languages. But I am English-only, which probably proves your point that proper translaters are still needed.

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