Monday, January 10, 2005

PEN Translation Fund

The Translation Committee of the PEN American Center assists literary translators and promotes literary translation in the U.S. That's a difficult job, seeing how few books from other languages are translated into American English every year (apparently, the situation isn't much better in the U.K.). About a year and a half ago, PEN was able to establish the Translation Fund, using an anonymous donation of $730,000. As the website explains, the fund's "purpose is to promote the publication of translated world literature in English." The projects can be from any language; they can be fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and drama; and they may be re-translations. Individual awards range from $2,000 to $7,000. That may be enough to quit a a job (or take a leave of absence) in order to focus on a book.

Last May, the first ten grants were awarded to translators working from ten different languages. Only three of the translators had a publishing contract for their project. Everyone else was working on spec, as is so common in the U.S. (and basically unheard of in my native Germany). The deadline for the secound round of awards is January 15--probably too late to submit an application now, but something to keep in mind for next year.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

"A Language Only You and Eight Other People Understand ..."

Ok, this doesn't really concern literary translation, but it's exciting to see that a UN interpreter is the focus of Sydney Pollack's new movie, a political thriller called, well, The Interpreter. And she's played by Nicole Kidman. In the trailer Kidman wears sensible (but sexy) black and white clothes, glasses, and no make-up. She has her straight blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, lives alone, and spends her nights sitting at home playing the recorder. An accurate thumbnail of most translators and interpreters. Right.

Translating lacks glamor (not that all translators do ...), but hey, now we've got Nicole Kidman as our pop culture matron saint. The movie opens April 22. Sean Penn and Catherine Keener are also in it.