Oxford Translation Day 2017

On June 3rd, St Anne’s College ran Oxford Translation Day, a celebration of literary translation consisting of workshops and talks throughout the day at St Anne’s and around the city, culminating in the award of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. 

Oxford Translation Day is a joint venture of Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) Research Centre and the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, in partnership with the Oxford German Network and Modern Poetry in Translation.

All Oxford Translation Day events were free and open to anyone, but registration was required.

Saturday 3rd June


Masterclass in Chinese to English Literary Translation

Seminar Room 7, St Anne's College

Owing to the incredible success of Nicky Harman’s masterclass on Chinese to English literary translation in Michaelmas 2016, OCCT decided to REPEAT this event. Focusing on a single paragraph from Jia Pingwa’s 2007 novel Happy (《高兴》), we looked at the process of a working translator, with an eye to issues particular to Chinese-English translation. Through examining both the translator's drafts and and her final version, we discussed the practical problems of translation, starting with sentence structure, terminology and (nick)names. Nicky then unpicked the cultural references, both implicit and explicit, and finally considered the author’s intentions for this paragraph. The conversation then opened up for discussion, as the translator posed the question of whether her translation succeeded in recreating the same effect in English.

All were welcome. No knowledge of Chinese was necessary. A few short preparatory readings were circulated in advance to facilitate audience participation.

French Translation Workshop: Translating Conversations with Jenny Higgins

Seminar Room 9, St Anne's College

In this practical workshop explored ways of translating dialogue. This can be one of the most difficult things a translator ever has to do, but also one of the most interesting and creative. Using examples from fiction and film, participants worked together to produce and compare translations. Run by Jenny Higgins, translator of several works of fiction and non-fiction, this was a fun, challenging workshop aimed at opening up fresh ways of thinking about translation. Participants should have had at least AS-level French.

German Translation Workshop: “Proverbs – Sprichwörter”

Seminar Room, Radcliffe Humanities Building

While the English phrase 'to be like a bull in a china shop' is nearly the same in German, the animal is different (an elephant in this case). Some proverbs actually exist in both English and German - but the devil is in the detail. In this workshop, we explored the literal meanings as well as the metaphorical semantics of selected German proverbs. Proverbs are extremely difficult to translate while at the same time they can be seen as a gateway to a culture and its history. As 'frozen phrases' they preserve a meaning that may have been forgotten even by contemporary native speakers. This session offered activities to translate word by word as well as guessing contexts, introduced the semantic history of some phrases and linked it to English proverbs, that have a similar meaning (or have they?). Clare Ferguson, translator and previously Head of German at Magdalen College School, led this workshop.

Some knowledge of German was preferable: participants were welcome with anything from a few informal phrases to advanced knowledge of the language.


Translation: Practice vs Theory

Seminar Room 9, St Anne's College

Translation and translation theory have a complicated relationship. Theorists sometimes criticize translators; translators sometimes wish that theorists would shut up and get on with actual translations. And yet the work of translation can be enlivened by theoretical proposals, while theory has much to learn from close attention to translators' varying practices. People were invited to join the writers, translators and theorists Matthew Reynolds, Karen Leeder and Adriana X. Jacobs to explore this explosive terrain (and maybe witness a few skirmishes).

Matthew Reynolds is a literary academic, novelist and scholar of translations, author of (most recently) Translation: A Very Short Introduction. 

Karen Leeder is an academic who writes among other things about literature and translation, and a prize-winning translator of modern German literature (especially poetry) into English.

Adriana X. Jacobs is an academic and translator from the Hebrew. Her monograph Strange Cocktail: Translation and the Making of Modern Hebrew Poetry is forthcoming from University of Michigan Press.


From Press to Public: Publishing Translated Literature

Seminar Room 7, St Anne's College

We invited representatives from three publishers (MacLehose; And Other Stories; Granta/Portobello) to explore the dynamics of publishing translated literature. Arranged in a “conversazione” format, these publishers informally discussed the marketing, economics, problems, and delights of publishing a genre that comprises a tiny percentage of the UK book market. The publishers was joined by Dr Rajendra Chitnis, an academic who recently completed a report on translating the literatures of small European nations. His project involved extensive engagement with translators, publishers, agents, booksellers, and national and third-sector bodies. The conversation was chaired by Dr Eleni Philippou.


The Bold and the Baltic: Women’s Writing from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Seminar Room 7, St Anne's College

At the moment the publishing industry’s attention is focused on the Baltic region as Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have been selected as the market focus for the International London Book Fair in 2018. Although Baltic countries share a great deal of history, there are still significant enough differences among them to make their individual literary scenes unique and distinctive. This event brought together Baltic authors, translators, and literary critics to explore and showcase the female literary voices that have emerged from each of these countries since the breakdown of the Soviet Union. They asked: What are the idiosyncrasies and prevailing themes of women’s literary expression in each country? What do these female voices share? What does it mean to translate femininity? This event took the form of a conversation interspersed with short readings of contemporary Baltic women’s poetry and prose.

This event was kindly funded by the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian embassies and cultural institutes.


‘I am a double-voiced bird’: Poetry in Dialogue

Seminar Room 7, St Anne's College

Ulrike Almut Sandig started publishing her poetry by pasting poems onto lamp posts in Leipzig and spreading them on flyers and free post cards as part of the ‘augenpost ohrenpost’ (eyemail  earmail) project. She is an electrifying performer who works with film, sound installation, music and spoken word to bring poetry to new audiences and is as likely to be found performing with rock groups as in conventional poetry venues. This session introduced her new libretto for the 1927 film Berlin: A Metropolis as well as some of short film and sound poems and opened into a discussion about how poetry can be in dialogue with other languages and other art forms. No knowledge of German was required to attend this event.

Ulrike Almut Sandig (b. 1979) has written two volumes of prose as well as sound works, CDs and four volumes of poetry, most recently ich bin ein Feld voller Raps verstecke die Rehe und leuchte wie dreizehn Ölgemälde übereinandergelegt (2016).

Karen Leeder is an academic and translator from the German. She won an English PEN award and a PEN America PEN/Heim award for her translations of Sandig in 2016.

[CANCELLED] A Conversation with Bernard O'Donoghue

Magrath Room, Queen's College

Bernard O'Donoghue had been scheduled to discuss and read from his new translation of Piers Plowman with Sasha Dugdale, editor of MPT, and Charlie Louth, Fellow in German, Queen's College.


Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize Short List Readings and Prize-Giving

Tsuzuki Lecture Theatre, St Anne’s College

The Oxford–Weidenfeld Prize is for book-length literary translations into English from any living European language. It aims to honour the craft of translation, and to recognise its cultural importance. It is founded by Lord Weidenfeld and funded by New College, The Queen’s College and St Anne’s College, Oxford. Those prize was presented to the winner.