Oxford Translation Day 2018

Every June, St Anne's ran Oxford Translation Day, a celebration of literary translation consisting of workshops and talks. The day culminated in the award of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize.

Oxford Translation Day is a joint venture of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize and Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) Research Centre, based at St Anne’s College and the Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities, in partnership with Modern Poetry in Translation.

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

Friday 8th June


Ulrike Almut Sandig, Thick Of It (2018): Book Launch and Reading

Seminar Room 1, St Anne's College

The poems of Ulrike Almut Sandig are at once simple and fantastic. Her collection, Thick of It, explores an urgently urban reality, but that reality is interwoven with references to nightmares, the Bible, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes–all overlaid with a finely-tuned longing for a disappearing world. The old names are forgotten, identities fall away, things disappear from the kitchen: everything is sliding away. Thick of It offers language at its most crafted and transformative, blisteringly contemporary, but with a kind of austerity, too. By turns comic, ironic, sceptical, nostalgic, the poems are profoundly musical, exploiting multiple meanings, and stretching syntax. Ulrike Almut Sandig read from Thick of it (Seagull Books, 2018), and presented new poems and sound pieces with her translator Karen Leeder.

Ulrike Almut Sandig has published two books of short stories and four volumes of poetry in German. She often collaborates with filmmakers, composers, sound artists, and musicians. Her new album with her band LANDSCHAFT will appear in Autumn 2018. Karen Leeder is a writer, translator and academic, and teaches German at New College, Oxford. She was awarded an English PEN award and an American PEN/Heim award for her translations from Ulrike Almut Sandig’s Dickicht (Thick of it) in 2016.


The Tongue, That Untamed Flesh: Polish Poetry, Freedom, and Silence in Translation

Seminar Room, Radcliffe Humanities Building

Ryszard Krynicki, one of Poland’s most important contemporary poets and publishers, read from his work and talked with American poet and translator Alissa Valles about the struggle with censorship and propaganda and its complex effects on language both in Communist Poland and in society today more broadly. Valles’s English edition of Krynicki's collection Our Life Grows was published by the New York Review Books in 2017. This event introduced Anglophone audiences to the scope and acute ethical and aesthetic sensibility of a major figure in European literature. A Q&A and wine reception followed.

Saturday 9th June


Translating the Name: Arabic Workshop

Seminar Room 7, St Anne's College

How can proper nouns that belong to one language, to definite spaces marred and inscribed by memories and intimacies, be translated into another language? Through a close reading of poems and drafts produced mostly ‘on the spot’ in writing workshops attended by Syrian, Iraqi and Sudanese refugees (now based in Oxford), we examined some of the problematics of translation, especially apropos the translation of the intimate in poetry. The ‘legal’ marker, that is, ‘being refugees’, does not in any way diminish what we can conceptualise as ‘the poetic-before-refugeeness’, but, instead, it gives us the opportunity to follow (in) the footsteps of these young poets as they respond to their new presences through writing, at times in two tongues: Arabic and English. This workshop, led by Yousif M. Qasmiyeh and Matthew Reynolds, drew on an on-going collaborative endeavour between Oxford Spires Academy and Prismatic Translation, whose aim is to shed light on translation as an ongoing act of writing and rewriting.

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh is a poet and translator, and tutor in Arabic at the University of Oxford. He is Refugee Hosts’ Writer-in-Residence and also the Creative Encounters Editor for Migration and Society.

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

How to Begin?: French Literary Translation Workshop

Seminar Room 9, St Anne's College

The opening lines of a novel or story present one of the literary translator’s most fun and complex challenges. In this workshop we translated the opening of a contemporary French short story, thinking about how to set the tone and establish a convincing voice. The session was run by Jenny Higgins, translator of several works of fiction and non-fiction. Participants should have had at least AS-level French.

Jenny Higgins translates from French and Italian. She has translated a range of novels, short stories and non-fiction. She has also translated Emmanuelle Pagano, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam and Rachilde.


How to Turn White Mice into Carriage Horses: The Magic Recipe for Becoming a Literary Translator

Tsuzuki Lecture Theatre, St Anne's College

So how do you get started as a translator of novels, children’s books, poetry, travel writing, and other literary works? What’s the magic spell that leads to your first publication? Translators from Polish Antonia Lloyd-Jones (whose first translation was published in 1990) and Eliza Marciniak (whose first translation was published in 2016) offered some insight into ways to get that crucial first commission, practicalities to consider, and pitfalls to avoid. They explained how to identify potential books to translate, how to prepare convincing materials for potential publishers, where to gain more information and contacts, and what special resources are available to help emerging translators, including the mentorship programme that brought them together as mentor and ‘mentee’. 

Antonia Lloyd-Jones has translated works by many of Poland’s leading contemporary novelists and authors of reportage, as well as crime fiction, poetry, screenplays, essays and children’s books. She is a mentor for the WCN Emerging Translator Mentorship Programme, and from 2015–17 was co-chair of the Translators Association. Eliza Marciniak’s first book-length translation, Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, was longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize. Her other translations include the three-volume Detective Nosegoode children's series by Marian Orłoń.


‘Write As You Will’: Translation Slam

Seminar Room 7, St Anne's College

Nicanor Parra's poem ‘Young Poets’ famously begins,

Write as you will
In whatever style you like
Too much blood has run under the bridge
To go on believing
That only one road is right.

In that revolutionary spirit, and in celebration Parra’s long life and work, we asked participants to ready themselves for a Spanish-to-English translation slam! Literary translators Rosalind Harvey and Ellen Jones were given Narra’s poem ‘Spots on the Wall’ to work on in advance of the slam. At the event, the original text and Rosalind and Ellen’s translations were supplied to the audience. Adriana X. Jacobs chaired a conversation about their translation choices, and audience members were invited to share their own translation suggestions. The idea of the slam was to pit–playfully!–two translations against each other and see what happens.

Adriana X. Jacobs is an academic and translator from modern Hebrew. Her monograph Strange Cocktail: Translation and the Making of Modern Hebrew Poetry is forthcoming from University of Michigan Press. Ellen Jones was the recipient of a Writers’ Centre Norwich Emerging Translator Mentorship and an ALTA Travel Fellowship. She has been Asymptote’s Criticism Editor since 2014. Rosalind Harvey is an acclaimed literary translator of contemporary Hispanic writing currently teaching at Warwick University.


Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts

Seminar Room 9, St Anne's College

Ellen Wiles, a British novelist, human rights lawyer, and scholar specialising in literary culture and cultural ethnography discussed her book, Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition (Columbia University Press, 2015). Her book reflects on the experiences and recent output of nine Myanmar writers spanning three generations, featuring interviews and English-language translations of their work. The audience enjoyed lively readings from the book, preceded by a discussion with the postcolonial scholar Peter McDonald. A short Q&A followed.

Modern Poetry in Translation: Jane Draycott on Henri Michaux

The Shulman Auditorium, Queen’s College

Individuals joined Modern Poetry in Translation for a reading and conversation with Jane Draycott, focusing on her translation of Storms Under the Skin by Henri Michaux, a PBS Recommended Translation. Henri Michaux (1899-1984) was one of the most original and influential figures of twentieth century French poetry, hailed by Allen Ginsberg as ‘master’ and ‘genius’ and by Borges as ‘without equal in the literature of our time’. Jane Draycott has translated poems and prose-poems from Michaux’s volumes 1927-54, including extracts from his best-loved creations Plume and the haunting realm of Les Emanglons, alongside poems written on the eve of war in Europe and during the Occupation. After her reading, Jane discussed her translations with MPT editor Clare Pollard.


‘Her name on a book now is gold’: A Day in the Life of Ann Goldstein

Tsuzuki Lecture Theatre, St Anne's College

Ann Goldstein is an American editor and translator from Italian, perhaps best known for her translations of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. Editors and writers the world over have said of Goldstein that ‘Her name on a book now is gold’. But what does it really mean to translate, to render from one language to another? Primo Levi, in a note to his translation of Kafka’s The Trial, said that as a translator he had ‘made a determined effort to balance faithfulness to the text with the flow of expression.’ In this talk Ann Goldstein discussed some of the problems a translator faces trying to follow Levi’s dictum, using examples from the various writers whose works she has translated, including Levi, Ferrante, Anna Maria Ortese, and others. Goldstein addressed as well how she came to be a translator from Italian and her process of translation.

Eleni Philippou introduced this event and Vilma de Gasperin of Oxford’s moderated this event. This event was kindly supported by the Italian Sub-Faculty.


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. The prize was presented to the winner. This year’s judges were Kasia Szymanska, Simon Park, Jessica Stacey, and Adriana X. Jacobs (Chair).

Oxford Translation Day was funded by a generous donation from Celia Atkin.