Oxford Translation Day 2021

This year, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxford Translation Day took place as online events over a series of weeks leading up to 12 June 2021. Video recordings of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize award announcement and of the shortlisted translators were made available on 12 June 2021. Please find the programme below, in partnership with Queen’s Translation Exchange.

Monday 31st May


The Curse of Knowledge: The Translator as Perpetual Student

Online via Microsoft Teams

Anton Hur, the English translator of Bora Chung’s Cursed Bunny, described “the curse of knowledge” in translation, or the various ways an otherwise learned and well-meaning translator can inadvertently sabotage their own work, a common occurrence in a profession where the practitioners tend to be highly educated and often marginalized. Drawing from his own experiences as a professional literary translator, Anton talked about the helpful and harmful effect of education in translators, the factors of translators’ positions in society that lead to certain artifacts in the product, “the perfect bilingual problem”, and how translators can break the curse and the various false binaries that bind their practice in order to grow not just as translators but as readers and human beings. Anton explored the double-sided nature of knowledge, discipline, and theory as relevant to his own process of bringing Cursed Bunny into English, combining (or queering) the two “genders” of translators—theorist and practitioner—to propose a learned but intuitive practice tailored to and by the specific translator.

Anton Hur was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He is the English translator of several Korean authors including Kyung-Sook Shin, Bora Chung, Sang Young Park, and Jeon Sam-hye, as well as the Korean translator of Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Anton was educated at the Korea University College of Law and Seoul National University Graduate School and has taught at the Ewha University Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation and Yonsei University. He divides his time between Seoul and Songdo, Korea.

This event is held in partnership with the Queen's Translation Exchange.

Friday 11th June


A Discussion and Reading of Max Lobe’s A Long Way from Douala

Online via Microsoft Teams

A Long Way from Douala is the first publication in English of a work by Max Lobé, a Cameroonian writer hailed as an important new voice in African writing. His poignant novel explores important issues, such as violence, terrorism, homosexuality, and migration.

At this online event, Ros Schwartz, the novel’s acclaimed translator, discussed and read a passage from the novel. This session also included a Q&A with the audience.

Ros Schwartz is a literary translator from French into English who lives in London. Among many other things, she has translated Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, sixteen of George Simenon’s Maigret novels and a range of contemporary French works of fiction and nonfiction, including Mireille Gansel’s Translation as Transhumance. She has translated a number of Francophone writers, namely Ousmane Sembène, Fatou Diome, Aziz Chouaki, Tahar Ben Jelloun and Yasmina Khadra. She is co-chair of English PEN’s Writers in Translation committee and gives regular talks and workshops. Her translations have won a number of awards, and in 2009 she was made a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

A Discussion and Poetry Reading of Vaan Nguyen’s The Truffle Eye

Online via Microsoft Teams

We joined Adriana X. Jacobs to discuss and read poems from her translation of Vaan Nguyen’s The Truffle Eye. Vaan Nguyen has been described as “a veritable juggler of Hebrew,” a poet whose work radically remixes world classics and pop culture, the personal and the political, past and present. Born in 1982 in Israel to refugees of the Vietnam War, Nguyen’s debut collection The Truffle Eye addresses questions of identity and cultural legacy from what she has described as “points of emotion and shock.” Her poems travel far and wide, between Tel Aviv and Hanoi, taking in views of Manhattan, Paris, Milan, Salzburg, Pasadena and more. Through these movements, Nguyen reflects on how our lives take shape in the daily migrations we make between lovers, family, work, and the places we call home.

Adriana X. Jacobs is an associate professor of modern Hebrew literature at the University of Oxford, where she specializes on contemporary Israeli poetry and translation. Her translations of Hebrew poetry have appeared in various print and online venues, including ZeekMetamorphosesTruckPoetry InternationalGulf Coast and MQR

Saturday 12th June


A Discussion and Poetry Reading of Abdilatif Abdalla’s Voice of Agony

Online via Microsoft Teams

Abdilatif Abdalla and Annmarie Drury read from Abdalla’s poetry collection Sauti ya Dhiki (Voice of Agony), one of the most important Swahili poetry collections of the twentieth century, and discuss its art and the story behind it. Imprisoned from 1969 to 1972 for his political activism, Abdalla wrote his poems on toilet paper. First smuggled out of prison, they were published after his release, in 1973, by Oxford University Press. Abdalla and Drury talked about the book’s first-ever English version, a forthcoming volume translated by the late novelist Ken Walibora Waliaula and edited by Drury, about the experience, challenges, and rewards of creating that volume, and about the link Sauti ya Dhiki has to the poetic tradition of Abdilatif’s birthplace, the coastal town of Mombasa.

Abdilatif Abdalla is a Kenyan poet, political activist, and literary translator best known for his poetry collection Sauti ya Dhiki (Voice of Agony, 1973), written while he was in prison. He has published literary translations into Swahili (including of Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born), worked for the BBC Swahili Service, and held teaching positions at the University of Dar es Salaam, SOAS University of London, and the University of Leipzig.

Annmarie Drury is a scholar and poet who translates from Swahili to English. She is the editor and translator of Stray Truths: Selected Poems of Euphrase Kezilahabi (Michigan State UP 2015) and the author of Translation as Transformation in Victorian Poetry (Cambridge UP 2015), as well as of many poems published in RaritanThe Paris Review, and other journals. She is an associate professor of English at Queens College, City University of New York.


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

Video recordings of shortlisted translators for the 2021 Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize reading from their work and a video recording of the announcement of the winner of the 2021 Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize were made available on our YouTube channel.