Welcome to the CEATL Companion for Literary Translators’ Associations, a platform dedicated to Literary Translators’ Associations looking for advice, encouragement or simply inspiration.
This guide concentrates on some of the main challenges that existing or aspiring Literary Translators’ Associations face, and makes suggestions based on case studies and experience gathered over the years from European Associations members of CEATL.
Make sure you check the categories listed on the menu in the upper page and see if they suit your association or if they could be useful resources to make it grow.
Learning from each other is a great tool, so please do share with us your success stories for developing strategies or overcoming hurdles, using the Contact page.
Thank you and good luck, from CEATL Best Practices Working Group
The Good, The Bad, The Translator is a short video filmed on the occasion of a panel discussion on the role of translators in (world) literature. As we wanted to make something different from the usual “translators are praising themselves constantly repeating why their role is crucial in creating a corpus of world literature and why good translation is important”, we invited several eminent writers to say what they think about translators and translating their works, and what translated literature generally brings and means to them. The following Croatian writers translated in other languages participated in the project: Miro Gavran, Ivica Prtenjača, Kristijan Novak, Ivana Bodrožić, Monika Herceg, Asja Bakić, Drago Glamuzina and Zoran Ferić. The result is a short, 4-minute-long mosaic that you can see on our Youtube channel:
select the people in charge of the coordination and production (1 person), cameraman (1 person) and editor (1 person – in our case, the cameraman did also the editing)
contact and invite the writers
organize the filming and setting
filming and editing
Budget: 1.955,00 euros (filming and translation/subtitles)
The project “In the Translation Ring” (U prevodilačkom ringu) consists of a series of translation duels. No worries, no swords just words.
How does it work?
The moderator (or “arbiter”) decides on the text that will be translated and sends it to the two duellists a few weeks before the event. They send them back the translated text week before the event (or a message “just one more day, please”) so the moderator can decide on the talking points for the event. At the event, the original text and both translations are presented to the audience. Different solutions are discussed, as well as the translation process itself, peculiarities of certain genres, challenges of “translating” cultural differences and much more. Our first events were held live, but due to a pandemic, we, later on, moved to virtual space. However, this form works great in both ways, so virtuality has in no way damaged its dynamics.
What do we translate?
All forms of literary texts, short stories, extract of novels or poems. Until now, we had Duels dedicated to poetry, canonical texts, science fiction/fantasy, literature for children, contemporary novels etc. We held Duels for the translators from English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German, and the target language is always Croatian.
Why do we do that?
We believe, and experience has shown, that this is a great way to promote literary translators and to demonstrate why literary translation is a legitimate form of art. The audience gets to see two different translations that are both valid but can lead to a very different reading experience, and thus become aware of the role of translators and of the importance of having a good translation.
Second, it’s not often that a translator gets a chance to see “their” text translated differently. It’s very illuminating, and we have learned a lot in the process, be that as participants or as the audience.
And last but not least, it’s fun.
What is the cost of the project?
Around 500 € per event. We held 10 events to date.
P.S. No translator was harmed during this project.
You can check some of the events on the following links:
The idea for the Translators’ Portraits (Prevoditeljski portreti) project was born amid the pandemic. As the Association we wanted to make sure that all our members are safe and sound. As our work is often lonely in the best of times, we thought that it would make sense to create small networks of support among our members. The core idea was to connect older or more experienced members with younger or less experienced so they could share experiences, worries, and hopes, as well as get a chance to communicate with colleagues. From that, the project developed into series of interviews. It proved to be a great encouragement for everybody involved: younger translators got a chance to get to know more experienced translators and to learn from them (some of them were lucky enough to meet their role models in translation); older translators could share their experiences, talk about their work and times past and were shown that they’re by no means forgotten, but remembered and appreciated; we (Croatian Literary Translators Association) helped develop better communication among our members and got a series of important testimonies which could serve as sort of monument of time, but also as a way to review changes in working and cultural conditions; and the wider community could enjoy in the final product which is series of interesting interviews that offers a glimpse in the past and present work of literary translators and get a better idea of the importance of our work. All interviews are written and have four universal questions that are repeated with slight modifications in all of them and one extra question which interviewers formed based on their interests.
Participants: in the first “season” in 10 interviews participated ten interviewees and eight interviewers + coordinator for the project; in the second season which is currently running there are 12 interviews and 12 interviewers.
Književni trenutak (The Literary Moment) is a series of 16 short radio shows broadcast every two weeks for eight months. The main idea was to ask literary translators on the one hand, and literary critics, theorists and writers on the other to speak about translated literature (not the same one, everyone chooses a different book). The goal of the project is to bring listeners closer to reading and encourage them to reach for a quality book. In order to spread awareness of the role of literary translators and strengthen their visibility in the media space, each participant places special emphasis on the translation itself, thus paving the way for the development of translation criticism. Since our main idea was creating a modern, urban show different from other shows dedicated to culture, each one of them is accompanied by a musical number that adequately evokes the atmosphere of the presented work, and we hired four actors and actresses who interpret the selected passage to give listeners additional insight into the text. The result is a mosaic of brief conversations about translated literature and the importance of reading, short enough to intrigue the listeners, and yet highly professional.
– Arrange cooperation with a radio station and journalists who will host the show
Infinite Translation 1 & 2 are two videos filmed 15 years apart. The idea was to create a mosaic of short monologues/conversations with members of the Croatian Literary Translators Association – the main goal was to present the individual realities of being a literary translator in Croatia. The translators were asked to talk about the tools and technologies they use, time management, negotiation with publishers, work-life balance (especially during the pandemic), valuable advice and anecdotes. It was interesting to see how the job changed in the course of 15 years, especially from the perspective of those who participated in both videos.
How-to: – select the people in charge of the coordination and production (2 people), cameraman (1 person) and editor (1 person) – devise a detailed plan (timeline, deadlines etc.). It took us three to four months from the initial idea to completion. – send out an open call to all members – contact those who responded (we had 15 interested translators, so we limited the videos to 5 minutes per person), send them a list of questions/topics they can choose from when planning their talk. – organize the filming. Some translators, for health and distance reasons, chose to record themselves via Zoom, and some were filmed by our cameraman. – filming and editing. Tip: try to keep the original videos as short as possible, otherwise you will have a hard time leaving out some great material 🙂
Paying attention to the developments in the field of Croatian literature in translation and trying to come up with some new ways to show the importance and complexity of literary translations and their authors, we came up with the project entitled Translation criticism: Whom are we reading? The idea was born from the fact that, although the situation in Croatia has been improving when it comes to the visibility of translators, and our names are mentioned more often than not, there are still book reviews and critical essays which analyse style, register and linguistic aspects of works, while completely disregarding the fact that those are the translator’s, not the original author’s words that we are reading.
We started the project in cooperation with the Croatian Writers’ Association and tried to strike up a conversation, under the premise that both literary critics as well as literary translators could benefit from a fresh perspective. The idea was also to explore the possibilities of joining forces in an effort to take good care of the text during its afterlife, to put it into Walter Benjamin’s words. We wanted to see a) if it was at all possible to write literary criticism of a translated text starting with the premise that somebody needed to translate that text first i.e. that there is a conscious presence of a translator between the original and the target, and b) what are the concrete ways in which one could take that fact and presence into consideration.
We kicked off the project by organizing four panels/conversations. They were designed and chaired by the same person, and each time with two different guests: one literary translator and one literary critic.
The first conversation explored the idea and tradition of literary criticism, and translation criticism in particular, and together with a historical overview, offered a diagnosis of the current state of affairs.
The second one centered on the idea of the translator as writer and focused on examining different genres which could accommodate the future translation criticism.
The third panel focused on the translations of children’s literature and ways of writing about it.
Last but not least, the fourth concentrated on the translation of poetry, poetics of translation and the role of style.
All panels took place in a bookshop in Zagreb and were live-streamed, recorded and posted to YouTube channel of the Croatian Literary Translators’ Association as well as published on our social media. All four of them had a lot of views and comments and great response from the wider public, even outside the communities of critics and translators. Content-wise, within conversations, we took care to maintain a good balance of translation and literary theories, practice and experience, while insisting on a great deal of examples from literature in translation.
We are currently preparing a list of all the works that were mentioned and referred to during these conversations, hoping that they could be useful for students of literature and translation as well as for researchers.
Furthermore, we identified the wish and the need to go on with the project. The first step was to build a new platform to accommodate new texts, since many of our guests at the panel mentioned that – although they all agreed that there existed a need to inaugurate translation criticism, they don’t know where one could publish that format. This is why we established a sub-page on our website, and we plan to invite more literary critics, writers and translators to send their contributions to translation criticism in Croatia.
Budget for the initial part of the project – four panels:
• 750,00 kn x 8 guests/participants (6.000,00 kn) – cca. 800,00 EUR • 750,00 x 4 chairperson/moderator (3.000,00 kn) – cca. 400,00 EUR • 3.000,00 x 4 livestream (12.000,00 kn) – cca. 1.600,00 EUR • 875,00 x 4 marketing/mail/phone/website updates (3.500,00 kn) – cca. 460,00 EUR • 3.500,00 office expenses (3.500,00 kn) – cca. 460,00 EUR
TOTAL: 28.000,00 kn (3.720,00 EUR)
Budget for Translation Criticism follow-up:
1. project coordinator fee – 1.347,08 kn – cca. 180,00 EUR 2. writers’/contributors’ fee – 10 x 1.347,08 kn – cca. 1800,00 EUR
TOTAL = 14.817,88 – cca. 1980,00 EUR
1. adding new web functionalities/expanding the existing web platform – 2.000,00 kn; cca. 270 EUR 2. social media marketing – 800,00 kn, cca. 100 EUR TOT. = 2.800,00 kn, cca. 370 EUR
March 2020: During the very first days of the COVID-19 crisis in Italy, a health care institution in Milan asked renowned children’s author Roberto Piumini to write something for youngsters that addressed the topic. This gave rise to a children’s rhyme that spoke about the Coronavirus in a gentle, lighthearted and caring manner.
After being posted on Facebook, the poem instantly spread and quickly went viral. So viral, in fact, that Italian translators’ associations STRADE and AITI together with CEATL (Conseil Européen des Associations de Traducteurs Littéraires), and FIT (International Federation of Translators), decided to expand the project on a global scale by launching the initiative, joyfully embraced by the BCBF (Bologna Children’s Bookfair), of translating the poem into a variety of different languages.
Over forty translators from all over the world enthusiastically volunteered to take part in the project, which formed a playful carousel of languages (English, French, Spanish, Galician, Catalan, Basque, Ladin, German, Russian, Dutch, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Czech, Swedish, Norwegian, Greek, Danish, Lithuanian, Afrikaans, Lesotho, Tshivenda, Kalanga, Hebrew, Polish, Slovenian, Croatian, Finnish, Turkish, Chinese, Arabic, Slovak, Hungarian, Quichua, Georgian) to be read and listened to. The BCBF also published an audio or video lecture of the translations and a short biography of the translators.
This linguistic merry-go-round is a virtuous example of best practices because of the synergy created between translators, translators’ associations from all over the world and an international children bookfair like BCBF.
And is a good example of the healing power of words, which thanks to the author and the translators involved, entered homes during a period of social isolation that was difficult for both children and adults.
As Roberto Piumini writes:
Words are presents, words are seeds,
they’re gifts that we have plenty of
and if they’re good they’re all we need,
when we’re apart, to grow our love.
Last but not least, the project demonstrates the delicate and enriching cultural and social function of translators in connecting different languages and different ways of living and thinking. As translator Mulalo Takalani member of SATI (South African Translators’ Institute) wrote: «I am so happy to be part of the team for the translation of “Is There Something In The Air” into my language Tshivenda, it puts Tshivenda language on the map».
In 2020 and 2021, bookfairs were cancelled due to the global corona pandemic. Many panels took place virtually such as this international roundtable about the working conditions of children’s literature translators.
The speakers – CEATL and FIT representatives, child lit translators from the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, France, Germany and Italy – talked about what it means to translate books for children, reminding the audience that is as difficult as translating adult literature. They illustrated the working conditions in the different countries as well as the Ceatl Code of Good Practices or Hexalogue and the Guidelines for Fair Contracts.
The invitation to an international children’s bookfair like Bologna was an important opportunity to explain what child lit translators do, give them more visibility and, as FIT president Kevin Quirk said: “stand up for our rights.”
Ode to Translators of Children’s Literature
On this most momentous day Let bells peal and flagpoles sway. Let’s raise our gazes and sing the praises Of literary translators in every way.
For you are the ones who make thousands of choices While lending your readers your very clear voices Reflecting the cadence and the tone Of utterances soppy or dry to the bone.
Whether it’s text or speech, you do your best Ask any one of us; it’s always a test Of your envious strengths as you work your magic On texts highly serious or even most tragic.
Whether it’s trashy non-fiction Or literary greats, You create understanding You’re truly outstanding!
You deserve to be praised You deserve to be proud! You deserve a poem to be read out loud!
A success story from Slovenia about the newly-established translation residency “Sovretov kabinet” ‒ “Sovre’s study” (Dol pri Hrastniku, Slovenia) run by the Slovenian Association of Literary Translators (DSKP).
In 2019, Marko Funkl, the newly-elected mayor of the Municipality of Hrastnik, offered DSKP a small renovated flat in the town of Dol pri Hrastniku to be used as a translation residency. The mayor himself has a background in translation and is very active in promoting culture in his municipality. Moreover, the Municipality of Hrastnik is the birth place of a renowned Slovenian classicist, Anton Sovre, after whom our best literary translation prize—the Sovre Prize—has been named. The local public library also bears his name.
The agreement between the municipality and our association has been that we can use the flat rent-free as long as we refurbish it ourselves and do the general maintenance work. Most of the furniture we bought new, some we received as donation from our members, and the mattress was donated by a local company that sells bedding and mattresses. At 48.45 m2, the flat has a living room and a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a small storage room. There are a post office, a shop, a restaurant, a café, and a bus station close by, as well as a little cultural gem: the Zmajeva luknja (Dragon’s den) antiquarian bookshop, run by the Rast Association. It is a hub for literature aficionados and culture lovers in general. The local public library has donated a transferable membership card for our residents, as did the local public transport company.
The residency program was launched in 2020 and, because of to the COVID pandemic, it welcomed its first residents in June 2021. It is open to translators of literary, humanities and social sciences texts who have published at least two book-length translations. In selecting candidates, priority is given to translators translating from Slovenian, whose translation project will help promote Slovenian literature and humanities abroad. The purpose of the residency is to facilitate independent translation projects by individuals. Successful applicants commit to participating in at least one cultural event organised by DSKP. DSKP provides for their accommodation, a flat rate for travel expenses amounting to EUR 200 and an EUR 200 fee for participating in 1-2 events organised by DSKP.
The Association of Catalan Language Writers (AELC), in collaboration with the Ramon Lull Institute, has inaugurated a new innovative consultancy programme that will match literary translators working in the same language pair, one of which is Catalan, with the aim of improving the quality of translations from Catalan in other languages and vice versa.
Participants will benefit from the insight and the expertise of a peer and qualified native speaker of their source language throughout their work on their translation project. In addition, the programme seeks to build an international network of professional translators working with Catalan.
The hope is that this new experimental scheme will be picked up by other cultural institutions that support literary translations, helping not just improving the quality of translated literature but also develop collaborative communities of literary translators.
For more information on the programme itself, as well as on how to apply, please visit: