Translation criticism: Whom are we reading?

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.

Recorded conversations:

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:

Authors’ fees

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

Marketing activities

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

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