Editorial at JPAAP

PrintI started my first day with JPAAP without any clear idea of what goes on behind the curtains of academic publishing. I will shamefully admit to having been too tempted by the glamorous fiction market to have spent much time thinking about academia.

All I knew was that I was going to be working in the editorial team as a proofreader/copyeditor on their next issue. So, on my first day I took the lift up to the seventh floor feeling slightly intimidated… Continue reading “Editorial at JPAAP”

Bringing Translated Classics into the Future

I went to London Book Fair with the intention of sitting and listening to all the wise publishers talk, keeping my ears open for something to help me bring all my crazy dissertation ideas into a neat little plan. The Literary Translation Centre had many interesting talks, where they discussed promotion of translated fiction and the issue of prejudice against minorities both inside and out of the country. But with my combined interest in the digital medium, the talk ‘Translating Conrad’ had me sold.

Chair Dr. Stanley Bill introduced the three speakers Dr. Magdalena Heydel, Jacek Dukaj and Catherine Anyango, having translated Conrad’s Heart of Darkness into words, visual art and digital art, respectively.

The conversation started off saying how classic authors were limited to their ways of expressing their ideas, and today we have technology to bring these classics into a new generation and a new medium. Stories like Heart of Darkness, where Conrad packed visual impressions into words, have a lot of emotions to play with, opening the argument of using visual technology and art to express the story.

Catherine Anyango’s illustrations were especially powerful, and as I remember the story, a true way of expressing Conrad’s vision. But an argument we need to be aware of when translating into another art form is: is it a translation or an interpretation?

Catherine Anyango turned the words of Conrad into images and illustrations by playing with colours and moods mirroring the story, and she specifically mentions the ethical issue of who owns the narrative, something she says to have stayed true to in her translation. The visual could help and compliment the text where the words might not make as strong an impression as they ought.


I was brought back to my undergraduate studies as Dr. Magdalena Heydel started talking about her translation of the text into polish. The discussion of what is British literature and where does Conrad fit in, she started with an important point to make: Conrad, as a polish man, was not a polish writer. Dr Heydel opened up the interesting question of whether there is a difference in a writer writing in their second or first language and whether that affects the easiness or difficulty in translating someone’s words. She said compared to Conrad, Virginia Woolf writes just as complex sentences, but she is more difficult to translate into Polish.

Further, Dr. Heydel talked about the difficulties and challenges when translating a classic text into another language for a modern reader. She decided to remove the archaic style in her translation, and she spent a lot of time picking the appropriate words to trigger the same emotions Conrad’s words does.

Another challenge she talked about was how social and cultural language has changed since Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness. The challenge of classic texts is the words that we no longer use. Dr. Heydel took a risk by analysing what Conrad meant with his chosen words and translated those into Polish words carrying the same meaning in Conrad’s time period. How does one translate a classic text for a modern reader, without changing what the author meant?

This is near to impossible as one would have to know the author’s thoughts behind the text was, and a translator may end up changing the author’s views by changing a word. The translator then has the power to make the author more or less racist depending on which words they use in the translation.

This discussion raised a question for me: Are we supposed to translate classics based on what we know of the author (racist, feminist, etc.) or should we focus on it as a stand-alone text?

Tonje H.

Twitter: @tonjehefte
Instagram: tihefte

Post-Brexit: Challenge accepted

Do publishers have a cultural and moral responsibility regarding what they decide to publish? I have always lived with the idea that reading allows me to walk in other people’s shoes, and that again gives me a better picture of the part of the world I can’t see from my own shoes. I liked this idea, because I could get to know other cultures without having to travel.

“There is no Frigate like a book
To take us Lands away” (Emily Dickinson)

But then again, my point of view is from a minority language whose book market largely consists of translated titles.

On Friday (3rd March) I went to SYP’s conference 101: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and not surprisingly, the main topics of the day were Brexit and the discussion of diversity.

On the topic of Brexit: we don’t know what’s going to happen, and we need to admit that. As publishers we have the power to influence readers and challenge the inward point of view it scarily looks like many are turning to. Instead of standing horrified on the side-line, a new way to look at the situation could be that we are the ones that decide what’s going to happen, to an extent at least. We are perfectly positioned as an industry to challenge the inward looking market. One of the first things they told us on this course is: Lead the change.

I think that Brexit has proven that it is time for translated books and other cultures to become more visible in the Anglophone marketplace. We need to push away from the white middle class and introduce more diversity to the market. But we need to introduce it as it is, and not hide the fact that it is translated. The publishers have to take a risk and challenge the readers.

“How can we get to a place where we are more comfortable with change and difference?”
(Alby Grainger, Little Shop of Heroes)

On the topic of translations, we had Dr Stephanie Craighill come in and talk to us about translations in Europe compared to the UK and US a couple of weeks back. The Anglophone market is not used to other cultures because, historically, it hasn’t needed to be. Unless you go looking for it, which plenty of readers do (in increasing numbers too), readers don’t want a book to appear translated. What does that mean? Is it the different cultural voice that makes it appear translated, is it that the reader doesn’t identify with the character, or because the language doesn’t flow as well as you would expect a first-language text to do? Is it the author’s fault or the translator’s? I can’t answer these questions, I just ask them. Anglophone Publishers seem to stick to the idea that translated books don’t sell, but is that true? Names like Haruki Murakami, Jo Nesbø and Han Kang come to mind. And lets not forget the classics like Dostoevsky and Kafka. These classics have become a part of our international culture.

“Internationalism: What does that mean for us now in the creative industries?”
(Janet Archer, Creative Scotland)

At SYP’s conference this question was asked in regards to EU funding and travel and the business side of the industry. But it applies to the more romantic, naïve “I just want to make books” side of publishing too.

So, I’ll leave you with one last question: Do we as publishers have a responsibility to give readers more diverse shoes to walk in?

Tonje H.

Twitter: @tonjehefte
Instagram: tihefte