Greatest Women in Translation: Linda Coverdale


Created by Érick Tonin

Happy New Year, dear readers! I hope you have had a great holiday season and are ready to rock 2020.

Let’s start by welcoming our first interviewee of 2020, Linda Coverdale, nominated by Ros Schwartz.

Linda Coverdale

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1. You told me that once you wandered into translation, you “took to it like a hermit in a cave, Saint Jerome in flip-flops.” How did you wander into translation?

By accident, at long last. Both sides of my family loved books and languages, and my parents even moved to France for a year so their young children could soak up French. Back home again, I studied Latin, Spanish, some German, kept reading, wrote stories, but worried that writing was too vague and risky to bank on for a profession. Good at biology, dreaming of oceanography, I picked my university early for its bio department, then barely survived bio-chemistry. Once at Brown, I listed French as my major, just to tread water for a while. Fascinated by ancient Egypt ever since I fell spellbound forever as a child, in my one and only experience of religious awe, before seven massive statues of the lioness-headed goddess Sekhmet in a dim and deserted hall at the Met, I eagerly took courses in Egyptology, and felt grounded again. Then I learned that the department chairman had mastered fourteen languages, plus the three types of hieroglyphics. So: another misfire.

Then French literature became a wonderland, and the junior year abroad was an adventure in all directions. Discovering the critical and literary works of writers like Blanchot, Richard, Poulet, and Bachelard led me to graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University, where Derrida, De Man, Deleuze et al were holding court before Yale lured them away. The doctoral program’s year in Paris brought courses at the École normale supérieure, the École pratique des hautes études, the Sorbonne—and playing hooky at the Cinémathèques of Chaillot and the rue d’Ulm. My French dissertation was a labor of true love: Les romans d’Albertine, all because I’d sneaked the Scott Moncrieff Remembrance of Things Past from my parents’ bookshelves when I was about twelve, and God only knows what I made of it, but that die was cast. Offered a good teaching job, however, I balked. I’d had teaching fellowships, was a good teacher, revered the profession, but it deserved a passion I definitely did not feel. Another chilling impasse.

Writing my dissertation, I’d begun drawing at night when the brain had stopped Prousting but was still ticking over, and someone suggested that I’d gotten things backwards, because my drawings were good. Naturally, I went to art school, the Parsons School of Design. Those were marvelous years, but I have never pulled as many all-nighters as I did there, because with art, you see at a glance if something works or not, and it doesn’t matter how long you worked, if it doesn’t. But no one will hire you until your portfolio proves that someone else already has.

Now I had four degrees, but no job. I worked renovating houses, painting murals, and as production manager first on an indie movie, then in a small publishing company, where the accountant told me one day that Richard Howard, French translator extraordinaire, had two Roland Barthes books on deck but time for only one, and so, my friend Keith continued, he had volunteered my services. Oh no, I said, I know nothing about translation. Too late, replied Keith, I told him you can write, know French—and studied with Roland Barthes. Trapped. So, why not, I did my greenhorn best with The Grain of the Voice. The publisher called with another book, by a Cambodian girl who’d seen her family murdered by the Khmer Rouge. Adopted out of a Thai refugee camp by two Czech exiles in Paris, she’d spent a year weeping and raving in Khmer, dancing out her story while her adoptive mother tamed her gently, taught her French, and helped her write everything down. Again, I did my best, and have done so ever since, because the books kept coming. And they have taken me around the world, through the best and worst of humanity.

As for Saint Jerome, patron of translators, he keeps a skull for company, and ducking into that cave is how we translate. I pop in earplugs to enter the zone, where you feel at one with the “reeling and writhing” of French and English, words sluicing around among thoughts, on the page, shifting this way? That way? And you always, always, listen to what’s in your head: what does it mean? How does it read?

For example, I saw that my first Echenoz novel, Ravel, was less comic, more serious than the earlier books, with a “real” protagonist, yet still playful, with an elegance suited to the mannered but ultimately tragic figure of Maurice Ravel. And the novel opens . . . in his bathtub! “On s’en veut quelquefois de sortir de son bain.” En vouloir à, a convoluted expression of long history, means to reproach, be angry at, bear a grudge toward, resent, blame; s’en vouloir de doubles down: I regret, I’m irritated/furious/pissed off at myself, could have kicked myself. That’s trouble right there: “One is sometimes angry with oneself for getting out of one’s bath.” Stodge! French relies on “one”; British English finds it useful; American English uses it sparingly. That all-important introductory sentence went through kaleidoscopic changes, because the rest of the paragraph is a precise, slightly disdainful description of fussing over getting out of the tub while avoiding a possibly embarrassing injury, folderol that often required readjusting the whole paragraph to rebalance it. Finally, the first sentence wound up, simply, “Leaving the bathtub is sometimes quite annoying.” That fit the mood, sense, rhythm, and tone of the paragraph, even though the French sentence had three elements of a “self” now absent from the English. Reading later in an interview that Echenoz had had real trouble with his opening sentence, I felt relief, but learning that he’d settled happily on an alexandrine, I quickly checked my English: twelve syllables! Close enough. Sometimes you know more than you think you do.

I can now see how all my wandering was useful, even necessary, for my translations. Voracious reading stocked my mental reference library: I remember—in Technicolor—daring to pull The Brothers Karamazov from a school library shelf for a book report when I was eleven. Madness! But that book and all the others shoved new words and challenging syntax into me as if force-feeding a goose. The years in France provided vital firsthand knowledge of French life as it is lived, saving me from many a pitfall. My approach to translating has always been to make the English text reflect not simply what the French says, but also what it means to French readers. Languages and music helped me with the varied rhythms of an English text. Art school and museums taught me to decipher and compose images, while the study of literature and criticism let me make increasingly complicated sense of what I read, the vital requirement for correctly inflecting a translation in the subtlest ways.

In the end, I achieved my childhood ambition to become a writer, since fidelity in translation isn’t slavish faithfulness to words and syntax, but the result of skilled critical interpretation. Translators have different ways of remaining true to the French originals, and just as painters interpret what they see, so do we each see a French text through our own eyes, and tell readers what we saw, and for our reports to be moving, we mustn’t “copy” the original, but give our words a full-bodied life of their own. That life is our art, a re-creation, from melting down the French in our minds and recasting it in English.

Helped immensely by family and friends, teachers, publishers, editors, authors, and other translators, I finally and gratefully settled into my true vocation.

2. You were in the French-American Foundation (FAF) Translation Prize jury for 17 years and describe the experience as priceless. Why? What have you learned in those 17 years reviewing fiction and non-fiction book samples and helping provide finalists in each category?

The cast of characters on that jury shifts over the years, but a tableful of translators, university professors, and the odd literary figure guarantees passionate discussion and even some melodramatic extravagance. When I once questioned a new juror’s support of a shoddy translation, he proudly announced that he hadn’t checked any French texts, but simply bestowed his “discerning eye” upon some select English samples. Appalled, I asked him, nicely, just why he was on a translation prize jury, whereupon this emeritus professor remembered an urgent appointment and vanished, trailing his scarf. Silence. “Well,” remarked the FAF chairman with a smile, “that was interesting!” He always said sitting in on our jury was the most fun he had all year.

And it was fun, but I also discovered how bad a translation can be, even from a respected publishing house. British publishers seem to have more in-house French expertise, and their quality control is more reliable than ours. That’s the depressing aspect of the jury: slowly (or immediately!) realizing that a translator is overmatched, and sometimes vastly so. Things can become surreal: I remember a sample by the head of an American university French department who had translated classics of French literature, but whose English at times went berserk, to the point of changing farm boys sliding down a haystack into a child locked in a crowded broom closet. Another well-known translator produced a text so insanely muddled that I suspected senile dementia. How had these travesties made it into print? Of course the major problem is not knowing enough French, but more insidious is sloppiness, inattention to the original text, especially if it only seems simply written. Paying insightful attention to details is crucial, so when the translator is an insensitive reader, the English may be grammatically correct, even easily readable, but the full French text has faded, and this holds true for both fiction and non-fiction. Over the years I saw several versions of Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America, and the variations in quality among those texts was remarkable.

I think my major accomplishment on the FAF Jury was eventually persuading them to drop their shocking rule allowing translators on the jury to vote for themselves. And the chief lesson I learned was: how to wheel and deal! It’s literary horse trading. We all arrive at the voting luncheons knowing what we want, but as we wrangle and reflect, titles rise and fall in favor, points are conceded, loyalties swayed, darlings abandoned. A proper prize jury with sixty or seventy bilingual submissions to review (with three samples each in French and English) is a vast amount of work, but the drudgery and disappointments are forgotten in the end, when all vote on the finalists, and the winners emerge. So the Prize Luncheon was always a joy. Serving on that jury was a master class in the good, the bad, and the ugly, but the best submissions were a restorative delight.

3. You say you only translate works you can do justice to and feel a bond with. What book have you felt the greatest bond with and has touched you the most?

There are so many truly special ones! I’ll say Slave Old Man by the Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau, whose first novel my friend Keith (intervening fatefully again) asked me to review in 1986. Chronique des sept misères was an absolute stunner, but when Carcanet offered to buy it for me, I knew it was too difficult. That hurt. In 1995 André Schiffrin of New Press provided what became Creole Folktales, Chamoiseau’s English debut and my first venture into his world. I was exploring French Caribbean literature, legends, plants, proverbs, history, vaudou, Creole culture in all its forms, amassing books, Xeroxes, glossaries, scribbled notes, prowling tiny NYC libraries, seeking Martinican contacts, especially during visits to the French Caribbean.

My next step was his School Days in 1996, and when my first love returned years later, I was ready: the magical-comical saga of the Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows appeared in 1999. L’Esclave vieil homme et le molosse had come out in 1997 and it was breathtaking, a creation myth of such heart and purity! But it had already been bought over here, so I was crushed. When I later learned from a casual remark that L’Esclave was back in play after almost twenty years (my second second chance at a Chamoiseau treasure!), I pounced. And then the battle began.

The molosser, a huge dog of an ancient breed, became a “mastiff” in English and vanished altogether from the title due to sales rep feedback, but in all else, New Press supported me magnificently in my translation, which was daunting. A few books have driven me to nervous exhaustion, deep despair, and this one did. A simple tale: pursued by the ferocious dog and its master, a mute slave bolts from a long-ago Martinican plantation into an ancient rain forest, where this ordeal will transform them all in extraordinary ways, for they enter an overwhelming physical reality, a wild, lush jungle of life and decay into which the reader plunges as well, as the novel’s powerfully intricate language entangles us in an evocation of nature beyond all human control. Space and time meld in this living maze, where, revived in his lost identity and freedom, the old man reclaims his voice, and is whole again.

The book is as dense as some exotic new element, sinister but beautiful and embodied in a language that belongs in a way to itself alone. It bristles with Creole words, phrasings, and plenty of Chamoiseau-speak. French syntax is artfully tweaked until it becomes a kind of pepper pot, that perpetual stew kept going by Caribs and Arawaks who continually tossed whatever they had at hand into the communal caldron. I have had to reshape English in other books, notably in the Rwandan reportage of Jean Hatzfeld, matching the peculiarities of Belgian- and Kinyarwanda-inflected French to individual witnesses, and here I can only say that you must let your mind go, trust your instincts and your homework, and hope they deliver the goods. One of the three Hatzfelds won the Scott Moncrieff, another was a finalist, and I was ecstatic with relief.

Histoire means both “story” and “history” in French, and in Chamoiseau’s story of a slave’s flight into the unknown, he offers a cryptic history of the Caribbean, where plantation owners used their own languages as a weapon of control over their traumatized slaves, who then turned that weapon against the oppressor: plantation storytellers said more in their homemade Creoles than their listening masters could ever understand, taking care, as Chamoiseau says in his Creole Folktales, to speak in a way “that is opaque, devious—its significance broken up into a thousand sibylline fragments.” Which, if you think about it, is a fine definition of poetry. The mystique of the plantation slave Storyteller, sustaining the spirits of his flock with a lifeline to their vanished homelands, is the Creole soul of Chamoiseau’s writing, so willfully opaque, ludic, cruel, the voice of multitudes, a theme that empowers all his fiction and essays.

In this novel are words and references from the history, culture, and natural world of Martinique, as well as both creolized and arcane French, because Chamoiseau is a free-range writer. “My use of French,” he writes to his translators, “is all-encompassing.” French readers are more familiar with this background material than are English-speakers, however, so while the author does not want any Creole dimension of his work spoiled by the reductive ideal of “transparency,” some light must shine on these sibylline fragments for them to signify at all for the Anglophone audience. I tried to make any explanatory material unobtrusive, while moving this text into English with the least possible distortion.

The majority of the Martinican Creole and creolized French words remain intact in the translation, either easily understood in context, or clarified by me with a descriptive word or two, or paired with an English meaning: “djok-strong,” for example. For more complicated words or a short phrase, the English appears immediately next to the italicized original text. Some words, as well as almost all the deeper background references (customs, places, etc.), are marked with an asterisk and explained in my endnotes, all listed by the number of the page on which they appear, in case any readers prefer to check batches of endnotes in advance.

Here is a look at the creolized French in the novel’s opening sentence: “In slavery times in the sugar isles, once there was an old black man, a vieux-nègre, without misbehaves or gros-saut orneriness or showy ways.” In Martinican Creole, neg means both “man” and “people.” It is the default term for any Creole person of color. It also means: a black man, any mixed-blood person, a servant, a friend, and has many compound forms, such as neg-lakanpay, a country fellow, and gran-neg, a pretentious man or uppity youngster. The Creole vié-neg is not necessarily derogatory—vié means “old,” as well as “ugly,” “horrible,” “shoddy,” even “diabolical”but here simply means an “old man, who is black.” Gros-saut looks like “big-jump” in French, but the Creole gwo-so breaks down as follows: gwo means big (among other things), and so can mean a bucket, a hard tumble, a waterfall, and the kicking of a harnessed horse. The expression fè gwo so refers to that last meaning, and its figurative sense is thus “to kick, lash out at, be ornery.” So: the context suggests the interpretation.

Writing with both studied care and fond disrespect for words, Chamoiseau is not only free-range, but free-form. His syntax, lexicon, and punctuation (or lack thereof) can even be technically incorrect in French, but must be respected—in this disrespect—by the English. In this novel, language not only tells the story, it is the story, an enactment of the subversive action it describes, and as the slave old man moves into a disorienting but exhilarating new dimension, Chamoiseau’s parlance does too. As with poetry, the reader makes sense of the text, as an active audience for this storyteller. In the end, as Chamoiseau has said, créolisation is a matter of expressing a vision of the world, and my aim was to make that vision accessible to the English-speaking reader in its moving and mysterious glory. Regarding the prickly counterpoint of sound and sense, and in homage to the orality of the Creole he champions, Chamoiseau sums up his instructions to his translators with triumphant glee: “I sacrifice everything to the music of the words.”

In the service of Chamoiseau’s short tale, I felt like a spider endlessly prowling the Web. Dozens of books were read. Months of research and headaches produced the end notes and afterword essay on the author and his enigmatic mentor, Édouard Glissant. The challenge of translating this novel I could not face again, but living, lively language like this is rare and lovely, and it is irresistible. Any translator who has experienced real discouragement and travail will understand my happiness in saying that the translation went up for four prizes, and won three. I love this book.

4. You say the FAF takes its prize very seriously—and that you may even nominate someone from amongst those you have met over the years. Besides your nomination, why don’t you recommend for us a great (fiction or non-fiction) book you have reviewed or that has already won the FAF?

For non-fiction, here are two superb biographies that won the prize, huge books about two extraordinarily different men who crammed more into their lives than seems humanly possible:

Bonaparte: 1769-1802 by Patrice Gueniffey, translated by Steven Rendall (Harvard University Press)

Jean Cocteau: A Life by Claude Arnaud, translated by Lauren Elkin and Charlotte Mandell (Yale University Press)

And for history, anything translated by Arthur Goldhammer, five times winner of the FAF prize, the only translator I know whose publishers permit his editing (when sorely needed) and whose grateful contemporary authors welcome it.

In fiction, Lydia Davis’s translations of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (Viking/Penguin Group) and Proust’s Swann’s Way (Viking Press) both won the prize. Of course.

5. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I nominate the poet and translator Jody Gladding, a finalist for the 2004 prize in fiction for Jean Giono’s The Serpent of Stars (Archipelago), and who won the prize in 2009, along with the author, translator, teacher, and horticulturist Elizabeth Deshays, for their translation of Pierre Michon’s Small Lives (Archipelago). Both books explore the deep bonds between the human soul and la France profonde, and the juries were unanimous in celebrating the extraordinary match between the French and the translations, so sensitively attuned to the rich yet delicate beauty of the authors’ impassioned voices.

Guest post: Contabilidade para freelancers

Sejam bem-vindos de volta a mais uma publicação convidada!

As coisas por aqui estão conturbadas neste fim de ano; por isso, as publicações estão bagunçadas. Mas aqui estamos nós com a última convidada do ano, a Paulinha Vianna, que criou o aplicativo de gerenciamento de projetos e contabilidade para tradutores, o 2Manager.

Bem-vinda, Paulinha!


Crédito: Austin DistelUnsplash

Quanto custa o seu tempo?

Quanto tempo você gasta na sua rotina de contabilidade? Sendo freelancer, sem uma equipe para fazer isso por você, você já parou para pensar no tempo que gasta para organizar suas finanças?

Atualmente, sempre que me procuram me pedindo alguma dica de finanças e eu começo a perguntar da rotina financeira, sempre recebo as seguintes respostas: eu tenho uma planilha do Excel (que mal preencho) ou faço controle no papel (bloquinho, post-it, desktop). E nunca, nunca mesmo, há planejamento financeiro no curto ou médio prazo. Trocando em miúdos, a pessoa não sabe se pode parcelar um computador novo, por exemplo, pelo simples fato de que não sabe corretamente o que tem para receber (apenas uma ideia aproximada, devido ao volume de trabalho).

Eu não sei vocês, mas essa falta de informação não serve para mim: eu preciso ter controle do meu dinheiro o tempo todo. Quanto, em dinheiro, estou fazendo no momento (mas ainda não cobrei), quanto estou para receber e, por fim, quanto já recebi e devo enviar ao contador para fazer a minha contabilidade. Mas não dá para perder tempo com essas informações, nem para produzi-las e coletá-las. Você, assim como eu, freelancer, sabe que nossa ferramenta mais valiosa é o TEMPO. E se gastamos nosso tempo nos organizando (ainda que de maneira eficaz), não produzimos – e consequentemente – não ganhamos dinheiro.

Recentemente, eu tive uma experiência com o meu programa de gestão financeira que, sinceramente, me valeu tudo o que sempre recomendo para as outras pessoas. Organização, disciplina e atenção ao financeiro, tanto quanto às minhas traduções.

Aconteceu de um cliente entrar em contato me pedindo para rever os valores que ele já tinha pagado, pois ele acreditava que estava me pagando em duplicidade. Claro, qualquer pessoa pode dizer que não é preciso muita disciplina para resolver isso, basta ir no bankline e tirar uma cópia do extrato. Sim e não. Se você faz isso, tem que se lembrar (e eu sou péssima em lembrar qualquer coisa) de quando o cliente te pagou ou então, como disse antes, perderá tempo fazendo essa checagem. E esse foi o grande “pulo do gato”! Eu entrei no meu controle financeiro e tinha exatas duas faturas pagas, uma vencendo e outra para o mês seguinte. Em 30 segundos, eu tinha toda a informação necessária, passei para o meu cliente e o problema estava resolvido. Agora ele sabe qual o valor que me deve e qual já tinha pagado (nenhum em duplicidade).

Ao retornar com a informação em 30 segundos (que, de qualquer outra forma, eu demoraria ao menos 1 hora), eu economizei meu tempo (continuando a me dedicar à tradução do dia), evitei erros (porque a informação ali estava correta) e evitei estresse (tanto para mim quanto para o meu cliente).

E se eu não demorei nada para coletar essas informações, menos ainda eu gasto para produzi-las. Para um controle eficiente, qualquer que seja o método, a disciplina é o único caminho. Então, sempre que chega um novo projeto, eu o lanço na ferramenta assim que recebo o aceite do cliente.

É fator calmante para mim, e para o meu nível de estresse, saber onde o dinheiro está. Assim, nos momentos de desespero, quando acho que estou “indo à falência”, eu abro a ferramenta e vejo todos os dados prontos, todos os valores. Isso me acalma mais que Rivotril. 😀

Por isso é tão importante o controle financeiro, ainda mais quando somos CEO, head de contabilidade, a moça do café e a faxineira da nossa empresa. Não podemos delegar essas tarefas, a não ser para nós mesmos. E numa rotina puxada como sei que a sua é, não dá para perder tempo com gestão ineficiente.

É muito importante, então, que você analise friamente o seu controle financeiro: ele atende a todas as suas necessidades, tanto na gestão de informação quanto na gestão do tempo? Porque se ele não atende a um desses requisitos, agora pode ser o momento ideal para você mudar e fazer diferente em 2020, agregando tempo ao seu dia a dia, para conseguir se dedicar ao que realmente importa: o seu negócio.

Eu, Caroline Alberoni, decidi mudar em 2020 e trocar o Excel por uma ferramenta de gerenciamento de projetos e contabilidade: o 2Manager, da Paulinha Vianna. A ferramenta já está instalada no computador, pronta com todos os meus clientes e informações necessárias para que, a partir de 1º de janeiro de 2020, eu possa começar a usá-la para valer! Bora ser mais controlado e organizado financeiramente comigo em 2020? Assine a minha newsletter e aproveite a oferta especial de fim de ano que enviarei na próxima segunda-feira.

Sobre a autora
WhatsApp Image 2019-12-08 at 20.06.21Paulinha Vianna é a criadora e fundadora do 2Manager – o app do freelancer. Uma ferramenta de gestão financeira personalizada para o seu negócio em que você tem o controle do dinheiro por toda a cadeia produtiva: desde a hora que o projeto chega até a retirada final dos lucros.

Greatest Women in Translation: Ros Schwartz


Created by Érick Tonin

Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Our nominee today is Ros Schwartz, nominated by Lucinda Byatt.

Welcome, Ros!

Ros Schwartz

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1. You were a consultant on the revised Robert and Collins French-English/English-French Dictionary! That is so cool! I’ve never met anyone who has worked on a dictionary before – and I’m guessing most of my readers haven’t either. So, could you tell us a bit more about this experience?

That was so long ago that I’d forgotten about it! It was in the pre-fax, pre-Internet era. The publishers had assembled a pool of ‘experts’ – I have no idea how they got hold of my name or why they thought I was qualified. Every so often, they’d mail out a list of ‘problem’ terms, by snail mail. We were told to ignore the ones we didn’t know and to provide any information we could on words we did know. I think my most memorable contribution was “front-loading washing machine”.

2. You translated the 2010 edition of The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and your translation was even shortlisted for the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation, in 2013! Again, so cool! Could you also tell us a bit more about this experience of translating such a world-famous children’s book?

At first, I felt thrilled and honoured, and then I was overcome with awe and trepidation. Knowing that this work is a childhood favourite, frequently described as ‘one of the greatest books of all time’, that readers would be familiar with Katherine Woods’ 1943 translation or Irene Testot-Ferry’s translation in the Wordsworth Classics edition of 1995, I had to decide whether or not to look at the existing translations. I chose not to. I knew that if I did, they would lodge in my mind, and everything I wrote would be either be a reaction against my predecessors’ strategies, or it might seem that they had found the best solution and whatever I did would not measure up. So my first key decision was to treat this as a completely new translation and to ignore what had gone before. A peek at readers’ hostile reviews on Amazon of a third translation by Richard Howard, published in 2000 and which offered a streamlined, modern take, eliminating the quaintness of the 1940s language, set my alarm bells ringing. People retain a fondness for books they loved as children, no matter how weird or wooden the translation.

The next question was register. Did I want to keep the 1940s feel, modernise, or try and find a more neutral, timeless tone? I opted for the last. I decided to avoid using contractions other than in dialogue, so as not to sound too contemporary, and also to use them sparingly as a device to distinguish the author’s narrative voice from speech and from the author’s voice when addressing the reader.

My first step was to read the French text aloud, which helped me decide on my overall approach. What emerged from this reading was that the French sounds deceptively simple. The lightness and seemingly effortless poetry of the language can turn into plodding prose if translated solely for meaning. For example, after the narrator crashes his plane in the desert, he falls asleep on the ground, ‘à mille milles de toute terre habitée’. Translated literally, this becomes ‘a thousand miles from any inhabited land’ – which is a thousand miles from the airiness and alliterative music of the French. So here, as in many other places, my choice was governed by rhythm and poetry rather than literal meaning, and I plumped for ‘miles and miles from any living soul’. Because music is such a crucial aspect of the French text, I invited my then 19-year-old daughter Chloe to work with me. She’s very musical and has an unerring ear for notes that jar. And yes, she’s credited in the book.

The little prince’s signature phrase ‘S’il vous plaîtdessine-moi un mouton’, again so light and airy in French, risked sounding clunky in English: ‘Please… draw me a sheep’. Not something I could imagine coming out of a child’s mouth. The book’s illustrations show not a sheep, but a lamb. Of course. Children talk about little lambs. Mary had a little lamb. Little lamb alliterates. I checked with a French native-speaker colleague who concurred with my gut feeling that the little prince meant a lamb, which is further evidenced by the author’s own illustrations.

Occasionally English offers an opportunity for wordplay in the vein of Saint-Exupéry where the French doesn’t. Describing the businessman, the little prince says ‘ce n’est pas un homme, c’est un champignon!’. The word ‘champignon’ is a little baffling – the phrase  could translate as ‘he’s not a man, he’s a mushroom/toadstool/fungus’. I felt justified in using a word that works both visually and verbally: ‘And all day long, he repeats just like you: “I have serious matters to attend to! Worthwhile matters!” and that makes him puff up with pride. “But he’s not a man, he’s a puffball!”’

Translating The Little Prince was both hugely challenging and hugely rewarding, and I was grateful for the opportunity to revisit a book I’d loved as a child and to gain a far deeper appreciation of Saint-Exupéry’s genius.

3. The first book you translated was a book you had read that you felt you had to translate. In this interview, you say you “had no idea how publishing worked, no ‘strategy’,” and that you learned on the job. What did you “learn on the job” with this first-time, hand-on experience?

I learned how translation rights are sold, and that the first thing a translator needs to do is approach the rights-holder for permission to champion the book. I also discovered how to pitch an idea to potential publishers and that you need to make the business case for them to consider a title. And the experience taught me that it takes a lot of energy, commitment and time to find a publisher ­– in this case five years.

4. In this same interview, you say “Translators have an important role to play in bringing works of interest to publishers’ attention. […] Publishers are too busy to keep up with everything that’s being published all over the world, and we can act as a valuable filter.” Based on your experience, how do you think translators, particularly beginners, can approach publishers with a book translation offer?

By acquainting themselves with the publishing landscape and approaching publishers whose interests are suited to the book in question. And then writing a compelling proposal (identifying the market) and producing a sample translation that really sings. I have written detailed guidelines on pitching which are available here.

5. You translated Translation as Transhumance, by Mireille Gansel. Could you tell us a bit about it?

Traduire comme Transhumer was sent to me by Gansel’s friend, former publisher Nicholas Jacobs, who was determined to see the book translated into English and was seeking a translator to champion it.

I devoured the book in one sitting, experiencing that visceral sensation of falling in love. This short, exquisitely written volume – an intricate blend of memoir, reflections on the act of translation and a celebration of the power, beauty and music of language – had a profound resonance for me, both personally and professionally. Like Mireille Gansel I come from a multilingual Jewish background and have been fascinated with languages from a young age. Like her, I have been a translator for many years. For me, her succinct observations express the essence of what translation should be.

The child of Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution, Gansel grew up in France imbibing Hungarian, Yiddish and the German of Mitteleuropa from her family. As a translator from German into French, Gansel gave voice to East Germany’s persecuted and exiled writers. She tracked down the poet Reiner Kunze and the playwright Bertolt Brecht, knocking at their doors and smuggling their words across the Berlin Wall and into the West.

When America declared war on Vietnam, Gansel wondered what she as a poet and translator could do in the face of Curtis E. LeMay’s declaration that the US would “bomb ’em back to the stone age”. The answer for her was to learn Vietnamese and take herself to war-torn Vietnam to seek out the poets so as to translate their words. For her, translation is a profoundly political engagement, and she commits herself body and soul to every act of translation. There is no boundary between her life and her work.

Translation as Transhumance encapsulates Gansel’s conception of the translator’s role as being akin to that of the shepherds practising the centuries-old Mediterranean tradition of transhumance. The long, slow journey as the shepherds make their way from one village to the next is rich in cultural and linguistic exchanges. Translators too are pastors, open to different cultures, reaching out to the other and transmitting literature across borders.

Gansel’s writing is imbued with her humanity, her humility and her boundless curiosity – an inquisitiveness she displays in person too. When I first met her she showered me with questions, so strong is her impulse to reach out to the other. She has a deep connection to the land and those who work on it, and is equally at home among her shepherd friends, whose way of life she campaigns to preserve, as she is among poets and writers.

There is something about this book that has touched a chord in so many people, creating an entire ecosystem of interest and support, and leading to true friendships between all those involved in its publication.

6. From all the books you have translated so far, what’s your favorite as a reader?

That’s like asking a mother which of her children is her favourite!

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

Linda Coverdale, translator from French.

Guest post: Diferenças culturais entre Japão e Brasil

Bem-vindos de volta à série de convidados!

Hoje tenho o prazer de receber a queridíssima Anna Ligia Pozzetti, intérprete de japonês.

Bem-vinda, Anna!


Crédito: Alain PhamUnsplash

Bilíngue e bicultural: o tradutor e intérprete completo

Ao assistir a uma peça de Kabuki, tipo de teatro tradicional japonês, um estrangeiro desavisado pode ficar intrigado com os ajudantes de palco, vestidos dos pés à cabeça de preto, que entram em cena para auxiliar a troca de roupa dos atores durante as apresentações. Eles são chamados de Kuroko (黒子), e os dois ideogramas utilizados significam “preto” e “pessoa”. Mas o que essa palavra significaria caso fosse usada em uma reunião de negócios, sem nenhuma relação com qualquer linguagem artística japonesa? Significa alguém que ajuda os outros sem aparecer em público, alguém que dá suporte nos bastidores: um consultor externo, um conselheiro e, também, o tradutor ou intérprete. Expressões como essas estão presentes em todos os idiomas e, muitas vezes, precisamos realizar adaptações para que uma expressão faça sentido em outra cultura.

Um intérprete profissional consegue rapidamente realizar essas adaptações com sucesso, pois não basta ser bilíngue; é também preciso ser bicultural.

Falando nos problemas de comunicação que podem surgir, vamos começar com a questão puramente linguística. No caso do Japão, por exemplo, uma parcela significativamente pequena da população consegue se comunicar bem em inglês. O país tem a pior nota do TOEFL da Ásia, em termos de conversação, e estima-se que não mais de 7% dos japoneses em posição de liderança falam inglês. Por outro lado, para um estrangeiro conseguir dominar o idioma japonês a ponto de transmitir com acurácia a sua intenção é necessário conhecer mais de dois mil ideogramas, para início de conversa.

Mas os percalços na compreensão do conteúdo de uma reunião também acontecem como resultado dos diferentes valores culturais e costumes. Na conversação, apesar de ambos os lados acreditarem que realizar uma boa explicação é o suficiente para o entendimento mútuo, há um grande gap de crenças e comportamentos que são únicos a cada cultura. Por exemplo, um japonês não olhará diretamente nos olhos do seu interlocutor estrangeiro, pois é uma atitude considerada rude em seu país. Já um brasileiro pode ficar bastante incomodado com essa atitude, levantando suspeitas sobre as intenções do japonês com quem está conversando. Por outro lado, um brasileiro não ter todo o apreço com o cartão de visita como os japoneses tem, o que inclui regras de como entregar, receber e guardar, não significa que não há respeito pelo seu interlocutor. Só significa que nós não temos esse mesmo costume, e o cuidado com aquele pedaço de papel significa bem menos para nós do que para eles.

No caso da tradução, um exemplo interessante é o caso do slogan da Nike. No livro Translating Cultures: An Introduction for Translators, Interpreters and Mediators, de David Katan, o autor explica o caso publicado na Business Week, em 25 de abril de 1992. A Nike estabeleceu o seu slogan “Just Do It” em 1988. A ideia original não era traduzir o slogan, pois o objetivo do CEO era enfatizar que a marca é americana, algo que, na época, era considerado um grande atrativo. Além disso, vários idiomas não tinham uma estrutura semântica com três palavras que expressasse essa ideia. Yukihiro Akimoto, que se tornaria o CEO da Nike Japan, foi para os Estados Unidos para passar quatro meses imerso na cultura empresarial da Nike. No entanto, após esse período, a sua proposta para a tradução seria “Hesitar é perder tempo” (Hesitation makes waste/躊躇するな). O time da Nike ficou horrorizado, e a proposta foi refutada imediatamente. Segundo a revista, a dificuldade em encontrar uma tradução equivalente ao “Just Do It” encontrou, no Japonês, não só a barreira semântica, mas também cultural. No Japão, “feito não é melhor que perfeito”, e existem diversas etapas de planejamento e organização antes da etapa de concretização de um projeto. Um famoso provérbio japonês diz que é preciso permanecer sentado por três anos na pedra para aquecê-la. É preciso tempo. O slogan continua em inglês até hoje, pois seria impossível fazer adaptações culturais para cada país.

Nesse sentido, ao iniciarmos uma tradução ou interpretação, não basta termos o domínio do idioma, pois isso não nos fará um bom kuroko, que estará fazendo todo o trabalho nos bastidores da adaptação cultural. O sucesso é atingido quando o leitor não sente uma falta de naturalidade no texto ou quando o participante de uma conferência ou reunião não se sente incomodado em ouvir a voz de outra pessoa. E para sermos ao máximo invisíveis, precisamos transmitir uma ideia falada, dentro de um contexto cultural, de forma que faça sentido no idioma de alguém que advém de outra cultura. Transmitindo a ideia correta, sem alterar o seu sentido, é claro. Ou seja, além de ter um excelente domínio de ambos os idiomas, o tradutor/intérprete é um importante comunicador intercultural e vai muito além do trabalho da tradução automática, que simplesmente substitui as palavras. Ele vai além das palavras e auxilia a minimizar o gap de comunicação que surge por questões culturais.

Sobre a autora


Fotógrafa: Lívia Conti

Anna Ligia Pozzetti é formada em Ciências Econômicas pela Unicamp e mestre em história econômica pela mesma Universidade, onde teve a oportunidade de estudar economia e ciência politica por um ano na School of Political Science and Economics da Universidade de Waseda, em Tóquio. Com mais de 7 anos de experiência como tradutora e intérprete de japonês, sendo certificada pelo Center for Interpretation and Translation Studies da Universidade do Havaí onde cursou o Summer Intensive Interpreter Training Program em 2019. A sua conexão com o idioma e a cultura japonesa é decorrente dos 6 anos em que viveu no Japão ao longo da infância, onde adquiriu a fluência no idioma e incorporou a cultura em suas raízes.


Greatest Women in Translation: Lucinda Byatt


Created by Érick Tonin

Welcome back to the Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Lucinda Byatt, non-fiction translator from Italian into English, nominated by Marilyn Booth.

Lucinda Byatt

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1. You were a speaker at this year’s ITI Conference. I was there too! Too bad I missed a chance of meeting you! The topic of your presentation was “What’s involved in translating non-fiction? Rewards and Challenges.” Could you tell us a bit about it?

I’m sorry we didn’t catch up there, too! But thanks so much, both to you and above all Marilyn, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. The theme of this year’s ITI Conference in Sheffield, UK, was “Beyond the Core: Forging the Future of the Profession” and this was the context of my talk on non-fiction translation. In fact, this is a huge field, ranging from academic works in every discipline to the popular non-fiction markets. Broadly speaking, I focused on three topics: Building up expertise and finding opportunities; Tackling the translation (skills, research); Looking at collaborative translation and working with editors.

I’m very conscious that I can only speak from my own experience – every translator follows a different path and accumulates different skills, of course! But in general, a non-fiction translator tends to be a specialist – at least, that certainly helps, even in a broad field, like my own, which is history, history of art and architectural history. So the somewhat obvious advice in the first part was to follow your interests and to find areas that you are passionate about, and maybe also qualified in – since this is an added incentive to develop your knowledge and gradually build a network of contacts.

The second part of my presentation tried to give some answers to the broad question of what, if any, are the special skills of the non-fiction translator? I think there may be an assumption that translating non-fiction is harder and more complicated than translating fiction. For example, do you need to invest more time in research and fact checking? Or in finding and checking quotations, and deciding whether to use a published translation if one already exists?

I suggested that translating non-fiction need not be harder, and indeed – in some respects – it might actually be easier than translating fiction. For example, a non-fiction author is less likely to be as experimental in style as a novelist, because she or he is focused above all on the argument and the factual content of the book.

Most of the skills required for non-fiction translation are the same as for fiction. There may be no dialogue to deal with in non-fiction, and there’s unlikely to be much colloquial language. But rhythm, word choice and the construction of sentences and paragraphs are just as important in non-fiction writing – particularly in the growing ‘umbrella genre’ of literary non-fiction – as they are in novels. A non-fiction book certainly has a flow, a carefully constructed sequence of chapters, and it often features evocative settings and vivid characterisation.

2. You are one of the very few interviewees in this series who does not work with fiction. You translate books, but primarily focused on history, architecture, art history, and humanities in general. I confess I’m quite happy to feature a non-fiction translator for a change, since, in my humble opinion, we, “technical” translators, do not get as recognized as fiction translators do. Do you feel the same way?

There’s no doubt that compared to fiction, translated nonfiction doesn’t get much of the limelight, and certainly fewer prizes. Yet translated non-fiction will never not be relevant and its benefits are even more trenchant today. English-language publishers have certainly discovered there’s a market for engaging, even challenging, non-fiction books emerging from Europe and beyond. I know I’m not alone in being more aware than ever of how important it is to bolster an open society, and one way of doing that is to offer readers books that deepen their understanding of other cultures and enable them to join in the debates that excite, or aggravate, us all.

And it’s not only published non-fiction that we should consider. Journalism and blogs are also important – non-fiction writing comes in many forms.

I’m intrigued that you use the term “technical” translator. We are all technicians in some respect. As I said before, a non-fiction translation needs the same feel for register, rhythm, tone, voice, flow, etc. as for fiction. These skills form the crux of our ‘techne’, but perhaps the difference is that in non-fiction the approach is usually more subject-specific.

3. Talking about history, you also teach non-translation courses at the University of Edinburgh, such as Italian Renaissance. What came first: the translator or the teacher? And how did you venture into translation?

That’s an interesting question. I did languages all the way through formal education – and had an inspirational French teacher who worked on translation with us in secondary school. Then at university, I did French and German for two years, before eventually focusing on medieval and modern history. Even the next step – a doctorate at the European University Institute – was effectively a blend of languages and history as all my primary sources were in Italian. Learning Italian from scratch was quite a steep learning curve! During the four years I spent in Italy for my doctorate, I worked on various small translation projects and enjoyed them. Moreover, as a Ph.D. student you are also asked to give presentations. So I think I can honestly say that translation and teaching have developed side by side.

However, there have been times when translation has certainly been uppermost. While I was living in Turin – in the Nineties – and for the first six or so years back in Edinburgh – in the Noughties – I was solely a translator. My first published translation was for Polity, and the next few books were for a Swiss publisher, Birkhäuser, and for Cambridge University Press. Sometimes these opportunities arose because I met the editors at book events in Turin and perhaps editing work then led to translation; or occasionally they were the result of a direct approach.

I also worked extensively as a commercial translator during the years we lived in Turin, translating what I think could be called “general” documents for companies and institutions. This general practice allowed me to hone my skills, also in terms of business practice. One of my earliest contacts in Turin was Alan Nixon, whose company Dialogue International is still flourishing. Much of the work he gave me was for Fiat which was then still a big presence in Turin. The technical automotive stuff was beyond me, but I worked on corporate documents and the occasional presentation for the top management. While I was in Turin, I also embarked on a broad range of translation projects for cultural institutions in the city and elsewhere. I loved the variety and again it was valuable experience as I worked for museums and tourist organisations, on cultural policy documents and (from Edinburgh!) even on the 2006 Winter Olympics. In the 1990s technology was in its infancy: I had a pc and email, but no broadband. Work had to be delivered electronically over a modem connection (who remembers its distinctive buzz?) or in hard copy by “Pony Express” (bike couriers). I still work with a few of my Turin clients – one private company holds the record, with a relationship that dates back nearly thirty years!

4. Although you mainly translate non-fiction, your latest book, Murder in Venice, by Maria Luisa Minarelli, is a fiction one. And you also said it’s quite different from the previous two (academic books). How was your experience in translating this fiction book for a change?

I really enjoyed it. The publisher is AmazonCrossing and the offer came out of the blue, but the contract was straightforward and the terms were good. I have to add here that I have always found it very hard to retain copyright for my non-fiction translations. In this case, AmazonCrossing were immediately clear that this was not an issue, although of course it is licensed back to them. Moreover, the contract includes royalties, including on free promotional copies, something that has never been the case in my non-fiction contracts for other publishers. All of my contracts are vetted by the UK Society of Authors, which is a real bonus of membership, and immensely reassuring. However, even with their support, securing copyright and royalties for my translations can still be an uphill struggle.

As is clear from the title, Murder in Venice, Maria Luisa Minarelli’s book is a historical mystery. It’s set in eighteenth-century Venice, so that itself appealed to me. I know Venice well and teach a ten-week course on medieval and early modern Venice. The author’s historical research is excellent and the characters and setting are convincingly portrayed. There were some lovely coincidences too. Just last year, I translated a life of Leonardo da Vinci by Antonio Forcellino, and here – as a key part of Minarelli’s plot – I came across the canal dredger designed by Leonardo, probably while he was living in Milan. Another particularly enjoyable aspect of my foray in fiction was the sense of freedom in the translation process (no footnotes!). Above all, translating the different voices in dialogue was a treat. I’m secretly hoping to do more!

5. These previous academic books you translated were about suicide and lordship in medieval Southern Italy – and then a fiction book. How do you manage to work with such diverse topics? Do you have any established work process?

The non-fiction books I have translated often have varying degrees of connection with my specialized academic field. But the variety is enormously stimulating. It means discovering and researching new topics. Regular contact with the author is an enormous benefit, and given the immediacy of communication now, I think all translators would agree that this is a crucial part of the translation process. For me, it’s often a starting point. If I can talk to the author, by phone or Skype, I find I have a better understanding of the register and pace of the “non-fiction voice” on paper. I also rely on the authors for their specialised knowledge.

My work on Marzio Barbagli’s book, Farewell to the World: A History of Suicide, offered different challenges. It is a masterpiece of sociological and historical analysis. I won’t go into the arguments here – also because it’s certainly not my place to do so! – but I will say that the subject-matter was gruelling at times. In practical terms, a major problem that arose during the translation was the referencing. Many of the reference works had been translated, perhaps from German or French originals into Italian and obviously the footnotes gave pages numbers from the Italian editions. Instead, I had to trace the English translations, where they existed, and then play the “page number” game (different language editions often don’t have the same pagination) as I searched through the books for the correct passages. I’m sure others will know what I’m talking about. It can be a frustratingly slow process, but in the end it’s worthwhile.

The translation of Sandro Carocci’s book on lordship in medieval Southern Italy was a great example of collaboration. Probably the most useful result of working closely with an author is that you can fine tune the message. And, above all for a work of non-fiction, the message is key. Of course, language matters too: and in this case, Sandro’s advice regarding the correct feudal terminology was invaluable.

A similar project was the co-translation with Michael Bury of a sixteenth-century art history treatise by Giovanni Andrea Gilio, “Dialogue on the Errors and Abuses of Painters”. Working together with Carol Richardson, this was in every sense a team project. I was the only “professional” translator, but Michael Bury’s thorough understanding of the text meant that his contribution to the translation was fundamental. Some of the challenges of tackling a historical text, like Gilio’s, are outlined in my chapter on the translation process, which is included in the volume (Getty Publications, 2018).

On that note, I’ve recently also worked on a variety of other historical texts in the context of major exhibitions. These have included extracts from the letters between Emma Hamilton and Queen Maria Carolina of Naples and Sicily, and also a few letters written by Artemisia Gentileschi. Decisions about language need to be made and my preference is to steer a middle course that tries to avoid unnecessarily archaic vocabulary but also glaring anachronisms. Clarity for the modern reader seems to me to be paramount.

6. You are currently translating a short book for Antonio Foscari, Living with Palladio. What can you tell us about it?

I’ve worked with Antonio Foscari on three previous projects, two of which have also focused on Villa Foscari, an elegant building on the mainland close to Venice, which was designed by the great sixteenth-century architect Antonio Palladio. This is a shorter book and will appeal to a broader audience since the author goes through the villa’s rooms and describes how they would have been used in the late sixteenth century. There are fascinating details about the layout of the villa and the upstairs/downstairs division. For example, the top floor of the villa was used to store grain and other produce because it was dry and also well guarded. Thieves were rare, even the four-legged variety: the smooth bands of plaster applied to the walls made it easier to trap any pesky rodents by preventing them from scrambling up the walls and into the roof space. I really look forward to seeing it in print.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

It’s a real pleasure to nominate Ros Schwartz. Ros is a hugely talented and award-winning translator and an inspiring mentor. She is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Kings College London and also a director of Warwick Translates Summer School. When I contacted her about this blog she was on her way back from Cameroon where she’d been to lead a literary translation workshop.

Guest post: O que é esse tal de mindfulness?

Seja bem-vindo (de volta) à nossa série de publicações convidadas!

Hoje, depois de voltar de uma aula matinal de yoga, tenho o prazer de receber Amanda Ribeiro, intérprete, que falará sobre atenção plena (mindfulness).

Bem-vinda, Amanda!


Crédito: Lesly JuarezUnsplash

Mindfulness: como manter a cabeça no lugar

Sempre que eu ouvia falar sobre os benefícios da meditação, eu já me adiantava e dizia que não era para mim. Afinal, moro num apartamento que fica em uma avenida movimentada de São Paulo, não tenho como me sentar diariamente em posição de lótus para ver o nascer do sol do topo de uma montanha, muito menos como desfrutar de silêncio absoluto. Além disso, minha cabeça é como o YouTube: é só propor um assunto e ela já deixa engatilhada uma lista infinita de sugestões relacionadas – ou nem tão relacionadas assim. Por essa e outras, “pensar em nada” estava fora de cogitação.

Somado a isso, vivemos na era da informação, da hiperconectividade, das mudanças rápidas, de volumes inimagináveis de dados, notícias, atualizações, livros, audiolivros, podcasts, revistas, séries, filmes e aplicativos que medem tudo nessa vida, com apenas um clique.

Todo esse volume de informação e de possibilidades, combinado à minha mente naturalmente inquieta de intérprete e personalidade que não acredita que exista cultura inútil, começou a pesar e a me sobrecarregar. Não demorei a sentir os sintomas de ansiedade, dificuldade para dormir e angústia por sentir que estava sempre devendo, sempre às voltas com tanto conteúdo pra consumir e tarefas por cumprir.

Para tentar “dar conta de tudo”, eu me treinei para ser multitarefa. Escovava os dentes ao mesmo tempo em que abria as janelas da casa, sempre comia escutando podcasts ou lendo as notícias, e com isso, jurava que estava otimizando meu tempo. Não estava. E foi então que percebi que quase tudo que eu fazia na vida era no piloto automático.

Olha, não estou aqui pra vilanizar o piloto automático, não. Não sobreviveríamos se tivéssemos que focar 100% em todas as nossas atividades. É uma questão de sobrevivência. Mas deixar que esse seja o padrão que dita o ritmo da nossa vida e endeusar a capacidade de fazer várias coisas ao mesmo tempo também não é o caminho.

Para dar uma ideia do meu estado mental, por falta de atenção no momento presente, tranquei meu marido dentro de casa e levei as chaves, minhas e dele, para o trabalho – duas vezes. Já desliguei o disjuntor de energia da cozinha ao sair para viajar (estragou tudinho que estava no freezer e na geladeira, e o cheiro, depois de 15 dias, ainda era de cena de crime, mesmo depois de uma amiga muito ponta firme ter dado uma faxinada antes da minha volta pra casa). Mais de uma vez me dei conta de que esqueci a fonte do notebook dentro da cabine de interpretação quando já estava no ponto de ônibus, e levanta a mão aqui quem já resgatou meias da lata de lixo o/ – que obviamente deveriam ter sido colocadas no cesto de roupa suja. Nada grave, eu sei, apesar de inconveniente. Mas, em casos extremos, a falta de atenção pode até ser fatal. Não é à toa que surgiu a necessidade de criar uma lei e colocar a plaquinha “Antes de entrar, verifique se o elevador está parado neste andar”.

O meu trabalho de intérprete já exige, por natureza, que eu divida a minha atenção entre esforços distintos e simultâneos. Segundo a Teoria do Modelo dos Esforços, de Daniel Gile, o intérprete precisa ouvir e analisar, produzir o discurso no idioma de chegada e armazenar informação na memória de curto prazo. Tudo ao mesmo tempo e o tempo todo. Como meu trabalho requer toda essa concentração e atenção, eu sabia que precisava fortalecer essa capacidade não natural e dar uma trégua para o meu cérebro nos momentos em que sou só pessoa física.

Sabia que algo precisava mudar em mim e foi com a certeza de que seria um grande desafio reaprender a fazer as tarefas do dia a dia com mais atenção que cheguei ao treinamento de oito semanas de mindfulness.

Era preciso aprender a desacelerar, a respirar, a escolher fazer uma coisa de cada vez.

“Mindfulness é um lugar para respirar no turbilhão da vida”, segundo a definição da instrutora Regina Giannetti, do programa Você mais Centrado. “É um estado mental em que você respira, permite que sua mente se estabilize e proporcione clareza de pensamentos.”

De maneira bem direta e simples, para praticar mindfulness você não precisa de uma vista privilegiada ou de um ambiente zen. Você pode estar presente e com atenção plena assim, exatamente do jeitinho que você está agora. Não importa se tem um avião sobrevoando sua casa ou uma sirene de ambulância disparada. Se decidir baixar a poeira dos pensamentos, sente-se de maneira confortável (de preferência sem se deitar para não cair na armadilha do relaxamento total e na sonolência), deixe os pés bem apoiados no chão, feche os olhos e preste atenção apenas na sua respiração, na maneira como seu peito se move quando inspira e expira, na temperatura do ar, na quantidade de ar entrando e saindo dos pulmões até que o temporizador avise que você chegou ao final da prática. É fácil? Não, não é. No começo, 5 minutos dessa prática parecem uma eternidade. Tudo o que você pensa é: “Será que falta muito ainda?” Sua cabeça implora para que você desista, te provoca com pensamentos de “não consigo”, “já cansei”, “vou parar antes, só desta vez”. Mas se você persistir e deixar ir esses pensamentos, a prática vai ficando mais confortável, você consegue ir aumentando o tempo e colhendo os benefícios de uma mente mais tranquila.

Uma alternativa de exercício é concentrar-se apenas nas percepções, e não na respiração. Trata-se de uma varredura de cada pedacinho do seu corpo. A sensação do seu pé direito dentro do calçado que está usando agora, os pontos em que seu corpo toca o assento e o encosto da cadeira, a textura da sua roupa encostando na pele, a existência de tensão em alguma parte específica do corpo. É maluco perceber que essas coisas estavam aí o tempo todo e não damos a elas a mínima atenção. Ao ter mais autoconsciência, passamos a notar essas partes esquecidas do corpo, e ao exercitar estar mais presente, passamos a nos conhecer melhor e a entender que, muitas vezes, o que estávamos sentindo não era fome, mas sim sede, que está irritado porque uma peça de roupa está desconfortável ou, ainda, aprende a apreciar, de maneira totalmente nova, o sabor de alimentos comuns do seu dia a dia.

O exercício diário fortalece nossa mente. Sem nos darmos conta, lembramos de respirar melhor em momentos de stress, aprendemos a nos acalmar quando estamos diante de decisões difíceis, a priorizar nossas demandas com clareza.

Hoje em dia, existem muitos aplicativos, como Headspace, Lojong, Meditação Natura e Gentle Birth (para gestantes), que oferecem práticas guiadas. Todos eles dispõem de versões gratuitas e pagas, e vale a pena baixar pelo menos um e começar a usar ainda hoje!

Olha, se você achou tudo incrível, mas decidiu começar na segunda-feira ou prefere esperar ter tempo para praticar o mindfulness, já adianto que isso não vai acontecer. É preciso criar esse tempo. Que sejam 4, 5 minutos por dia, todos os dias. Nem preciso dizer que mesmo quando alegamos não termos tempo algum, “nos perdemos” por muito mais do que esses minutinhos no abismo das redes sociais e nas armadilhas da internet.

Não pode fazer a prática formal? Experimente a prática informal. Escolha alguma tarefa do dia para fazer com atenção plena. Desta vez, você não focará na respiração ou no corpo, mas na execução de uma tarefa específica. Se for escovar os dentes, por exemplo, faça como se fosse a primeira vez na vida que realiza essa atividade. Preste atenção na cor da pasta, no cheiro, na aparência, no formato da escova, no material de que é feita. Veja a quantidade de pasta que coloca, o sabor, a textura, a temperatura dela. Atente-se aos movimentos da escovação, como a escova toca os dentes, a gengiva, a quantidade de espuma que forma. Sei que parece papo de doido, mas garanto que será uma experiência rica perceber os pequenos prazeres escondidos em um dia comum, como vestir uma roupa limpinha perfumada de amaciante ou apreciar a sensação do sol leve da manhã iluminando e aquecendo seu rosto.

Resumindo, pratique, persista e se aceite. Deixe ir os pensamentos. Quando os pensamentos surgirem, em vez de se apegar e dar muita importância para eles, perceba que eles sugiram e volte sua atenção para a sua respiração ou para onde decidiu ancorar a concentração. Não se julgue e tenha paciência contigo. É da natureza humana ter pensamentos, expectativas, impaciência, sentimentos de evitação. Quando surgirem esses pensamentos, seja gentil com você mesmo, reconheça a existência deles, volte a atenção pra sua respiração e sustente o máximo que puder, sem julgamento.

Por fim, como apoio pra todo o sempre, sugiro que acompanhe o podcast Autoconsciente. Trata-se de um canal criado por uma especialista e instrutora de mindfulness que traz conteúdo para você entender melhor sua mente e emoções e viver em paz contigo mesmo.

Seja bem-vindo! Que você esteja bem.

Sobre a autora
AmandaRibeiro_047Amanda Ribeiro é formada em Interpretação de Conferências pela PUC-SP e conta com Bacharelado em Tradução e Interpretação pela Universidade São Judas Tadeu e pós-graduação em Tradução pela Universidade Gama Filho.
Começou sua carreira atuando como tradutora, quando teve a oportunidade de traduzir textos de diferentes segmentos. Trabalha com interpretação desde 2016 e já atuou em configurações de reuniões, auditorias, pesquisas de mercado, treinamentos e congressos nas modalidades de interpretação simultânea, consecutiva e acompanhamento. Além das modalidades tradicionais, Amanda tem experiência em interpretação simultânea remota (RSI) por meio de plataformas virtuais. Além de intérprete, é locutora comercial e narradora de audiodescrição. É apaixonada por sua profissão, ama a comunicação e está constantemente em busca de melhoria e aprimoramento pessoal e profissional.

Greatest Women in Translation: Marilyn Booth


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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Marilyn Booth, nominated by Kari Dickson.

Marilyn Booth

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1. First of all, congratulations on winning the 2019 Man Booker International Prize as Best International Novel of 2019 with Jokha Alharthi, author of Celestial Bodies, which you translated into English! Jokha was the first Arabic language writer to win the prize and the first female Omani novelist to be translated into English, thanks to you! How does it feel co-winning such a prestigious prize with a woman author of firsts?

It feels great for many reasons. Women have been strong contributors to Arabic narrative and poetry forever, from pre-Islamic and early Islamic poets, and on to medieval Andalusian poets. When something recognizable as ‘the Arabic novel’ emerged in the nineteenth century, women were prominent among their authors (and translators), and they’ve been on the scene ever since, as fictionalists, memoirists and essayists, as well as poets. As Kim Ghattas wrote recently in an essay in The Atlantic, this prize is also yet another little puncture in the appallingly resilient Euro/American stereotypes about Arab women and Muslim women. I’m delighted that commentators have recognised how this novel really challenges stereotypes. It’s also great given the history of literary production in Oman. Long before Oman was a modern nation, it produced strong poets. But modern fiction in Arabic is a relative latecomer to Oman and the other Gulf countries, since the educational and printing infrastructure that was so important to forming writers and readers of fiction was established much earlier in  the national Arabophone communities that emerged from the Ottoman Empire, including Egypt and the rest of northern Africa as well as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine. So Oman hasn’t been at the centre of Arabic literary fiction, though there are many good writers there and I hope the prize encourages even more activity. So it is great to have Omani writers recognised. I also appreciated that this year’s short list was mostly women – all the translators and all but one of the writers (and I do have great respect for the one man writer on the list!).

But the most important thing is that I just felt this was a novel that had to be translated. I did it long before we had a publisher. Sometimes you just have to do things. So it is fantastic that it has gotten such recognition. But I’m afraid I also need to say: before we were shortlisted, the novel wasn’t being reviewed, or featured in bookstores, or anything. So I am a little cynical about the effect of prizes. Great – but what about all the other fantastic fiction in translation out there? The fiction that doesn’t get much notice? In the US, our novel is now being called a ‘must-read’ for autumn 2019, but if we hadn’t got the prize, would any of these enthusiastic commentators and readers have found it? It is great to laud the indie presses that are doing so much to get translated literature out there, but that’s only part of the story.

A book has to find its way to readers, and unfortunately this is not a ‘natural’ process most of the time.

2. Your latest translation, Night Post, by Hoda Barakat, is forthcoming in 2020. Could you tell us a bit about it and its translation process?

I am in the process! So I am in that horrible stage where I feel like I am incompetent at both Arabic and English. (Do other translators out there feel this? I know that some do.) This is an edgy and sad and beauitfully crafted work about statelessness, displacement, and intersections of political and personal conflict. I’ve translated Hoda before; her work is deep, inventive, bold, and ever-changing. The tone of this novel differs to earlier ones, I think, in its intensity, an urgent sense of anger and desperation – and an attempt to hold onto hope in spite of this – that the characters convey. It’s told by a series of narrators who are in limbo, politically, geographically, emotionally. Recently, Night Post was a controversial choice for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF, sometimes called ‘the Arabic Booker’). I haven’t followed all the narrative on that, but what I celebrate is that this can be a controversial choice precisely because there is so much fantastic writing in Arabic that is being published. Not enough of it appears in translation, of course.

And one thing I feel passionate about is trying to find a way to translate and publish a lot of fantastic works in Arabic published throughout the twentieth century. There were some amazing 1950s novels for instance… (as there have been in every decade). Sometimes publishers seem to only want the latest thing – a little more on that below – and I think that is unfortunate.

I can’t really say any more about the process, because I’m inside of it. I’m in there, and moving around, and pondering voice. This novel is very different to Hoda’s earlier novels and, for instance, to Celestial Bodies. Of course, every work demands its own voice and its own set of strategies. That’s one of the creative joys of literary translation, isn’t it? Another is that, in the end, it’s about good writing.

3. In our email exchange, you mentioned you were treated in a “scandalous way” in translating Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea. Could you briefly tell us what happened?

Well, you asked about that – and indeed, it was a very upsetting experience. I cannot comment on the author’s perspective, because she never told me. She just wanted the translation to be other than the one I submitted. The ‘scandalous’ aspect was that Penguin, after accepting my translation (and apparently really liking it, to judge by the emails I got from the editor at the time), allowed the author to change it in any way she wanted. I don’t think the result was successful, but what is ‘scandalous’ is that they had no interest in my literary choices as a translator and I had no status as the author of the English-language text. I have used the term ‘scandalous’ because a reviewer used that for the translation – and I totally agreed with that reviewer, and I wrote in to say, yes, ‘scandalous’ but not for the reasons you think!

I really thought that this novel was fantastic in its innovative and out-there use of a blog structure, of colloquial Arabics, of a truly and literarily canny narrative about a globalized culture of privileged people. The Arabic text, in its structure, deploys a kind of voyeurism that actually exposes authoritarian patriarchal practices for what they are, and links local patriarchies to global consumer commodity fetishism as well as to attempted censorship practices which the novel defeats through its very existence. One of the ironies of the way I was treated in this translation situation was that unlike quite a few other academic specialists in Arabic literature, I really appreciated this novel. Not for the plot(s), the stories of the young women in themselves but rather for the politics of language and patriarchal culture that it so imaginatively inscribed (which are also about young women, of course, and young men). I’m still sad that the author apparently disliked my work so much that she wasn’t even willing to negotiate or work together on it, though I expressed to the editor a willingness to do so. (I knew I was perhaps being too edgy in my translation choices in that novel, and would have let go of some of that if we’d had a chance to work together on it.) I think it is a shame. In English, it emerged as a straightforward story about four Saudi young women, in a rather cliched style. I wanted to translate it because I thought it was much more than that.

As I’ve written elsewhere, the whole incident raises difficult questions about the distribution of power in the literary translation business, in a hyped-up commercial scene where celebrity authorship may not be a positive factor in producing the best possible translations. One ‘small’ – but I think very significant and disturbing – sign of that power imbalance is the fact that most presses still do not put translators’ names on book covers. Of course, that has to do with the prevailing sense that readers are scared off by translations. I hope (and believe) that this is changing, and the Man Booker International helps in that. But we translators have to keep on fighting for the rights we ought to have.

4. On the later article you wrote to the Translation Studies journal, Translator v. author (2008), you discuss this incident in light of domestication and “the strong bias toward ‘transparent’ translation that privileges sociological content over literary texture and the thickness of locale.” Do you think this is a problem faced mainly by translated Arabic literature in Anglophone literary marketplaces? Why do you think so?

I do think it is a problem, though I think the pressures are truly complicated. In this case, perhaps it was partly that the original author wanted her novel to appeal to a certain audience, and she thought she knew best how to do that. But that is part of a broader pressure, right? I can’t say whether this is more true for Arabic works than for other traditions. I expect most literary translators have been faced with situations where they are urged to provide more ‘clarity’ at the expense of following the rhythms and perspectives of the work they are translating. Of course, we all read partly in order to learn about other worlds, whether temporal or geographical or spiritual. But that’s also about appreciating types of complexity or ambiguity (or seeming ambiguity), including the different ways of being and seeing that different languages and histories offer. A novel set in Iraq, or in Oman, or in the US civil war, may teach readers a lot about ‘Iraqi history’ or ‘Omani history’ or ‘the history of the civil war’ but not necessarily in an easily understood fashion. Sometimes I have the feeling that publishers (and readers?) are more willing to accept complexity in a literary work centred in their own world of experience than they are if it is from elsewhere. I have wondered whether this is especially the case for works from Arabophone countries, or from Muslim-majority countries, given the intensive and sensitive political relations that partly govern attitudes amongst Europeans and North Americans towards those societies, and the very real desires that readers have to ‘understand’ them. But the worst thing is to me a novel for political information. Linked to this is a kind of ‘presentist’ bias in publishers’ choices: they seem most interested in the latest thing, and I think that is at least partly due to the intensity of the political scene in Arabophone countries. I’d like to hear from translators of other languages whether they feel a similar political pressure, though. At the same time, we are in a difficult political moment: so many people seem to be turning inward. Hoda’s Night Post is important, then, not only as a strong artistic presence but as a political intervention itself in a world where the displaced represent a radical ‘difference’ that is too often unwelcome. In this moment – no doubt in any moment – as a translator I feel that bringing such works into English is the most important political act I can offer.

Understanding of course is a much more complex operation, and I do trust readers to grapple with that necessary difficulty. As a translator, one way I try to bring the reader inside of a complex world that might be new to her is by preserving Arabic usages in the translation, and figuring out how to make them meaningful. I usually find that sticking very close to the language of the original yields the richest and most powerful translation. But that isn’t always the way others feel!

5. Among one of your current and envisioned research projects, you mention “research on contemporary practices of Arabic literary translation, especially first-author/second-author [translator] interactions and the politics of publishing and marketing.” Does it have anything to do with the incident above? Could you kindly elaborate a bit more about it?

I started interviewing other translators about this; I was motivated by that experience and by one other situation of miscommunication with an author I had translated. But also I wanted to pursue it because I have not seen much work in academic translation studies on how ‘first’ and ‘second’ authors get along. It’s a fascinating topic. For me, most of the authors I’ve translated have become wonderful friends. We work together. Translation is an intimate process of discovery for both authors, and I am enormously grateful for the friendships that have been at least partly the outcome of this process.

But as I suggested above, I think that in the present moment literary translation is particularly fraught, subject to all sorts of cultural and commercial and political pressures on everyone involved. (I am more sympathetic than I may sound to the pressures publishers deal with.) As you know from reading my articles, one thing that really animated and upset me about the Girls of Riyadh situation was that the academic literature on literary translation would suggest that I ‘had the power’, as a North American white woman, to produce the work. And yet, in that case, I clearly didn’t. So what is the politics here? I have to confess that I haven’t followed up on that research I did – I think it is important but I’m more interested in my nineteenth-century research.

6. One of your main topics of research and about which you have written books, book chapters, articles, and essays is gender, history, and politics in the Arabic literature. What is the connection among them?

And translation! This is an enormous topic. As in so many parts of the world (including most of Europe), in the nineteenth century, Arabophone intellectuals and activists of all persuasions were subjecting themselves and their societies to rigorous questioning about the sources of societal strength: nationalist movements emerged, partly (but not entirely) in response to European imperial power. A central aspect of this self-questioning concerned gender roles and how they were implicated in social transformation as well as in the international politics of reputation. I study the emergence of feminism and of other kinds of gender activism in Egypt and across the Arabic-speaking regions of the Ottoman Empire, and particularly its discursive aspects: who was writing, about what, how, and who did writers seek to reach? I mentioned the novel earlier – and the nineteenth-century Arabic novel was a site for exploring such issues, especially through the theme of chosen romantic love versus arranged or coerced marriages, and how this intersected with national politics and economic well-being. Translation was hugely important: works from European languages as well as from Turkish were translated and adapted, and I study that range of practices. For instance, I recently published a study of how Fénelon’s 1689 French text on girls’ education was translated in radically different ways, and argued over, 1901-9, in Egypt.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I’m nominating Lucy Byatt, whom I’ve known among a group of wonderful women in Edinburgh. Lucy is a translator of academic and creative nonfiction, especially works of history and art history, from Italian, and also writes in collaboration with others. She has produced some gorgeous books. Lucy also teaches at the University of Edinburgh.

What does translation mean to you?

“What does translation mean to you_” (1)

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September 30 is International Translation Day. According to the UN, which recognized the date two years ago, “International Translation Day is meant as an opportunity to pay tribute to the work of language professionals, which plays an important role in bringing nations together, facilitating dialogue, understanding and cooperation, contributing to development and strengthening world peace and security.”

Most of us love what we do (well, I know I do!), so I decided to ask ten translators from different areas what translation means to them.

Below you’ll find, in alphabetic order, Alison Entrekin, Brazilian Portuguese into English literary translator; Anna Ligia Pozzetti, Japanese-English-Brazilian Portuguese interpreter; Carolina Ventura, English-Brazilian Portuguese sworn translator; Judy Jenner, court-certified English-Spanish interpreter; Laila Rezende Compan, Spanish-Brazilian Portuguese subtitler; Paloma Bueno, Brazilian sign language interpreter; Paula G. de Brito, Brazilian translation student; Paulo Noriega, English-Brazilian Portuguese dubbing translator; Sherif Abuzid, English into Arabic translator; and Thiago Araújo, Brazilian game translator.


1. Alison Entrekin

A translator:

  • scrutinizes her friends’ turns of phrase for future usefulness;
  • shouts “PAUSE!” mid-film and races off to take note of whatever the main character just said because it’s exactly what she needed two months ago;
  • fiddles with texts after she has delivered them;
  • carefully curates lists of novel swear words, slang and saddle parts because, well, you never know when they might come in handy;
  • stalks truant words in dreams with a gold-panning dish and a butterfly net;
  • knows that “thesaurus” comes from the Greek word for treasure;
  • suspects that other translators have better and rarer words than she does.

 A few facts about words:

  • The best words come in shampoo bottles and appear mid-lather, when your hands are too wet to do anything with them;
  • There are more words in my shampoo bottle than butterflies in Peru.



Alison is an Australia literary translator who translates from the Portuguese.



2. Anna Ligia Pozzetti

For me, translation means connecting cultures. When it comes to Japanese and Portuguese, besides the close relationship that both countries have, since the largest Japanese community outside Japan is located in Brazil, the cultural and language gap is significant. To be able to translate those languages, it is crucial to deeply understand what differentiates those cultures to be able to transfer the specifics in a way the other part can understand. It is an amazing journey of searching and studying, choosing carefully the right word, even for a small project. There are so many things that both countries can learn from each other in order to evolve and improve that, for me, it is an honor to enable communication and be part of this experience. It is the best job ever!



is a Japanese into Brazilian Portuguese translator and interpreter with more than 7 years of experience managing Komorebi Translations.


3. Carolina Ventura

As I am a certified public translator (aka sworn translator) who translates mainly school and personal documents, to me, translation means enabling my clients to fulfil their dreams of studying, working and living abroad. While many of my colleagues think that academic transcripts, diplomas, certificates or police records are dull documents and that translating them is boring, in each one I see a dream waiting to come true, and I’m always happy and honored to be part of the process. I also translate texts in the free, non-sworn modality, like scientific papers originally written in Portuguese for Brazilian journals that also publish them in English. In this case, I think that translation is the means to disseminate the findings of Brazilian scientists in other countries, something I’m very proud to do.

Foto Carolina Ventura

has been working as a certified public translator in the State of São Paulo, Brazil, since 2000, and as a freelance translator since 1996.



4. Judy Jenner

Translation means the world – and that’s not hyperbole. As translators, we have the power to enable global trade and communication at any level, in any field or sector. We help make the world work. Being part of that is incredibly powerful, and I am grateful that I get to do this for a living.

Judy Jenner_profile_small - Copy

is a German and Spanish translator and federally court-certified Spanish interpreter in Las Vegas, Nevada. She serves as an ATA spokesperson and runs her boutique T&I business with her twin sister, Dagmar.



5. Laila Rezende Compan

I’ve been asked a lot of questions about translation, but this is the first time someone asks me what translation means to me. I thought about this question and how I could put my feeling into words for days, and here it is:

Translation means to me a bridge that can take us to learn something new – a new song, a new dish, a new culture. Thanks to translation, we are able to talk to people from other places and learn new knowledge. However, deep down, I don’t think I can actually define what translation means. It’s a simple word with an extremely complex meaning when I analyze the greatness it carries.



Laila is a dubbing and subtitling translator, speaker, subtitling teacher, and creator of the blog Tradutor Iniciante.



6. Paloma Bueno

Translating is like building bridges. To me, videos, texts, and even sign language videos are translation, because all of them involve research and review.



Paloma is a Brazilian Sign Language translator and interpreter | Audiovisual Accessibility.


7. Paula G. de Brito

Explaining what translation means to me can get a little sappy, if I’m honest. Before I decided to study it, I was preparing to enter Medical school and, since it wasn’t what I wanted to do in life, I was pretty unhappy and hopeless. Then, I found myself translating a couple of short stories and games, in an attempt to relax, trying to feel better. So, when I think about the meaning of translation, I immediately think “life-savior.” In many moments, translating kept me going. And I know that it is bigger than me and my life dramas. Translation affects so many different people in so many ways. It’s so powerful that I can’t help but love it. Translation to me, among other things, means the world.



Paula is Brazilian and is an undergraduate student in Translation at Universidade Paulista, Brazil.



8. Paulo Noriega

To me, translation is an attempt to transfer the same emotions, feelings, and experiences of the source language into the target language, regardless of the media, using the available linguistic tools. It’s like trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together using different pieces but trying to recreate it as close as possible. It’s knowing how to win but also learning how to lose, because there are inherent losses in the process. Despite the linguistic adversities, tight deadlines, and client interventions, translators have the duty to make all possible efforts to transfer the original message to its target-audience in the best way possible.

paulo-profissional-blog-carolinePaulo is an English into Brazilian Portuguese translator specialized in dubbing translation. He has translated more than 300 hours of audiovisual productions and is the author of the blog Traduzindo a Dublagem, one of the first Brazilian blogs dedicated to dubbing translation.


9. Sherif Abuzid

Translation is a window to other worlds. Being a translator since 2004, I read and translate in different fields and work with people from different cultures. This has helped me understand the world better and made me a better person. Translation taught me diversity is inevitable and I have to embrace the other. My job as a translator enabled me to read stories from people all over the world and learn new skills and consume a huge amount of knowledge.


Sherif is an English to Arabic translator and blogger with about 15 years’ experience in translation and localization.



10. Thiago Araújo

Translation is my profession, my call, my way of supporting myself, but it goes deeper. Translation is my way of expressing my creativity through someone else’s words. Particularly in game localization, one can often be extra inventive, let their imagination run wild. Translation keeps me motivated. With so many challenging wordplays, precise researches, rich poems, tricky puns, humor, cultural adaptation… There’s not a single moment of boredom. I truly feel like I’m reading a book, or rather like I’m the writer myself — except that I tell a different story every month, even every day, and I love it.


is a fan of games since childhood. He has been living his dream localizing games (currently almost 90 titles) for the past 7 years, also coordinating small teams of Brazilian translators.



What about you? What does translation mean to you?

Guest post: Inglês jurídico

Sejam bem-vindos de volta à série de convidados do blog!

A convidada deste mês é a Bruna Marchi, do Descomplicando o Inglês Jurídico e do DIRECTI (que será realizado na semana que vem, em São Paulo, com a possibilidade de participação online). Se você trabalhar com a área jurídica, não pode deixar de segui-la nem perder o DIRECTI (as inscrições ainda estão abertas, e os seguidores da minha newsletter têm desconto!).

Seja bem-vinda, Bruna!


Photo by Rob Girkin on Unsplash

Esse tal de inglês jurídico

A linguagem técnica em um idioma estrangeiro é sempre um grande desafio. Com a crescente colaboração entre os países nos âmbitos comercial e econômico, o intercâmbio de informações flui com muita rapidez.

Imagine-se um médico brasileiro que tenha a oportunidade de fazer um curso de especialização em um país de língua inglesa. Estudar os termos técnicos em inglês é de primordial importância e um grande desafio. Esse profissional terá que estudar como se diz “cabeça”, “cirurgia”, “bisturi” e outras expressões em inglês. Possuir bons dicionários e material de referência é essencial. Uma vez que o médico aprenda esses e outros termos principais na língua inglesa, está preparado para enfrentar as aulas em um país estrangeiro.

Vejamos, agora, o exemplo de um jurista que tem a oportunidade de fazer um mestrado em direito (conhecido como L.LM.) nos Estados Unidos. Assim como o médico do parágrafo acima, ele terá que estudar a linguagem técnica em inglês, nesse caso, a linguagem técnico-jurídica. Além de todos os desafios enfrentados pelo médico na busca pela aquisição da linguagem técnica, o advogado se deparará com mais um obstáculo: o fato de, na grande maioria das vezes, não haver uma equivalência absoluta entre os termos jurídicos em português e inglês. Um dos exemplos clássicos dados nessa situação é a tradução, para o inglês, do termo latrocínio, uma vez que não há uma palavra única, na língua inglesa, que transmita esse conceito.

O profissional do Direito, porém, jamais poderá se imiscuir em verter para o inglês o conceito que precisa usar para se expressar corretamente. Um instrumento essencial é o uso do direito comparado para aproximar conceitos entres sistemas jurídicos de países distintos, ou seja, com o conhecimento prévio, neste caso específico, do sistema jurídico brasileiro, o profissional deve-se dedicar a conhecer, ao menos, a estrutura geral do direito estrangeiro, para, só então, iniciar o processo de verter conceitos de uma língua para outra. Segundo Soares “[…] o ‘Direito Comparado’ tem uma realidade no universo do direito-ciência, uma vez que sempre será possível realizar-se uma comparação de sistemas jurídicos de países diferentes, com metodologia científica, estabelecer princípios comuns e diferenciados, inclusive até mesmo uma teoria geral do comparativismo jurídico, (à maneira de uma gramática universal de todas as línguas existentes). No Direito Comparado, o que se tem em mira, é realizar uma comparação e, feita esta, partir para uma dupla tarefa: a) conhecer cada termo, isoladamente, na sua individualidade e especificidade, em cada sistema frente a frente e b) da aproximação de ambos, distinguir os elementos que existem em comum e, a partir do descobrimento de valores comuns, realizar a Comparação. O Direito Comparado deverá propiciar julgamentos de valor do tipo ‘são equivalentes’, ‘produzem efeitos semelhantes, dadas as mesmas circunstâncias’, ‘são equiparáveis, desde que se desprezem tais ou quais elementos factuais’, julgamentos esses que devem propiciar a uma decisão final que, no fundo, residiria em ‘reconhecer um instituto desconhecido’ nos seus efeitos, num determinado ordenamento jurídico.”

Uma sugestão enfática é o uso de dicionários jurídicos reconhecidos no mercado. Um deles é o Dicionário de Direito, Economia e Contabilidade, inglês–português, do Marcílio. O autor permitiu a sua distribuição gratuita, em PDF. Aproveite e baixe-o aqui. Um dos dicionários inglês–inglês mais respeitados no mercado é o Black’s Law Dictionary. Acesse-o gratuitamente.

Um pergunta que muitos tradutores me fazem é a seguinte: “É essencial ter graduação em Direito para ser um bom tradutor jurídico?” Minha resposta é: não é essencial ser formado em Direito para ser um bom tradutor jurídico, porém, é indispensável, sim, ter conhecimentos básicos de Direito Comparado. Além do mais, essa tarefa é bem divertida!

Sobre a autora
4Bruna Marchi é advogada e pós-graduada em Interpretação de Conferências Inglês<>Português pela PUC-SP. Tem extensão universitária no Curso de Direito Norte-Americano, pela Fordham University, de Nova Iorque. É pós-graduanda em Direito Penal e Direito Processual Penal. É sócia-fundadora da empresa Descomplicando o Inglês Jurídico e criadora do canal do YouTube Descomplicando o Inglês Jurídico. Atua como professora de inglês jurídico e direito comparado, além de ministrar palestras sobre esses tópicos. Trabalha como criadora de cursos de inglês jurídico para a magistratura e os Ministérios Públicos Estaduais, no Instituto Educere, de Brasília. É professora do curso de Extensão Universitária de Inglês Jurídico da PUC-SP.

Greatest Women in Translation: Kari Dickson


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Welcome back to my beloved Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

The interviewee featured this month is Kari Dickson, nominated by Sophie Hughes.

Kari Dickson

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1. You have taken an MA in Translation Studies from the University of Surrey. What a pleasant coincidence! I have also taken an MA in Translation Studies (with Intercultural Communication) there, in 2009/2010. So how about you start telling us a bit about it?

Back in the day, the MA at Surrey was the only one where you could specialize in Scandinavian languages. I thought it was an excellent programme; it combined theory with practice, and we also had classes in technology, international law and economics, as well as weekly talks by professionals. Translation theory is perhaps not everyone’s bag, and is an academic discipline in its own right. Personally, I enjoyed learning about different schools of thought on what the translation process is, and it supported my practice, but did not necessarily make me a better translator. In my experience as both a practitioner and a teacher, I have come to see it as a shortcut – it kick-starts the brain into thinking like a translator. However, I have also learnt over the years that it’s not necessary to have an MA in order to become an excellent translator, it’s the practice that really matters. I know many people who have come to translation via other routes. These days, however, more and more agencies are asking for higher qualifications and experience with CAT tools. And I’m showing my age by saying that when I did the MA, we discussed the CAT tools that were being introduced to the market, but they were still not a requirement to get work! I am also showing my age when I tell you that it was here that I learned to use a word processor; it was age of WordPerfect for DOS and daisywheel printers, but gave me an invaluable tool to start my career. My guess is that anyone thinking of being a translator today will know how to use a computer, so won’t need to do an MA for that!

The MA was geared towards commercial and technical translation, but the head of department knew that I wanted eventually to translate literature and encouraged me to pursue this. She was the one who put me in touch with NORLA, an organization that promotes Norwegian literature abroad and provides translation subsidies, as well as invaluable support for translators at all stages of the profession. And I am forever indebted to her for that. That meeting with NORLA was the greatest springboard to my development as a literary translator – the second being the BCLT summer school and what is now the National Centre for Writing.

I think that in terms of literary translation, these organizations and opportunities are of more importance than the MA, to be honest, as they have provide contact network of colleagues and publishers that support my life as a translator.

2. You worked for four years as staff translator at a Norwegian bank. How was this experience? What did you learn that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise?

The job at the central bank of Norway was my first job after doing the MA in Translation, and they definitely employed me because I had an MA. I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to work inhouse at the outset – I felt like a newly hatched chick, and was able to develop in a stable and secure environment, certainly in terms of finances and confidence. I worked as part of a team of three; the two other translators had been working there for many years and basically mentored me. One of the first things they suggested I do was learn to touch type, as it would increase my productivity. I had no background in economics, so obviously, I learned an enormous amount about economics in general, but also the national economy of Norway, as it was the central bank. But I also learned that I wasn’t necessarily suited to an office job. When I then set up as a freelancer, my experience from the central bank gave a kind of stamp of quality that helped to build my portfolio of clients.

This, in turn, provided me with a relatively good financial base from which to take the plunge into literary translation, through my contact with NORLA.

3. You have an impressively long list of translation works. Which of them did you like translating the most and why? And which of them was the most challenging and why?

Ohohoh, that is so hard to answer. Each book has its merits and challenges. But I do particularly like translating short stories, and at the moment am thoroughly enjoying working with Gunnhild Øyehaug. I first translated one of her short stories (Two by Two) in 2005, and have championed her ever since. Her first collection of short stories and first novel were then picked up by Farrar Strauss & Giroux in 2016, so I’ve been able to indulge in my love of her writing, and in the past few months I have translated a further five-six pieces by her. She is at once realistic and wildly fantastic, with a lot of humour, and she works on several levels, as she likes to use a meta-device or two. Her style involves a lot of comma splices, run-on sentences, and innovative use of compound nouns, etc., so there are plenty of challenges when rendering it in English. Interestingly, I seem to get away more with the US editors than I would with UK editors (having said that, I have never worked with a UK editor on Gunnhild’s work). We also have a very good working relationship – Gunnhild is one of the authors I have had most contact with. An obvious advantage of short stories is that they are fast to read, so we can have a couple of edits together and discuss them fully, whereas with longer works (some of the books I have done have been 600 pages plus) that is a lot harder, unless both author and translator take the time to sit together for a week or two!

The other book that I would like to mention is Beyond the Great Indoors by Ingvar Ambjørnsen (aka Elling). This was a co-translation with Don Bartlett, and was my first published translation. I love working collaboratively. It has its challenges, especially in terms of ego, when the word you are so pleased with, is dropped – but I was constantly learning and honing my skills, and I do believe it makes for a better product (and possibly a better person too, as you’re having to work with and accommodate other people’s ideas and language). It was a great experience, as we played to each other strengths, and I would definitely like to do more co-translations.

4. In the 2017 edition of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, you were part of a panel for Daniel Hahn: The Power of Translation. I’m not asking you to tell us about it because if you are like me, chances are you don’t remember it at all. So my question is: What is the power of translation, in your opinion?

Well, the way things stand today, certainly here in the UK, I think the power of translation is abundantly clear. I have spent much time over the past months and years thinking about what I can do personally to fight against the tide of xenophobia that has been unleashed since the Brexit referendum, and the answer is always translate, translate, translate. Miguel Unamuno famously said: Fascism is cured by reading, and racism is cured by travelling. And translated literature allows us to do both, even from our armchair – it expands our understanding of other cultures and places, helps us to see our own situation in a new light, makes us curious, and broadens our capacity to embrace the unknown. Just a couple of days ago, I did a very Edinburgh Fringe thing for the first time in years: I took a punt on the one show that wasn’t sold out in the venue I was called Before the Revolution by the Temple Independent Theatre Company from Egypt and was in Arabic with surtitles. The two actors, dressed in white, stood facing us without moving, on a bed of nails for the entire forty minutes or so. At first I expected something more to happen, to be entertained more in some way, and then I thought “these people must really want to tell me their story” and I listened more carefully and learned so much. I left with a grain of understanding of what people in Egypt had been through, which I would never have had, had they hadn’t bothered to have their play translated and come to the Edinburgh Fringe.

I’m sure there are plenty of other things to be said about the power of translation, but for me, at the moment, this is the most important.

5. In ten years of experience giving seminars and talks, you have talked about different topics, such as translating (crime) fiction, translating cultural peculiarities, translation theory and practice, the symbiotic relationship between translator and editor, etc. What do you like talking about the most and why?

I always feel terrified when I’m asked to do something like this, but have learned to say yes, no matter. I tend to think of myself as quite an organic translator; I grew up bilingually, more or less, and even though I’ve studied translation theory and the like, I rarely think in any detail about what I’m doing or my strategy while I’m working. So being forced to sit down and think more clearly about the translation process from whichever angle is a good thing. I think it’s not so much what I’m talking about, but rather who I’m talking with that makes it fun. And I never tire of talking with other translators (I think generally, translators never tire of talking translation) – there are very few others who find the minutiae of what we do interesting for more than a short while, so it’s always a treat to be allowed to indulge. The last panel that I chaired on the symbiotic relationship between translator and editor was a great one as the topic is a rich vein to plow: the direct relationship between translator and editor, the translator as copy editor/proofer, the translator as editor of an anthology, for example. Everyone on the panels works with and wears both hats, so it was a very insightful, engaging and lively discussion.

6. What book translated from Norwegian into English do you highly recommend us?

Again, such a hard question to answer, I could recommend so many, for so many different reasons. But given what I said above about the power of translation, and given the swing to the right in so many countries today, I’m going to say The Seed by Tarjei Vesaas, published in English by Peter Owen in 1966. And since the terrorist attack in Norway by a far right extremist in 2011, I have been bending people’s ear about this book, and trying to get the publisher to retranslate it. I think perhaps I just need to do it, if nothing else to ease my own itch. Vesaas wrote the book in 1939-40. It is a highly symbolic story about how violence comes to an idyllic island with the arrival of a disturbed young man who had experienced a fatal explosion in the factory where he worked. It is about mob mentality, violence, blame, guilt and atonement, and the message could not be clearer: violence must not be tolerated.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

There are so many great women in translation I would love to nominate, though you have interviewed a number of them already. I am going to nominate Marilyn Booth, who translates from Arabic, and her translation of Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Beings recently won the Booker International. I know her as a former colleague from Edinburgh University, a neighbour, a fellow translator, and most essentially of all, good company!