Friday, October 16, 2009

Bouchercon II — My translation panel

This Bouchercon is set up a bit differently from the 2008 version in Baltimore, with more panel discussions in each time slot, and most taking place in smaller rooms. Four simultaneous events was the norm in Baltimore; here in Indianapolis there are six or more.

The smaller rooms meant a near-full house for my translation panel with Robert Pépin, Steven T. Murray, Tiina Nunnally and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. I was especially pleased that the panelists asked questions of one another, which meant good give and take. Nunnally told the too-many-cooks-spoil-the-stew story that led to her removing her name from the British translation of Smilla's Sense of Snow. In this case, one of the cooks was the author.

Robert Pépin had little patience with the suggestion that translation is an art, though his description of his own practice sounded suspiciously like art to me. He was also a bit of a jambon, a lively presence who was the first of the group to comment on another panelist's reply. Happily, the rest followed suit, and we had a real discussion going that ended far too soon. Fifty-five minutes for four intelligent panelists, me, and a roomful of questions? I ask you!

Nunnally's translations include works by Karin Fossum, Mari Jungstedt Hans Christian Andersen, Knut Hamsun, Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking), and quite a few more. She has also written two mysteries whose protagonist is a translator. I hope to have more to report about the books soon.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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12 Comments:

Anonymous marco said...

There was a brief discussion whether translation is more art and craftmanship in "my" translation panel. When a translation stops being a transference in another cultural context and becomes a recreation. And why authors whose style looks simple, like Simenon or Willeford, are so difficult to translate, because of the effects they achieve with their prose.
Ciao

October 16, 2009  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

Any audio of this particular session going to be up?

October 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, I don't know if anyone will put up audio of the session. I saw no evidence of recording devices. I thought of bringing a small digital recorder myself, but a) I don't owe one, and b) I would not have known how to set it up to achieve good sound quality. An hour of faint, distant echoes would have done on one any good.

October 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Robert Pepin was asked about translating puns. God bless him if the task is as simple and artless as he says it is. His translations of Michael Connelly certainly read smoothly.

The author Scott Phillips ("Ice Harvest") worked as a French-English translator briefly and loves Simenon. I should ask if he ever translated any Simenon. He's here at this conference, so I should have the chance.

October 16, 2009  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Sounds like a good panel, orry I missed it.

How's your French, Peter, have you ever thought about translating Quebecois crime fiction?

October 16, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

Apparently smart kids (not me) have learned to use cell-phones as recorders.
Simenon always chose the simplest, most common words given the chance, but he used what have been called "mots matière" words that have strong sensorial aspect.
He also wrote down countless details which didn't enter his stories - even for characters which had barely a line in his novels he needed to know where they did come from, what schools they frequented, etc.
The end result is that, even if the prose looks simple, the cumulative effect is a sense of depth, of tridimensionality.

October 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, the panel was good fun, and we could easily have gone longer. I told Pepin, who, if he was ever a leftist, has certainly grown jaded about leftists, that if we ever do such a panel again, we should stage a 1968-style insurrection, take over the room, and keep the panel going.

My French is good enough to let me order breakfast and to smile at the name "Bouchercon," but nowhere near good enough to let me translate fiction. How about your friend Michel?

October 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, many adults (not me) are smart enough to carry cell phones. I remember the strong sensory impact of the wind rattling around a seaside town in "The Yeloow Dog."

October 16, 2009  
Blogger Juri said...

Peter, you might want to change Kunt to Knut.

October 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I also might want to restrict my posting to when I am fully awake and alert. Thanks.

October 17, 2009  
Blogger Dana King said...

I'll admit, I went to this panel out of friendship to Peter. It became one of my five most informative and enjoyable events at the conference. The panel was well chosen, the questions were well conceived, and a wealth of things about translation came forward I would never have thought of.

October 19, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the good intentions and the kind words. Having a diverse and intelligent group up there on stage with me helped.

October 19, 2009  

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