The Author-Translator-Publisher Relationship—A Marriage of Like Minds!

There is learning that one can get from reading texts, and learning that comes in the form of classroom lectures. And then there is the learning that comes from the sharing of actual experience—to be henceforth known as ‘The Seagull School of Publishing house-style’! Seagull brought together a lovely trio—German-language authors Dorothee Elmiger and Inka Parei, and their English translator Katy Derbyshire—for a heart to heart with the students on the afternoon of 15 January 2013. The expressed aim was to provide the Editing and Design students with a view of the author-translator-publisher relationship. It was a very interactive and open session, where the guests shared their personal journey, and their experience within the professional relationships they have developed along the way, generously interspersing their dialogue with fun anecdotes.

Katy started the session by giving us some insight into a translator’s world and her passion for the literary works of women authors. She spoke about the various ways that open up for her the possibility of translation projects—be it her connections within the publishing domain, or the writing of sample translations or through her blog. She provided a unique insight into the process of translation, noting that the critical aspect is to transfer the correct voice (the appropriate perspective) in the original text into the translation. It goes far beyond word-to-word translation, and is the greatest responsibility of the translator towards the author. Once the voice has been captured it smoothly reveals the layers of meaning in the text. Near the end of the session Katy also shared some details on her book club, where translators and literature enthusiasts interact over months to finally suggest books that deserve wider audience and should be taken up for translation.

Inka Parei shared with us some details of her creative process, and the assistance she received from a writers’ workshop at the start of her journey as an author. She most interestingly provided a juxtaposition between the deeply private process of writing a novel, and the public and media spectacle required for its promotion—its ‘presenting’! Having been translated into 13 languages, she was also able to provide insight into the range of working styles of different publishing houses, editors and translators. Inka noted that a translation should actually be considered a complete re-writing of the novel.

Dorothee Elmiger, as a young author with one novel in publication, revealed that writing for her is a very personal quest and that market forces do not come into play for her at all during writing. Inka meanwhile interjected that she definitely keeps the readership in mind, so as to ensure that her writing, while an expression of herself, doesn’t leave any leaps or inferences unexplained nor take the reader’s interest or exposure for granted. The authors willingly discussed the authors and works that have influenced them and their writing. They also highlighted the importance of trust for the author. To give up their creation into the hands of an editor or translator requires a lot of trust. The pressure to have their work finally in print may influence the author, but at the end of the day the work must remain true to its vision. When an author finds a translator, an editor or a publisher who shares and respects that vision, that is when the match feels truly made in heaven.

Aastha Khandelwal


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