I’ve always been fascinated by the translation process. Some of my favorite books were ones I read as English translations—Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, Madame Bovary. I recently joined the Creative Superheroes Facebook group, run by the fabulous Wonderlass, Allison. Through that group I met Fotieni Moschi, a translator in Greece, and we decided to trade blog posts! Yesterday I wrote about 5 Tips for Finding (and Keeping) Inspiration, and today Foteini shares some insight about the translation process.
Please read and check out Foteini’s blog, Metaphrasi!
- How does a book get to be translated? What’s the process?
A book gets to be translated in various ways. Traditionally, a publisher finds an interesting foreign book he/she thinks would fit their audience. They then acquire rights to the book and assign it to a translator of their choice. It might be a best-selling novel in English that they want to translate in their language or a memoir of a long forgotten poet of a smaller language. An author may also commission a translator to translate their book, in order to get his work noticed in more wide spoken languages and lately translations have also been made possible via crowdfunding!
- What’s the best part of being a translator?
Diversity! Even if you are mainly a literary translator, your work might take you from ancient Egypt to contemporary Paris and from a compelling historical past to a dystopian future. Also, you get to meet a lot of characters (even though often you end up hating some of them by the 500th page of the book!). This is more true when you translate various types of texts; for example, one day you might be translating a restaurant menu and the next a press release for a fashion show. It sounds fun, I know, but don’t forget, you have to learn how to jump from one field to the other and you have to be constantly informed about… well anything!
- What’s the most challenging thing about being a translator?
Loneliness. You are alone with your book (or project) for countless hours in your office (which needs to be solitary and quiet in order to be able to concentrate). Sometimes your projects require consultance with a specialist in a certain field, e.g. a shoe maker if you are translating a book about shoes or a restaurant chef if you are trying to find the exact ingredients described in a meal the heroes of your novel are having. But in general, it is mostly you and your work and the endless procrastination paradise of the internet. 🙂
- What does a normal day translating look like for you?
The first thing when I step in the office every morning is to make a yummy espresso and then check my projects for the day. Sometimes it’s certificates and documents translation; sometimes it is a book. I prefer to tackle easy projects first in order to be able to focus on the harder ones without the stress that there are many projects in queue. I take a small break for a second coffee if I need it or lunch and a stroll around my office—which is in a commercial area with many shops. It helps me clear my mind. Afternoons are for my personal projects, blogging as well as marketing ideas. If I have a deadline, though, you might find me translating until late at night!
- How did you get into translation? Have you always wanted to be a translator?
I have always loved reading books and I soon realized I wanted to have a career which would involve literature. That was why I chose to study Greek Language and Literature as my first degree. During my university years, I took some seminars and workshops on translation and comparative literature with some amazing teachers and they opened up a whole new world to me. I found translation fascinating and I came to realize its huge importance for culture and our life in general and I have been very passionate about it since!
- What’s your favorite book you’ve translated?
I love them all! Each and every one of them has a firm spot in my heart as I have spent so much time with its characters and it has taken me to far away places and cultures. If I had to name one though, I think Vivaldi’s Virgins, by Barbara Quick has a special place in my heart, as one of my first books of fiction, as does The Templar’s Sword which has been translated in English and is in the exciting process of finding a US publisher!
- Do you have any advice for anyone who’d like to get into translating?
Read as much as you can. And then find a good educational institute to gain the necessary expertise which is essential for all jobs. I loved my MA in Literary Translation from University of East Anglia; it had the most amazing professors and a very interesting curriculum. Also, read about translation, and of course, network. Join groups, talk to practising translators and ask them about their work in order to see if it would be right for you. There are hidden pros and cons in all professions so make sure you research yours well. 🙂
- Do you have any advice for authors who want to get their book translated?
Be bold. Believe in your book and you will find someone who will believe in it, too. But be focused, too. Find an agent who works with international publishers and do your research: if you think your book would do well in a particular language/country, then research publishing opportunities there. Also, look out for translation funds. A foreign publisher might be more inclined to publish your book in their language if they know part of their cost can be covered by a language institution.
I am a freelance literary translator and editor from Greece. In 2010 I founded Metaphrasi, a boutique translation agency where I translate books and outsource technical translations in many language combinations.
I also represent authors who are looking for an international voice and scout for extraordinary children’s books for various publishers.
I love all things bookish, vintage, photography, and coffee.