The art of literary translation

Renowned literary translator Anthea Bell shares her secrets for making a successful of a career as a translator.

Manukan beach, Borneo

Let’s start at the beginning. Translation is not a single genre, but comprises as many as there are genres of translated books. In fact there’s a notorious disproportion between the number of foreign-language books published in English and the number of English books translated into other languages.

We tend to be monoglots in the English-speaking world, and with some exceptions publishers have to rely on readers’ reports when they are deciding whether to accept a foreign book. Many translators also read foreign books for publishers, and it is of course crucial for us to be completely honest in giving our opinion on a book. Publishers have to know when they can trust their readers. Continue reading

Story submissions sought for an anthology about potatoes

Potatoes, blue plateIt’s very nearly Christmas, and my mind is already on family, sparkle, gifts, and, um, roasties. Which may be why this call for submissions caught my eye.

Independent publisher Fringeworks say: “Firstly, this anthology is serious. It is what it says on the tin. As the title suggests, we are looking for stories, which feature, er . . . potatoes! Yes, you read this right. ‘Potatoes‘, said in perfect Keith Lemon voice.” How could you resist.

They suggest considering the history of the root vegetable, from Sir Walter Raleigh’s voyages, to its importance during the Irish Famine, and add: “Did you know that Queen Marie Antoinette wore a potato-based fancy dress costume at a fancy dress ball?” My imagination is boggling! Continue reading

’tis the season of adaptations…

Helena Bonham Carter as Miss HavishamIt really does seem to be the Christmas of the Adaptation, doesn’t? Aside from the Nativity, which is adapted by schools, nurseries (my nephew played the Christmas Owl in his!) and church groups across the land, great old and modern classics are currently wriggling onto our screens to put a new spin on the stories we thought we knew oh so well.

Magwitch Great ExpectationsBecause a novel and a movie are entirely different beasts, so to head to the cinema in the belief we’re about to see an absolute representation of a much-loved book is daft, really. The best you can hope for is a director, cast and crew with an understanding of the source material, and the talent, to present something that captures the atmosphere and sense of the original story – not a blow-by-blow account (which, would, quite frankly, be dull), and add some extra spectacle as well.

For starters, we have Mike Newell’s interpretation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, starring the splendidly eccentric Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham (pictured top of post) – a role she clearly relishes, and Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch (above).

Life of Pi shotI’ve already got my ticket for Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, a novel I adored for its vivid fable-esque qualities. It has a lot to live up to, but Ang Lee is a film maker of amazing scope, and the Life of Pi trailer already hints that he may have accomplished something utterly breathtaking, utterly transportative.

The Hobbit An Unexpected JourneyAnd then there’s Peter Jackson’s much-anticipated first instalment of Tolkein’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, starring Martin Freeman as beloved Bilbo Baggins.

The fact Jackson has chosen to spread the single, relatively slim, volume over three films makes me a bit nervous, but then that’s what adaptations are, aren’t they? Books adapted, reinvented, reimagined for a completely different medium – presented with all the visuals, sounds and narratives parcelled up in the way the filmmaker feels best tells a the story, taking it from the page direct to our emotional cores. I can’t wait to see how each of these filmmakers approaches their daunting task, and how we, the audience, feel when we emerge from the cinema.

Because lovers of novels must be among the toughest audiences in the world, and in the end it all comes down to expectations.

Mslexia magazine review

Mslexia Cover issue 56I first reviewed this long-running quarterly magazine for EssentialWriters in December 2008 when the magazine launched by Debbie Taylor had just benefited from a fresh redesign.

At the beginning of April 2011 a more radical revamp was unveiled, revealing a classy matte white cover to a magazine that now boasts a spine (a physical one – it already had a metaphysical one), and a reintroduction of illustrative rather than photography cover art.

Today, the magazine maintains its strong outlook and valuable content, with in-depth interviews with notable writers working in a variety of mediums and genres, an analysis of a bestselling novel, and a gentle picking-apart-and-putting-back-together contemplation of a poem, as well as features aimed at helping you assess, improve and target your own writing. Continue reading

Vintage glamour (and lots of cake…!)

Birthday girl Lyn – check the rollers!

Birthday girl Lyn – check the rollers!

What better way to spend a dreary December afternoon than by indulging in an opulent vintage tea party? Dressed in floral tea dresses (challenging in this weather!) we traipsed over to the Aix-en-Provence Room at Bath Guildhall in Bath, where with vintage party specialists Pop Up Parlour and The Secret Tea Party awaited to help us celebrate with birthday girl Lyn. Continue reading

How to set up a home office

Writing room – home officeWhether you’re a creative writer or a freelance journalist, you need your own space. In an ideal world, as Virginia Woolf asserted in 1929, this would be a room of your own. But many of us don’t have that luxury, so it’s fortunate that a home office is effectively any space you can go to and feel business-like (even if you are wearing pyjamas!), productive and ready to work. Continue reading

Rainy days…

Rainy DaysWell, at least it’s not Monday… This is the view out of my home office window right now, and it’s only 3.20 in the afternoon! Days like this make me oh-so sleepy – which is my excuse for being cosied up inside, wrapped in a blanket pretend the glare from my laptop is a ray of sunshine.

Apparently the reason why we’re all so lack-lustre and dosy at the moment is not only because of the dreary winter weather, but because our summer was not as sparkling bright as we, and our bodies would like.

After an average British summer, we dip into autumn with only just enough Vitamin D to make it through to spring. This year our VitD levels are are critically low levels – hence the almost overwhelming urge to hibernate under a mass of duvets with only Twitter and Facebook for company.

But the cure is actually the opposite of what our bodies are telling us, as even the thin grey thing currently masquerading as sunlight is still beneficial. So the answer is to wrap up warm, pull on some wellies and tramp out into the rain and wind. It may not be tempting but you’ll feel much better for it, not to mention a tad virtuous. Plus then you’ll have the perfect excuse to get out of those wet clothes, get into your PJs, and pop on the kettle for a steamy cuppa. Heaven!

A very Penguin Advent

Penguin animationHave you spotted the Penguin Advent calendar? It’s only just come to my attention, and I’ve spent the last ten minutes clicking through the days I’ve missed – a bit like eating all the chocolates at once, only more far satisfying!

Each day features a different quirky animation (like this Penguin-interpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – genius!), a comment, recommendation or Christmas greeting from an author, a one-day discount or something else book-related and festive.

It’s fab fun – head to Penguin’s Advent Calendar to discover it for yourself!