Translation in Practice: A symposium

edited by Gill Paul (Champaign, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 2009): 68pp, out of print, ISBN 978 1564785480.

Reviewed by Sylvia Sullivan

The Italians have a saying – 'Tradutorre, traditore' ('A translator is a traitor') – with which translators will be familiar and which they spend their professional lives trying to avoid. This short book looks at some of the dilemmas and problems facing both translators and editors when preparing a book for publication in another language.

Arising from a symposium in 2008, it aims to be a practical guide to the process of translating works into English. 'It is intended as an introduction … that will address the challenges … of literary translations.' It is on the 'literary translation' that this volume concentrates, where the translator's art comes into its own. This is where the translator lose sleep over delicate nuance, rhythm, syntax, metaphor and simile, dialect and slang in a way that those working on more practical documents do not, when it may be distinctly advantageous to pare the original, perhaps ornate, sentences down to a simpler, shorter structure.

Translation as an art form

Nevertheless, there is much that the editor can gain from this book. It gives an insight into translation as an art form in its own right and how translators approach their work. It is also a useful overview of how the various members of an editorial publishing team – from commissioning editor to structural editor and copyeditor – fit together in this context and how they can work with an author and translator throughout the gestation of a new book.

In six chapters, given substance by anecdote and direct experiences, it synthesises discussion on:

  • how editors choose translators
  • translation contracts
  • establishing boundaries
  • translation problems and solutions
  • the editing process
  • ongoing relationships.

In addition, bullet-point summaries are given of the translator's and the editor's roles.

Reviews of other related skills guides All book reviews