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Literary translation panels explore networking and business development

9 July 2021

Six publishers and editors from the UK and Germany shared insights into the process of working with translators during a series of panel discussions at Bristol Translates. Each event drew a crowd of nearly two hundred linguists who put their questions to the speakers. To round things off, Bristol Translates co-director Ros Schwartz shared her advice on pitching a translation project to publishers and editors.

The two themes that featured most prominently across all of the events were relationship-building and the business side of a translation project. Lilidh Kendrick, an assistant editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, pointed out that editors have their own taste and ambition, and that it is important to address them directly in correspondence. Adam Freudenheim, the head of Pushkin Press and former publisher of Penguin Classics, Modern Classics and Reference, encouraged younger translators to not be shy about approaching editors, saying that there is always room for new translators and that what matters most is the strength of the book project, rather than the translator’s resumé. Based on audience questions, Kendrick, Freudenheim and Schwartz shed light on the important of target group and competition analyses, the translator’s knowledge of sales figures and book reviews, and explained how best to approach an editor.

Much like Pushkin Press, independent Manchester-based Comma Press also specialised in translated literature. Sarah Cleave, Comma’s Publishing Manager, explained the process of compiling anthologies of short stories around cities and gave a sneak preview of upcoming projects and publications. In response to questions about the role of literary agents, she explained that Comma sees itself as an advocate of its authors and, for quite a few of them, acts as their UK agent.

In a panel focused on the operative side of the collaboration between editors and translators, MacLehose editor Katharina Bielenberg offered behind-the-scenes stories about difficult authors and even more difficult translators, illustrating the intensity of the work that goes into each project. Her comments were echoed by Barbara Haus Schwepcke, the founder of Haus Publishing and chair of the board of trustees of Gingko, who showcased her cross-border, cross-language work on The New Divan, a productive lyrical and essayistic tribute to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s seminal West-Eastern Divan. Christophe Fricker contributed comments about his work as adviser to Krachkultur, a Munich-based literary journal, stressing the need for translators to read a journal before they submit to it and giving tips on how to write to editors when pitching a text.


Further information

Bristol Translates attendees will receive an exclusive invitation to submit work as part of a competition organised by Comma Press around one of their upcoming projects, the Book of Bogotá.

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