I recently attended the 2018 MET (Mediterranean Editors and Translators) conference in Girona, Catalonia (Spain). It was the first time I had been to a MET conference, and I knew virtually no-one. I have to confess that I felt a little apprehensive about going to this conference alone. Though, in fact, I needn’t have worried as the environment was informal and welcoming, and there were activities organised to break the ice with other attendees.
Highlights of the conference for me, although they were only a small fraction of the whole conference programme, included the OffM-Lunch group I attended on Friday, Freelancing after Kids, hosted by Philippa Bennet. As a mum of two, who has had to master the art of juggling home and work life with tiny terrorists in tow, I was interested to share my experiences with other mums and dads who also work as freelance translators. We had conversations that probably would not have arisen spontaneously or easily in another context.
Perhaps the speaker I found most insightful, not to mention entertaining, was Daniel Hahn, who talked about his experience as a literary translator working alongside editors, with his talk In Praise of Editors (The Translator’s View). I loved his analogy of the editor as someone who wipes a blurry window clean to offer a clear and focused view outside. He discussed how the little acknowledged figure of the editor plays a crucial role in the writing and translation process. In contrast to translation with a more overtly commercial purpose, literary translation is maybe less about reflecting the verbatim accuracy of a text (although obviously important) and more about capturing the overall voice of a particular writer in a different language. Hahn described literary translation as one of the only arts in which we replicate a work to make it entirely the same through using a completely different medium. What a fantastic thought.
Another talk I liked was David Cullen’s A Translator’s Decalogue, which discussed what freelance translators should (and should not) be offering as providers. I was happy to see that most of what he suggested is part of my own practice as a freelance translator, which includes not being afraid to turn down work if a) it’s not within your range of specialisations or b) you have too much work already. Interestingly, he recommended asking a native speaker of the target language, who does not speak the source language, to read through your work once in a while, to spot the kind of errors to which people who speak both the source and target languages can become blind. Funnily, he mentioned that his dad was his all-time hardest critic, which resonated with me as, among the many people who have read through my work over the years, my all-time hardest (and best) critic has been my mum, now a retired teacher of English Literature.
A really nice thing happened at the Conference. I was browsing the table of people’s work and I picked up a small white book, which consisted of a series of short personal anecdotes from one translator’s life with stick-man illustrations, in the style of Hurrah for Gin. I was absorbed in the book and after around ten minutes looked up to see someone standing next to me. It was Allison Wright, the author of the very book I was reading, Scatterling. We then had an interesting conversation and she ran off to get me a copy of her book to take home. Thanks Allison!
Finally, it was good to meet some of the people I have had intermittent conversations with on social media. I have since invited people to connect with me on LinkedIn. I hope to keep in touch and meet more of you at future MET events.