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Ask a Translator with Daniel Hahn

2016/12/1 — 12:58

【Text by Daniel Hahn】

Imagine, a future in which we translators get to translate books that someone has actually bothered to edit already!

This week marks the final posting in our ever-captivating series with writer and translator Daniel Hahn. Hahn has answered questions ranging from how a translator should edit to what to judging translation contests to what to make of how translators are credited on book jackets. The question for the last column comes from Asymptote Editor-in-Chief, Lee Yew Leong.

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You’ve just returned from your nth Writers Festival this year—where you no doubt had the chance to observe the ‘state of translation’ (in a different country, on a different continent) up close. In fact, I can’t think of anyone more suitable to pose this question to: What does the future of literary translation hold for editors, translators, and readers, say, ten years from now?

Thanks, Yew Leong—like the other questions weren’t big and challenging enough already! How am I supposed to answer this?

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Actually, though… Maybe it’s not so hard as all that? Because I’m not convinced that ten years from now things will be wildly different—not the things that matter, anyway.

For one thing, principles and values shouldn’t change just because context changes. We may well be entering a pretty dark time in political / social / economic terms—from the particular (western, Anglophone) place where I’m sitting, at least; but that doesn’t change the importance of what my colleagues do. On the contrary. Back in March I wrote about the translator’s responsibility and power in today’s too-divided world—and that sure as hell isn’t going away anytime soon; we just need to know that we can keep responding to challenges not with surrender but with defiance. (We will.)

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