#deltfeatureweek – Translators Aloud

It’s been a busy week at DELT’s social media HQ, where we’ve been sharing readings by our members from the Translators Aloud YouTube channel. Here we have Martin Aitken, perhaps best known for his translations of Knausgaard, reading from his unpublished translation of Kirsten Thorup’s Recollection of Love. Get in touch if you want to know more!

Follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

Event: Perspectives on Publishing

A cohort of DELT translators and English language publishing professionals met at the Danish Embassy in London on 20th April 2023 for pastries, networking, and a panel discussion on publishing – specifically, publishing translations. The event was arranged to coincide with London Book Fair.

We were welcomed by Lone Britt Christensen, the Cultural Attaché at Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and enjoyed an informal coffee, fika and introduction round, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Martin Aitken.

The panel:

Jay Millar, Co-Publisher at Book*hug Press

Book*hug (previously, BookThug) began as a poetry press in 2004 and fell almost accidentally into publishing translated literature, when a festival in Toronto, encouraged Canadian publishers to apply for sample grants from the Danish Arts Foundation in order to be able to present various Danish authors to Canadian readers. This led to Book*hug’s first Danish-in-translation title, Pencil of Rays and Spiked Mace by Niels Lyngsø (tr. Gregory Pardlo). Since then, they have published Danish authors such as Niels Frank, Karen Fastrup and Olga Ravn.

Aina Martí-Balcells, Publisher at Héloïse Press

Héloïse Press is a relatively new, one-woman press that publishes approximately four fiction titles a year. Aina focusses on female narratives in translation as well as ones originally written in English. So far, the press has mostly published Western European writers, but is interested in branching out to Eastern Europe and further afield. Héloïse’s titles include PEN Translates winner, The Memory of the Air by Caroline Lamarche (tr. Katherine Gregor) and What Concerns Us by Laura Vogt (tr. DELT member Caroline Waight).

Clare Bogen, Publicity Director at Fitzcarraldo Editions

Fitzcarraldo Editions has shot to literary fame within a mere nine years since their inception, largely due to their uncanny ability to publish Nobel prize-winning authors. Their fiction and non-fiction titles are easily recognisable by their iconic blue and white covers, and they publish roughly half original English language works and half literature in translation. Authors include Annie Ernaux, Jon Fosse and Agustín Fernández Mallo.

Cath Jenkins, Assistant Editor at Norvik Press

Norvik Press was established in 1986 as part of UEA. They are now based at UCL, and publish a wide range of fiction, poetry and literary criticism – all in some way related to the Nordic countries, now branching out into the wider Baltic region. They are a non-profit organisation and therefore rely on funding and crowdfunding. Norvik Press has published many prominent Nordic authors such as Herman Bang, Vigdis Hjorth and Klaus Rifbjerg.

Some of the event participants and speakers (left-to-right):
Misha Hoekstra, Cath Jenkins, Jay Millar, Aina Martí-Balcells, Clare Bogen, Claudia Comyn, Martin Aitken, Rob Myatt


Our discussion covered everything from the differences between the Danish and English editing process, to the evolving social media book review landscape. Here in summary:

How a book reaches its reading public

Depending on the book, this is a combination of traditional publicist activities such as sending out proof copies for reviews and author talks, to “BookTok”, to more innovative methods such as collaborating with other artists in order to stage theatre reenactments, visual representations etc. There is a general consensus that smaller presses tend to be more creative with their publicity, and this is perhaps especially the case when it comes to translated literature, which the mainstream British media is still largely resistant to.

A younger audience for translation literature

In terms of publicity, there has been a power shift from reviewers working for mainstream media, who used to be literature’s gatekeepers – able to make or break a book – to incredibly influential, young people on social media, able to make books go viral. A more democratic conversation around books has emerged. These younger readers’ world is global, they’re connected to the internet, and that perhaps explains why they are less adverse to translations than reviewers and readers of previous generations.

Translating with author involvement

Translating to one of the world’s most spoken languages often involves authors, especially when translating from a language such as Danish, where most authors have a very high level of English. We discuss the pros and cons of being able to work closely with authors: close collaboration vs. the author perhaps not even reading the English result.

Editing translations

A brief discussion about the difference between editing translations as opposed to editing original English language texts. We also talk about the more involved process of editing in the English publishing industry, and the shorter process in Denmark, and what kind of literature that tends to result in. Again, pros and cons.

Buying rights

Generally, English language publishers want to buy World English Rights. If based in the UK, they may then go on to sell the North American rights to a US publisher, who might then go on to license the Canadian rights to a publisher in Canada. Sometimes, two or more English language publishers from different territories will buy the rights together, splitting the cost, as well as the cost of translation. The sale of Danish rights is usually – but not always – facilitated by agents.

Pitching Workshop

All four publishers – particularly the more recently established ones – rely heavily on translators to tip them off about authors and books in languages they don’t understand. Many have translators they already work with and trust, many also work with foreign agents.

Generally, a good pitch from a translator should include a sample that can’t be turned down! The pitch, synopsis, comparable titles, reviews, prizes, etc. is a nice-to-have and gives good context to the sample, but the publishers’ decision generally rests on the quality and relevance of the sample. The experience of the translator may also be a factor. Other considerations – like funding and promotion possibilities, tend to come later. It is, however, good to make things as easy as possible for the publisher, eg. by ensuring before pitching that the English rights are available.

And a final tip: Always research the publisher you’re pitching to, that makes the best impression, even if the specific book you’re pitching isn’t quite right for them, it’s good for them to know that you understand what they’re into!

Thank you

A huge thank you to The Danish Arts Foundation for making this event possible through its ‘Literary Events and Projects’ fund, the Danish Embassy for hosting us, and, of course, our panellists, moderator and translators for participating.

Report by DELT member and event attendee Hazel Evans.

Additional photos by Ian Giles.

A Summer of Virtual Activities

As lockdown and social distancing measures were suddenly put in place all over the world owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, so DELT’s plans for 2020 suddenly shifted. It soon became apparent that keeping in touch virtually would be the year’s key focus. Twice in May, members were invited to a ‘social’ Zoom meet-up in order to test the technology and gauge interest.

Following up on suggestions from those sessions, on 26 June 2020 DELT hosted a virtual sharing session on the topic Submitting to Magazines, Competitions and Grants. Committee member Lin Falk von Rooyen guided a conversation between a trio of award-winning Danish translators: Misha Hoekstra, Kyle Semmel and Katrina Øgaard Jensen. Lin has kindly put together a report on the top tips and links from this session, which members can read in the Members’ Area.

On 20 July 2020, perfectly timed to coincide with the first ever Danish workshop at the BCLT (British Centre for Literary Translation) Summer School, DELT hosted a Zoom session entitled In Conversation with Christina Hesselholdt.

Photo of Christina Hesselholdt by Robin Skjoldborg

On this occasion, Paul Russell Garrett (DELT Chair) took the reins, which started with readings in Danish by the author and in English by the BCLT Summer School participants. The panel was then joined by Christina’s publisher, Jacques Testard, and agent, Laurence Laluyaux, who had a wide-ranging discussion on the various stages of publishing a Danish book in the UK. Attendees had an opportunity to ask questions to the panel directly, moderated by DELT founder, Ellen Kythor. Many questions centred around breaking into the industry as a translator and promoting Danish authors abroad. The session was attended by around 35 invitees.

From 20-25 July 2020, ten Danish translators, including six DELT members, took part in the first ever virtual summer school at BCLT, increasing the possibility for participants from around the world to join. The group consisted of participants from the UK, Ireland, Belgium and Denmark, as well as one early riser dialling in from the east coast of America. Led by DELT Chair Paul Russell Garrett, and with the author Christine Hesselholdt ‘in the room’ to respond to any queries, the ten participants set about translating an article that was commissioned by Information, one of a series of articles focussing on Danish nature. The programme consisted of about thirteen hours of translation sessions, which included translation exercises and professional development advice, as well as talks, socials and plenaries with the entire summer school group. The week culminated in a reading of the translated text, however it seemed the group wasn’t content to end it there, and decided to continue meeting after the summer school to translate a second article by the author. They hope to be able to publish their translations and share some of their experiences from a remarkably social summer school, experienced from the comfort of their own homes.

A few of the BCLT Danish participants hard at work …

DELT In Conversation with Christina Hesselholdt

Photo by Robin Skjoldborg

Founder and editor of Fitzcarraldo Editions, Jacques Testard, literary agent, Laurence Laluyaux, and translator Paul Russell Garrett will join Christina Hesselholdt in discussing the publication of Danish literature in translation. Please contact DELT if you would like to participate in this private event for translators of Danish literature into English.

Attendee feedback on DELT Workshop in Edinburgh

In June 2019, DELT members, along with keen students and local translators, assembled in Edinburgh to participate in a workshop and panel on the theme of ‘translator as/and editor’. Our full write-up is available online. We requested feedback from attendees via a SurveyMonkey questionnaire – this news post collates a few key titbits!

Most survey respondents described the daytime translation workshop as inspiring, interesting, organised and welcoming. In summary, participants particularly liked the collegiality of the daytime workshop. The icebreaker and designing in a mix of experience into the sub-groups were especially positively received. In future, some respondents suggested a longer workshop with an opportunity to mix groups.

“The workshop GOT ME THINKING – which is exciting, as a lot of our work as translators is rather hum drum.”

Attendees appreciated the “excellent composition” of the expert evening panel, The Symbiotic Relationship between the Editor and the Translator. The panel might have been improved by a more Nordic focus and more time for audience Q&A, but overall respondents enjoyed the flow of conversation and stories from such a broad range of panellists.

“The realization that the work of a translator and that of an editor is SO amazingly entwined. How essential it is for a translator to have good chemistry with the editor.”

“…entertaining but illustrative anecdotes… it was just solid.”

The overall networking elements of the event were appreciated and praised, but we were also given great ideas for future networking options such as including opportunities for translators to promote their books or spend more time with the expert panellists.

[Networking] is invaluable even though it may not seem so at the time. The informal discussions with others, on working conditions, publishers they know etc. were all extremely useful. And it was great to meet some old friends and make new ones!”

Thank you so much for the constructive feedback that has given DELT’s committee some ideas to work with for future plans!

“Really great event and I really enjoyed myself. Let me on a work-high for a few days after.”

DELT in Edinburgh, 25 June 2019 – Translator as Editor/Translator and Editor

On 25 June, DELT members converged on the city of Edinburgh for a workshop, panel and networking event, which was kindly hosted by the University of Edinburgh Scandinavian Studies section in their home of 50 George Square. DELT is grateful to have received financial assistance from the Danish Arts Foundation’s Literature Fund to hold this event.

The Danish-English translation workshop, organised by the DELT Committee, followed the theme of ‘translator as editor/translator and editor’. 20 people participated in the workshop component of the day, including 11 DELT members. We were thrilled to be joined by 5 current students of Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh, as well as several translators of Scandinavian languages based in Scotland who were keen to practise some Danish literary translation in contrast to their daily diet of Norwegian or Swedish! The day kicked off at midday when the group gathered for the chance to get to know each other better over a buffet lunch outside the workshop venue. Conversation flowed and newcomers were a little more familiar by the time everyone was ushered in to start the workshop.

After an initial welcome and thank yous from DELT Chair and Founder, Ellen Kythor, the workshop began in earnest, led by DELT member and Treasurer Paul Russell Garrett. Attendees were treated to a series of exercises borrowed from the world of theatre designed to get brains working and attuned to the group work to follow. A get-to-know-you exercise requested one fun fact about each participant – many were surprised at what they learned! A one-word chain storytelling exercise later resulted in dexterity and laughs from everyone.

Paul assigned participants into small groups ensuring a good mix of backgrounds, skills and interests in every team. The exercises started with a discussion amongst all groups about what considerations and actions were involved in the act of editing a translated text, and which of these were priorities. The assembled participants had a range of ideas about what came first in this regard. There was also extensive discussion about the working processes different translators preferred when drafting, re-drafting and editing their own work.

Then each of the five groups were issued with a separate unseen Danish literary text of just a hundred words. The initial task was for each individual to produce their own draft translation of the Danish source text. The next phase saw each group assigned to produce one agreed translation of their text that took on board the decisions of all group members: an initial editing exercise. Most participants were surprised to find what similarities and differences there were in their initial individual drafts. Towards the end of the first half of the workshop, each group then read aloud their agreed translation to all of the participants and discussed which editing challenges they had particularly focused on in their compilation task. All the translated texts already sounded very impressive!

After a coffee break (with doughnuts!) to ensure everyone was fully fuelled, it was back to the translation coal face… this time putting on their ‘editing’ hats. Paul requested that each group select a known publisher that regularly published translations, and brainstorm on this publisher’s house style and editing values. The teams MacLehose Press, Norvik Press, Fitzcarraldo, Hesperus and Pushkin Press all applied these approaches to three translations that were ‘delivered’ to them from other groups. Despite the Danish expertise in the room, this time no editors had access to the source text – only the translation. This resulted in various challenges, depending on the ethos of each group’s respective publishing house style. It also gave translators insight into the real position of most anglophone editors in the industry – editing without the ‘original’. Eventually, all participants reconvened and compared notes on how they had edited each text… very differently! The session concluded with each participant describing one thing they would take away from the workshop and one thing they would leave behind, revealing that for many participants, emerging and emerged translators alike, it had been a confidence-boosting and inspiring afternoon.

After a little time to reset, everyone returned – along with a number of additional audience members – for the showpiece panel discussion, titled ‘The Symbiotic Relationship between the Editor and the Translator’. The stellar panel featured renowned translator and translation-activist Daniel Hahn, founder and editor of Charco Press Carolina Orloff, and the Scots translator (and author and publisher) James Robertson. Norwegian-English translator Kari Dickson was chairing proceedings. Panel coordinator Lin Falk van Rooyen (DELT’s Events and Networking Officer) introduced the panellists.

The panellists discussed several issues on the topic of editing translations, including the connection between translating and editing in the translation process, and how the nature of this process impacts on the quality of the final translation. There was a lot of interest, especially from the audience, in the requirement or lack of knowledge of the source language as an editor of a translation. Discussion also covered the difference between editing and proofreading, and included some fascinating (and dreadful!) tales from the industry of less-than-good practice!

The panel whizzed by and, after a number of audience questions, the gathering moved outside the room to mingle and enjoy refreshments. Conversation was fruitful and enthused and new friendships were formed. DELT was delighted to be able to facilitate such a gathering between industry experts and translation enthusiasts from many different language combinations and backgrounds.

The evening was rounded off with a convivial dinner just across the road for DELT members and colleagues.

The event was organised by DELT committee members Ellen Kythor (Chair), Lin Falk van Rooyen (Events and Networking Officer), Paul Russell Garrett (Treasurer), John Mason and Sinead Quirke Køngerskov (Co-Secretaries). DELT would especially like to thank Dr Guy Puzey in Scandinavian Studies at University of Edinburgh for his assistance and enthusiasm in enabling us to hold the event at this venue. DELT’s committee was successful in applying for a grant from the Danish Arts Foundation to ensure this event could take place, of which the majority covered speakers’ fees for panellists and travel grants for 10 participants coming from outside Edinburgh. If you attended, please complete our feedback survey. If you are interested in our future events and also have an interest in translating Danish literature into English, please consider joining DELT.

Photo credits: Ian Giles and Ellen Kythor

DELT panel and networking reception, Edinburgh 25 June 2019

The Symbiotic Relationship Between Editor & Translator

Join us in Edinburgh on 25 June 2019 for a lively discussion about the editing of literature in translation. We’re very excited to be bringing together a select group of industry professionals to discuss a topic our members have been clamouring to hear more about!

Speakers on the panel discussion:

  • Kari Dickson: Norwegian to English translator and lecturer (Chair)
  • Daniel Hahn: Portuguese, Spanish, French to English translator, lecturer and industry extraordinaire
  • Carolina Orloff: Founding Editor of Charco Press, Spanish to English translator
  • James Robertson: Scottish author, editor and translator

Topics covered will include:

  • Where do you draw the line between translating and editing during the translation process?
  • How do you establish a positive relationship between editor and translator?
  • Who has the final say – editor, translator or author?

Translators, publishers, industry professionals, students or anyone with an interest in translated literature in the UK – you’re all invited! Following the panel discussion there will be a networking reception to which we invite translators, publishers, and other industry professionals.

DATE/TIME: Tuesday 25 June, 17.00-19.00

VENUE: University of Edinburgh – School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, 50 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LH.

Please RSVP via our Eventbrite event page to be kept up-to-date!

This panel and reception will be preceded during the day by a Danish-English literary translation workshop for DELT members and invited members of University of Edinburgh. If applicable, RSVP by 31 May to confirm your attendance directly to members@danishtranslation.org 

Supported by the Danish Arts Foundation.

DELT at London Book Fair

While there will not be a formal DELT meeting to coincide with LBF 2019 in March, we hope to mingle with DELT members at the Nordic Countries Stand Reception (Tuesday 12th March) and an informal dinner/meet-up organised by the Danish Arts Foundation staff in attendance. DELT members who will be visiting LBF can send their name and email address by 24th February to our Treasurer Paul Russell Garrett (deltcommitteetreasurer@gmail.com) who will pass on your details to ensure you receive an invitation to any potential Danish Arts Foundation activity at the fair.

DELT Meeting, April 2018, London

We are pleased to invite you to the launch of the Association of Danish-English Literary Translators (DELT) that will coincide with the Book Fair in London in April.

Date/Time: Thursday, 12 April 2018, 9:30 – 12:30

Place: The Danish Embassy, 55 Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 9SR

At the meeting our current chair, Ellen Kythor, will present an overview of DELT activities. This will be followed by a discussion of the future aims and ambitions of the organisation, an address by our guest speaker, Rosalind Harvey (Topic: ‘But isn’t it all just subjective?’) and an opportunity to network, which will be initiated by an informal translation slam: we have selected short extracts (ca 200 – 300 words) from three wonderful contemporary Danish novels (Maren Uthaug’s Hvor der er fugle, Jonas T. Bengstsson’s Sus and Janne Teller’s Kom) and attendees will be invited to prepare a draft translation of one of these extracts in advance of the meeting.

DELT will be applying for funding to cover attendees’ travel and accommodation expenses. Information on how to RSVP has been emailed to DELT members and posted on the Google+ Community – if you would like to attend but have not received these details, please contact us via email at DELTCommittee@gmail.com

DENT meeting, March 2017, London

DENT meeting for Danish-English literary translators: ‘TRANSLATOR AS AGENT’

Wednesday 15th March 2017, 09.30 – 11.30

Danish Embassy in London, 55 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9SR

The theme ‘translator as agent’ will be addressed by guest speakers with publishing industry experience. The meeting will also be a networking opportunity and a chance to discuss the future of DENT. Agenda and speakers to be confirmed – information will follow on the Google+ Community.

MEETING OPEN TO ALL Danish-English literary translators. The meeting coincides with London Book Fair.

Please RSVP by 8 February to Ellen Kythor: e.kythor@ucl.ac.uk