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