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CEATL’s replies to the EU online questionnaire on the future Culture Programme
CEATL’s replies to the EU online questionnaire on the future Culture Programme
21 Dec, 2010
Tags: Europe

CEATL recently completed the EU online questionnaire (http://ec NULL.europa NULL.eu/culture/our-programmes-and-actions/doc2805_en NULL.htm) on the future Culture Programme. Here are our most important replies:

  • 2.9 – There’s a need for a specific EU programme for culture because without a cultural dimension, the EU is a dead body. Culture can never be reduced to a simple ‘national’ matter, because national cultures are open systems, fed by a wide variety of transnational currents. In the field of literature, for example, the influence of translations on ‘national’ literary history can hardly be overestimated. The new Culture Programme should incite and facilitate these transnational currents in order to develop a European cultural space (which, in its turn, can never be a closed system with a fixed ‘identity’).
  • 3.5 – In general, we are in favour of [the development of a space for experimentation, innovation and risk taking in the cultural sector]. However, the field of literary translation makes an exception. Literary translators (including theatre translators and subtitlers) do not develop new creative models: they constitute the ‘cultural infrastructure’ that makes this kind of international innovation possible. This infrastructural role should be guaranteed in the form of an appropriate, earmarked budget, possibly a separate programme or strand.
  • 3.6 – The electronic revolution must be met proactively, but no special financial support is needed (the new media claim to be self-supporting). For literary translators, it is of the utmost importance that their copyright is respected. Literary translators are creators of original works (cf. Berne Convention (http://www NULL.ceatl NULL.eu/translators-rights/legal-status/), art. 2) and must be treated accordingly in terms of contracts, visibility, legal status etc.
  • 3.12 – Translation is one of Europe’s key values (in Umberto Eco’s all too famous words: ‘The language of Europe is translation’). It constitutes the infrastructure of intercultural dialogue, and the key to European citizenship. Because of this essential role for cultural and linguistic diversity, translation should be exempted from the non-sectorial approach and receive its own earmarked budget as a separate strand in the new Culture Programme. This strand should not only offer support for translation of fiction (including drama and poetry) but also for culturally important non-fiction (philosophy, historiography etc.) and for television and theatre subtitling. It should also include support for the professional development and mobility of translators, and structural support for a pan-European network of translators’ houses. Funding should be adapted to the needs of the field.
  • 3.13 – Originally, Strand 1.2.2 [of the Culture Programme] was meant to cover translation costs. Unintentionally, with the introduction of the so-called ‘flat rates’ in 2008, this funding opportunity has turned into a publishing grant (because in current EACEA practice, publishers are free to pay the translator a lower fee and to use the rest of the grant for other purposes). This strand should be restructured (and possibly merged into a larger Translation strand or programme) in such a way that translation grants will permit translators to deliver better quality by raising their fees to a decent level. Grants should be given directly to the translators (cf. the Dutch or Norwegian grant system). Apart from this, properly earmarked grants for publishers should be created to cover promotion costs and the purchase of translation rights (especially in lesser-spoken languages with smaller print runs).
  • 3.15 – The Commission has already launched a feasibility study for [an EU literary translation prize]. In our view, it would be a big mistake to award one single translation prize for the whole EU (like the former Ariane prize), because people in Lithuania will not be interested in a prize awarded to a Catalan translator from the German – not to mention the impossibility to compare translations into different languages. Instead, a system of awards should be created: several awards per country, language or linguistic region, one for each literary genre (non-fiction included!). The main goal of these awards, which could simply take the form of an EU quality label without any sum of money linked to it, should be the visibility of the translator as a creator (cultural invisibility being the biggest problem for translators). For publishers, this kind of awards could be a very useful marketing instrument.
  • 3.17 – In addition to our earlier comments, we would like to stress that literary translation (in the broad sense) is not simply a tool for transporting an ever identical text from one language to another. In the words of EU President Barroso, literary translation is ‘more than ever an active process, transforming what it transfers, creating something new, reinventing literature and keeping it alive.’ Literary translation, and cultural mediation in general, is very much a two-way street: not only do translators introduce their domestic readership to a text from another language and culture, they also endow that text with new life and meaning by placing it in a different linguistic and cultural setting, a creative act by which they simultaneously enrich their own language and literary heritage. This is why literary translation belongs to the field of culture, not simply to the field of multilingualism. In terms of the well-known image: indeed, the translator creates a bridge between two languages and cultures – but the most important fact is not the existence of the bridge, but its architecture, its quality, its reliability. This is why literary translation also needs support as a cultural fact of its own: if not, the image we will have of other cultures will just be a low-quality snapshot. Because of the ‘infrastructural’ role of translation, we would like to make a plea for a separate Translation programme or strand.

Members can find the complete set of replies in the internal archives (http://www NULL.ceatl NULL.eu/restricted/docs/2010-12-14_EU_Culture-Programme_consultation NULL.pdf).

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