How to describe the world as it is, and how to change it

Counterpoint’s latest issue focuses on how to describe the world as it is and how to change it. First to exemplify this is Lars Kleberg who relates how he and his colleagues set up a Swedish lexicon of translators and how their initiative was followed in other countries.

Elisabeth Gibbels conducted research on how translators’ encyclopedias from the late 19th and the beginning of the 20th century did not include a large number of important women. “Showing past contributions is vital,” she concludes, as it “offers an opportunity to change cultural memory”. Describing the world and changing it is often closely connected.

A demand for change is also heard when it comes to the imbalance of languages on the book market: most translations by far are from English, and a few other ‘big’ languages. Books written in so-called ‘small’ languages, however, are more rarely translated.

One of the main challenges for redressing this imbalance is the limited number of translators for certain small languages. Two translators describe two different approaches to overcome this problem, both from their own experience.

Danish translator Nanna Lund translated a Hebrew and a Turkish novel, both from German. Never again, she vowed. Now she is about to translate Orhan Pamuk’s latest novel, from English. In her candid article she tells you why.

Elizabeta Lindner, a Macedonian translator of German, English and Serbian poetry,  took intensive lessons in Latvian, and tells us how she started to translate Latvian poetry while still learning the language.

Can we, for the time being, leave this imbalance as it is? Can we, as Nayara Güércio asks, afford to keep waiting, or is cultural richness advanced by indirect translations, even if these are far from ideal?

We hope you enjoy this issue of Counterpoint over the coming winter.

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Counterpoint no. 8 online now
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