In virtue of the Berne Convention (http://www NULL.ceatl NULL.eu/translators-rights/legal-status) literary translations are considered original works (Art. 2). For the general public this idea is difficult to accept: translators are supposed to give a faithful rendering of the original text, a mirror image, not to be creative and produce a text of their own. However, a quick comparison of two translations of the same original immediately makes clear that literary translation is just as much about difference as about identity. Choosing the right words to render a text from another language and culture is not a mechanical act, but a creative one – hence the legal status of the translator as author.
Paradoxically, this authorship of the translator mostly remains invisible. The better the translation, the more the reader will have the impression that s/he is reading the original text. However, if the general reader does not pay attention to the quality of the translation, translation quality will not be regarded as a relevant cultural and economic factor. This is why literary translators desperately need to be culturally visible as authors of their texts. Only then can they lay claim to a bargaining position that will permit their work not to be dashed off.
In 2010 CEATL has held a survey among its members in order to map the literary translator’s cultural visibility. Not surprisingly, the results show that the situation differs widely from country to country. In only three of the twenty-four responding countries/regions the name of the translator is regularly mentioned on the front cover of the book: in most countries/regions the name is just mentioned on the title page or simply on the copyright page. In the publisher’s marketing activities, in the written press (book reviews) and on websites the name of the translator is often omitted, and even the legal obligation of mentioning the author’s (i.e. the translator’s) name in case of short quotations is frequently neglected. Apart from this, translators are rarely invited to participate in radio and television shows devoted to the books they have translated.
Increasing the translator’s cultural visibility is a major aim of most European translator’s associations. In the large majority of CEATL’s member countries and regions, public events are organized to make the public aware of the cultural importance of translation. In order to facilitate exchange of ideas between its member associations CEATL is currently collecting best practices in this field, that will be published in the members’ area. Also, the Visibility working group is discussing the possibility of a pan-European visibility campaign, possibly linked to the feast of St. Jerome, International Translators Day (30 September).
In the age of Google Translate the need for this kind of action is all the more urgent, because the creative and cultural contribution of the literary translator seems to be more invisible than ever. Here lies a grand responsibility for those institutions entrusted with the task of protecting and promoting national and European language(s) and culture(s).