Literary translators tend to be infinitely curious about other cultures. In fact, it’s part of the job description. We travel as often as we can, and unsurprisingly many of us end up living abroad. Some of us live a wanderlust-fuelled nomadic lifestyle, while others find a corner of the world that calls to us and make it our home. Regardless of whether this is near or far from where we started, living abroad enables us to develop an in-depth understanding of another culture, language and literary landscape – and this experience greatly enhances our work. Yet with these gains also come losses, for we are no longer within easy reach of industry events in the English-language literary translation scene. This can be challenging, as the ability to keep up-to-date and maintain and build relationships in the publishing industry is essential to the development of our careers.
As a literary translator who was based in London for many years and closely involved with industry networks there, I know how enriching it is to regularly attend events and feel part of the translation community. From the Book Fair to ETN meetings, seminars and translation slams, for myself and many others London is the hub of the UK literary translation scene. After relocating to Brazil in early 2014, I keenly felt the absence of these regular, inspirational meet-ups. I also found myself with a huge number of questions; how would I tackle tax returns and foreign banking issues as a freelancer based in South America but working for clients based in Europe and North America?; how would I maintain my connections with UK publishers if only able to visit once or twice a year?; what is the best way to keep my languages active in a country where neither my source nor target language is commonly spoken? Looking around me (in the digital sense), I found that many literary translators I knew were in very similar situations, and after speaking to them and reaching out to others on social media, it became clear that they felt the need for an initiative which would crowdsource and share knowledge on these very issues, along with a steady dose of inspiration to combat those occasional feelings of isolation (after all, working as a literary translator can be a solitary activity, particularly if you are geographically distanced from your colleagues).
Social media enables us to stay in touch, of course, but a focused network specifically for diaspora translators will strengthen and organize these connections, enabling members at all stages of their careers to share information and ask for specific advice and support on the practicalities, challenges and opportunities of being a literary translator abroad. Last year, while serving on the TA Committee, I discussed these ideas with the outgoing chairwoman, translator Maureen Freely. She envisioned a network which would be supported by and linked to the UK Translators Association, and which would bring together literary translators working into English but living outside the UK or U.S. Today, I am very happy to be launching the Translators Association Diaspora.
If you are a literary translator living outside the UK/US, but with English as your native language, then we would love to hear from you. You can request to join our members-only Facebook group to keep up-to-date on the latest discussions, as well as follow and contribute to the blog. You can read more about our aims here, and get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or our contact form. One of our regular features will be a series of Q&As with fellow diaspora translators, who will share insights from their experiences living and working abroad. The first, which will go live tomorrow, is with Charlotte Coombe, a translator from French and Spanish who is resident in Morocco. She is also co-administrator of our Facebook group and Twitter, and is working together with me to develop the Diaspora.
We hope this network will be shaped by the needs of its members – so do let us know what content you would like to see here, and spread the word to other translators who you feel could benefit. After all, the more we grow, the more knowledge we’ll have to share!
We look forward to welcoming you!