ZOA House - Not Just Conferences

I've been going to the Israel Translators Association conferences for over 10 years, and treating the event as a vacation, time off for good behavior. I'm used to signing up for the entire event, including two nights at a pleasant hotel far from home. "Far" being a relative term, of course. To an Israeli living in the country's central region (Gush Dan), a trip to Jerusalem or Haifa, about an hour's drive away, can feel almost as adventurous as a journey to where-the-wild-things-are.
So Hubby and I would arrive on the afternoon of the first day, dump our stuff in the hotel room, and go downstairs to mingle with the Workshop crowd during their coffee break.

This year, several things changed drastically:
No hotel. No faraway city. No sense of adventure. Why? Long story. As a member of the ITA's Audit Committee, all I can say is that the change in format was well thought out, with the idea of reaching out to translators who found the usual hotel-based format too expensive and time-consuming. Most self-employed translators, especially those with families and tight deadlines, can't just escape for two and a half days.

Searching for an alternative wasn't simple. Committee members researched the options, made phone calls, received price quotes, considered everything from travelling time to cakes and ale (okay -- cakes and soft drinks) and everything in-between, and settled on the ZOA House on Ibn Gabirol Street, Tel Aviv. An aside: I am disgusted that their website is in Hebrew only. But have added the link because the pics are pretty and give you an idea of what it's like.

Spoiler alert: Sentimental mush below.

Ah, good old ZOA House! It means so much to me! See, once upon a time I belonged to The Tel Aviv Drama Circle, which then became TACT - Tel Aviv Community Theater. A group of amateur actors, singers, dancers, directors, set designers and what-not. My mother was among the early members, and soon enough so were my father, myself and my kid sister. By the time my firstborn, Daria, was about 7, she, too, got roped in; first in a musical evening; and later in a drama. I won't go into the whole history of this group. Suffice it to say that it was a wonderful hobby, and doing musicals was the best. Many of our rehearsals and most of our performances took place at the ZOA House. It was my second home. At the time I lived in Tel Aviv, not far from the Hilton Hotel, and could easily walk to and from rehearsals.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum @ZOA, 1981. Nina as Tintinabula

The Boyfriend @ZOA, 1980. Nina in red Tshirt

In addition, I took various courses at the ZOA House. Leather-work, Esperanto, and god knows what else. Later, when we needed a venue for a family occasion, ZOA was the obvious choice. And in recent years, the ITA has held a few events there. I gave a talk there in July 2014 called How to Work with Translation Agencies.

So in many ways, I was pleased the conference would be taking place there. I feel at home there; it hold sweet memories.
On the other hand, it was a bit of a let-down. Unexciting. Like having the conference at the neighbors' next-door. Hubby and I pass by the building twice weekly, on our way to help out with the grandkids. Skipping grandkids duty for the sake of two days at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem feels acceptable; but for spending time across the street (practically) at Good Old ZOA?... [Shrug. Pout. Raised eyebrows.] Oh well. [Acceptance].

The Pyjama Game @ZOA, 1979. Nina standing on the right

My Three Angels, w/Johnny Phillips, 1977

What Retired Translators and Editors Do

"See you next year!" - That's how I blithely ended my fifth(!) post about last year's (2016) Translators' Conference. And what have I written in this blog since? Nothing. Zilch. Nada. How come? Do I simply live from one conference to the next? Surely not. Was I so darn busy working that I had no time for writing? Have I not had any inspiring insights about reading, writing, translating, editing, worthy of sharing with you, for an entire year? - Rubbish! So what the ...?

Enough with the soul-searching. I'll leave that for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. But I will provide a few explanations, and if you're bored already, just skip to my next post, where I actually start reporting on the conference. [Link to be provided as soon as said post is written.]

I'm officially retired, and glad of it. I love my profession, but -- as most translators will agree -- dealing with clients can be irksome, and running our business is a chore and a bore to most of us. So, once officially retired, I was freer than ever to pick and choose what projects, big or small, to take on.
I've been lucky: people call me. They tell me about a novel, say, that they wrote in Hebrew. They want it translated into English. I glance at it and, for the most part, roll my eyes. I no longer have the patience. I might find the text long, wordy, lacking focus, flowery, or just plain not my cup of tea. So I give the writer some tips and suggestions, along with the names of trustworthy colleagues who will perhaps be willing to undertake the job. I have done this for Ella, Simona, Tali, Gili, Lihi, Haim, Sigal, Lilach, Yossi, Tamar, and others. Sometimes the text is not bad in itself but is just well-nigh untranslatable.
I take this seriously. I know that the writers put a lot of time, thought and effort into their "baby". I admire them for having the determination and persistence to sit and write. What's known in Yiddish as "sitzfleisch": The ability to endure or persist in a task. So I treat my feedback with all due respect, which takes time.

Then there are the books, or manuscripts, that I do undertake. Not to translate, but to help in other ways: To read and give my opinion, to edit to a certain degree, to offer some criticism and helpful suggestions. Two writers whom I'm pleased to say I helped recently in this way are Dorothea Shefer-Vanson and Shmuel David.

On a daily basis, I get a kick out of adding my 2 cents' worth to discussions on Facebook's translators' forums, especially Agenda, which is my favorite. And when I encounter translators in distress, particularly those who are relatively new to the field, I send them one or more of the glossaries I've compiled and/or accumulated over the years.

Oh, and for the past year I've been on the ITA's Audit Committee. Not that it takes up much of my time; after all, I'm not a professional auditor. But I try to follow what's going on in the Executive Committee and be part of the discussions and decisions, to the best of my ability.

What with three [adorable, of course!] grandkids and a wanderlust-driven hubby, I find myself roaming distant lands on the one hand, and exploring Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion kids' playgrounds on the other hand. May I take this opportunity to recommend Gan Hamoshava in Rishon, mainly because that's where my parents took me when I was the age of my grandkids... My favorites in central Tel Aviv are Ginat Dubnov and Gan Meir.

What else does a retired translator/editor do in her free time?
- Yoga, twice a week. That's pretty demanding, for a short-limbed, non-flexible person like me.
- Mentor kids from disadvantaged families at the local public library, once a week.
- Struggle to maintain three blogs, one of which includes a section dedicated to my mother's memoirs.
- Maintain correspondence with lots of penpals... (Er... do the youngsters among you even know what that means?)
- Try to read another chapter in one of the books on my night-table, while my eyelids still obey me.
- Try in vain to keep cleaning my In boxes, upload pics to my Flickr account, glance at LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest; not spend too much time on Facebook; not watch depressing news and scary TV series. I'm being good to you and not adding links to the above sites.

Et maintenant, que vais-je faire?.. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW6QiI7hHGA]
I'll just collapse in front of the idiot-box with a nice cuppa tea and some chocolate.
TTFN!


Translators Conference, Jerusalem Feb 2016 Day Three

The third day of the conference started bright and early -- far too early for me. The early-birds went on a tour of Machne Yehuda Market with a fascinating young man named Guy Sharett who is a linguist, Hebrew teacher, entertainer, and sharp-eyed collector of linguistic graffiti. The rest of us lazybones had to make do with his talk at the post-breakfast plenary: The Israeli Linguistic Landscape: Stuff I Found in the Street. Luckily for all of us, Guy's website is delightfully colorful, insightful, and educational in a lighthearted way. "Everything that happens in the streets can be used to teach Hebrew", says Guy. Go see for yourself. I'll just post a slide of one item that particularly appeals to me; plus one that I saw and liked in Rome:

You got up this morning? Thank the Lord. All else is a bonus.

Treat your life as you would a work of art
The next plenary talk, Translating Hannah, has a subtitle nearly as long as the session itself, so I'll shorten it: Brazilian Author Ronaldo Wrobel discussed the demanding task of translating his work into Hebrew (by Dalit Lahav-Durst) and into German (by Nicolai von Scweder-Schreiner.) Apparently, he wrote his book in Portuguese, so first and foremost it had to be translated into Spanish. I didn't succeed in following everything that was said, but one important point that came up was, that when the author doesn't speak the target language at all, it's difficult for him to extend any help to the translator. Yes, he can explain something which the translator finds perplexing, say. But he cannot help the translator make any informed choices in the target language.

On this day, I chose the Literary Track. The first session was a panel dedicated to translating Jane Austen's work into Hebrew. Panel participants were: Shai SendikLee Evron VakninInga MichaeliInbal Sagiv NakdimonMichal LadanRacheli Lavi. Now, this panel was sure to be an eye-opener, because I'd only ever read Jane Austen in English. And whereas, when reading a current-day English novel, I might find myself wondering, "Gosh, how would this sound in Hebrew?", with Jane Austen the thought had never even crossed my mind. I had a vague feeling that someone, at some point, would probably wrestle with this, and was sort of relieved it wouldn't be me.
Not only did I get a chance to hear several talented translators/editors discuss their choices, read out select passages and compare notes; but I also learnt about Jane Austen's early writing, which I  hadn't heard of before. So I have something new (that is, old, actually) to look forward to! In case you're interested, the Jane Austen Information Page is probably the treasure trove you're looking for. The translators on this panel said that the annotated versions were a great help.
Update: Was delighted to learn that Inbal uploaded to YouTube a video of this panel. Thanks to Inbal, for uploading, and to Victor Flickstein, for calling my attention to it.

I skipped the next slot -- there was nothing of interest to me. I'd planned to listen to Yael Sela Shapiro's talk, even though I'm fairly adept at Googling; but it'd been cancelled.

Last session before the coffee break: The wonderful Roni Gelbish on a Very Touchy subject: Translators as Enemies and How to Protect Your Book from Them. Any writer feels protective of his "baby", his creation; and I'm sure most have misgivings about placing their precious "baby" in the hands of someone else, who's going to "do things" to it. If you're Amos Oz and your novel is translated into English and your own English is not half bad, you can probably afford to have your say, to work hand in hand with the translator, and the two of you can drive each other crazy. But books are also translated into languages the author doesn't know at all. Which is when he/she feels they have no control over the process.
Roni gave an amusing example: Apparently, Constance Garnett (1861-1946), translated about as fast as she typed. From Russian to English! Some 73 volumes! It's easy to poke fun at her translations, which understandably suffer from some shortcomings. But nonetheless, her translations made dozens of good books accessible to readers who wouldn't otherwise have been able to read them. And I assume that later translators must have availed themselves of her work, even if just by "peeking" to see how Garnett had dealt with certain expressions or words. (Er, sometimes she didn't. She just ignored them.)
Roni's talk was followed by Open Mike, where we all had our say on this thorny matter. A translator should find something to love in the book, then give it his all. The writer, according to Margaret Atwood, has got to let go. Let go, trust your translator, and let your work reincarnate in a different language. Yes, it may come out "different", but that doesn't mean it won't be good and won't be loved by your readers in other parts of the world. A case in point is Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness, which is popular in China, despite entire chapters that were left out. Other cases we're familiar with from childhood are Erich Kastner's Das doppelte Lottchen, aka Lottie and Lisa, aka Ora Hakfula, which was quite thoroughly "localized" both in the Israeli-Hebrew book version and in the American movie The Parents' Trap; and Little Women, which, in its Israeli-Hebrew version, was "cleansed" of obvious Christian themes and passages. All of which did not make us love those books any less than they were loved in their original language, by their original audience.

Over to the last plenary on the last day of the conference:
Writer Dror Mishani spoke on The Mystery of the Hebrew Detective: Thoughts about Detectives and Translation. I'm quite sure the first [literary] detective I ever met was Sherlock Holmes, in Hebrew, when I was still in grade school. Because, as Mishani pointed out, for years detective novels were considered "not real literature", and thus relegated to the kids' section in libraries. I remember only too well being home alone on a stormy winter night, reading The Hound of the Baskervilles, and being too scared to go to bed before my parents returned. The first detective I met in English was Nancy Drew; I'll never forget The Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion!
I think that next time I'm at my grandkids', I'll finally pick up one of Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret novels that have been beckoning to me for years now. (In Hebrew; my French isn't good enough.)

Despite being in overload, I managed to take notes during Jost Zetzsche's talk, Getting Back into the Driver Seat: What We Can Do to Determine the Future of the Translation Profession. True -- says Zetzsche -- technology can collect tons of data from lots of journals the world over and machine-translate it within seconds. But only human intelligence can prevent hysterically funny (and potentially dangerous) misunderstandings. We professional translators are passionate about our work; we love what we do, and love to complain about it ;)  But are we an industry?
"Everyone" thinks that pretty soon the world will no longer need real, live translators, and our offspring won't need to bother learning a foreign language. Of course, we translators know this is drivel. But it's up to us to affect the discourse and effect a change. We have to "engage", be pro-active, be part of the process. We have the power to influence the way linguistic products are developed, and we should make sure they are developed in a way that will help us do our job better.

C'est tout.
See you next year!