Translators Conference, Jerusalem Feb 2016 Day 2 Academic Track cont'd

Here we are again, still on Day 2 of the conference, and the next talk in the academic track is by my colleague Inga Michaeli, a very prolific English>Hebrew translator of travel guides, non-fiction and fiction by authors as diverse as Dave Barry, Stephen King, Thomas L. Friedman, and -- oh, the list is too long; just go to her website.

This time, her talk was entitled Between Transparency and Ideology -- Translation Politics and the Politics of Translation. An important topic, that tied in nicely with Temima Fruchter's talk. I listened and enjoyed the session, but didn't take notes, since I'm very familiar with this issue. Also, a similar talk, though from a different point of view, was given in the plenary session of the 2015 conference, by journalist Eetta Prince-Gibson: Objectivity, Subjectivity and Bias: A Journalist's View of Translation in Conflict. Last year I did take notes, but never got beyond posting about the first day of the conference :-(   To make a long story short, whether you are reporting on politics or translating a report on politics, you cannot always resort to neutral words, even if you wanted to. Your choices betray your attitude and your convictions, or at least the biases and guidelines of those who pay you to write.

Next lecture was Translating Creativity by Jeffrey Green. This sounded intriguing. After opening with examples of creativity in various fields such as music and art, Green continued with creativity in translation -- obviously a topic of interest to most translators. Why, even in so-called dry or technical translating, one is often challenged and must think creatively in order to produce good work. Well then, imagine having to translate S.Y. Agnon! Though I haven't read much of Agnon's writings -- mainly what we studied in high-school, plus another couple of stories that my daughter studied in high school -- I always wondered how he got the Nobel prize in literature. I'm not saying he didn't deserve it; all I'm saying is, that I wondered in what language the judges read his writings, and whether these were good translations, and how on earth does one do justice to Agnon's peculiar Hebrew style. So I was pleased when Green handed out pages with Agnon's Hebrew text in the right column and Green's own English version in the left.
Conference program; Jeffrey Green's handout
Sorry to tell you guys that this was a disappointment. I was extremely curious to see a creative solution, but what I saw was mostly what seemed to me like taking the easy way out. The English sounded like a translation of a simplified Hebrew version of Agnon.
Now, Green himself told in an interview in 2011, how he came up with his own version of sub-standard English when translating a book whose protagonists were "Moroccan immigrants somewhere in the Galilee." His efforts were not appreciated by the publishers in London. Could that be why he decided to be less creative this time? How on earth did other translators of Agnon cope?
Guys -- seriously: If you've read English versions of an Agnon novel or short story, that you think hits the nail on the head, please tell me.

Aside #1: In an earlier ITA conference, there was an interesting joint presentation by translator Yaniv Farkas and his editor Rachel Halevi [Rachel, where art thou? Give me a link to your About page in English, please]. They spoke about Yaniv's translation of Huck Finn, and I'm sure you can imagine that was no walk in the park. Hebrew readers: Try this review of the book.
Aside #2: Just realized Jeff Green also spoke at the ITA conference of 2010. As did I :-) If you're in the mood, I highly recommend Mark Levinson's comprehensive report.
Folder with 10 years of ITA conference programs
Last session before the coffee break leading to the plenary was by Dorothea Shefer Vanson: "Every Day in Theresienstadt is a Gift", Translating the Diary of Martha Glass. Dorothea is both an experienced translator and the author of three novels, plus one more in the making. This translation was from German to English. I couldn't appreciate the German, but following Martha's thoughts and emotions in English was heart-rending, especially knowing that Martha's experiences were similar to those of Dorothea's grandmother's, except that Martha survived to tell her tale, whereas Dorothea's grandmother did not.
When blogging about her own lecture, Dorothea says plainly how nerve-wracking it can be, and I couldn't agree with her more. Aside from the nervousness and pre-lecture jitters, giving the last lecture of the day is not fun; you feel that people have had enough, they're in overload, and their attention-span has, er... been somewhat eroded. You, the speaker, are also at the mercy of your "competitors" -- the ones giving a lecture during the same time-slot, in a different room, on a perhaps "sexier" topic. I remember how I felt when giving my lecture Arbitrating in Cases of Customer Complaints at the 2011 ITA Conference.

Yay! The 2nd day is nearly over!

Daniel Goldschmidt of Microsoft spoke of Cloud and the Internet of Things - The Way Forward. I have no idea what it was all about. Yes, I know what "cloud" means in the context of computers. And the IoT is, to quote Wikipedia, "the network of physical objects -- devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity -- that enables these objects to collect and exchange data." Great. The Future is here. Everything "talks" to everything. The speaker went on and on, but something about his diction and very-Israeli intonation pattern were preventing me from following what he was saying. But do go to the Wiki page, there's a cute illustration there.

Last but not least: Albert Gabay, film critic, gave a talk entitled From the Written Word to the Silver Screen. You probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that he prefers the medium of cinema to that of a written book. He likes the freedom of interpretation that comes with being a director or an actor, or a script writer, for that matter. Did you know that, to date, there have been over 900 film versions of Shakespeare's plays? And 161 film versions of Tolstoy's novels? I hope this truly impressive info comes in handy one of these days, when I'm doing a trivia quiz. (Over to you, Yoana Gonen.)

Um... there was also Day 3. Are you still with me?... Good! Here's Day Three.


from dorothea said...

Chapeau, Nina,for that informative, entertaining and honest summing-up of the day.

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