Deborah Smith just won the Man Booker International prize along with Han Kang, the Korean author of The Vegetarian, and oh dear! What a success it is for our profession as a whole! The prize is being split evenly with the translator of the book for the first time ever, but the excitement goes well beyond those £50,000. It is about recognition.
There will be plenty of translators celebrating this incredible achievement today and in the days to come, but when I read Deborah Smith’s article, published in The Irish Times, I couldn’t help to fixate on this bit:
But when the announcement came and I promptly welled up, it wasn’t at the thought of being able to replace my fold-up furniture. It was because translators are the friendliest, most non-competitive, mutually-encouraging group of people you will ever have the pleasure to meet. Publishing is an industry, but translation is a community; nobody’s in it for the money, largely because there usually isn’t any.
It spoke to me.
I haven’t always come across this type of translator in my still short but already lovely path, but this is certainly the type of person and colleague I want to surround myself with.
Translation can be lonely sometimes, but we have every tool to reach out to people, even when they are not in the same country we are in. Translators’ societies all over the world are advocating for our rights, bringing us all together as a part of that fight. In an intrinsically international, global and globalised profession —one that is based on mutual understanding and cultural relationships—, we need to participate in that fight actively and help each other out.
As of today, I will try to honour these words and fight for a friendly, encouraging, vibrant and inspiring profession in a more conscious manner. I want translation to keep on being a community, with all the perks that entails. There are too many industries in this world. We need to fight to keep translation human.