‘Between the Covers’ – Issues in Literary Translation

Eminent translators Ros Schwartz and Josephine Balmer kicked off the Autumn 2004 series of PEN Talking Tuesdays with a fascinating insight into the world of literary translation.

Between the Covers was able to cover plenty of ground as the speakers have very different areas of expertise – Schwartz deals with mainly contemporary literature in French, while Balmer specialises in the translation of Classical poetry. Nevertheless, common threads emerged; the love of words and shades of meaning that form the wellspring of their inspiration, the legitimacy of the translated text as work of art in its own right, and the peculiar dificulties that arise when there is no available direct translation for a word or phrase – as in the example given by Schwartz of a couple’s conversation changing from using the formal ‘vous’ form to the ‘tu’.

The lively and varied dual presentation made way for a wide-ranging discussion with the audience of practical queries and more general musings. The evening ended with Carole Seymour Jones being awarded a bottle of champagne for her translation of the film title ‘Confidences trop Intimes’ – as Dangerous Secrets.


Both speakers are involved with English PEN’s Writers in Translation programme.


Many thanks to Jo and Ros for sharing their secrets with us, to all those Members and Friends who participated, and to Filthy McNasty’s for the venue.


Report by Tanya Andrews

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/events/reportsonrecentevents/betweenthecovers/

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