The project continues and this time I’m travelling – so to speak – to the beautiful Slovenia with the wonderful book Antonov Cirkus (roughly translated as “Anthony Circus”) by Peter Svetina, a story of creativity, imagination and friendship.
Ok, not literally.
As you all know, I have challenged myself to translate a children’s book from every country in the world. It’s a very ambitious (some people would call it “crazy”) project but I’m very excited about it and it’s working out perfectly… but I need some extra help. Finding a book from different countries is not an easy task.
When I started the Project Translating the World I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. I had (have!) big plans, tons of ideas and topics and I knew all that would bring me lots of fun. Until now, I have managed to translate five lovely books and although there are still 190 to go I feel very optimistic about it because the beginnings are always harder and lately I am feeling like doing the project is getting smoother and easier, since I have more experience and therefore I know what I want and how I want to do it.
Daniel Napp delights us with the funny story of Dr. Brumm, a very friendly bear who struggles with human technology. In Dr. Brumm versteht das nicht our main character tries to figure out why his TV stopped working in the middle of the match, and he won’t stop until he gets a clear answer.
Yet another book added to my beautiful collection of books from every country in the world. The translation of this book has proved a challenging one – it’s written entirely in verse! The wonderful Réka Király delights us with this philosophical story that tries to answer one of the hardest questions of all: What does “tomorrow” mean? Pieni suuri tarina huomisesta is a poetical metaphor of time and conciousness.
Humour might be one of the most complicated – yet more fun to work with – challenges to deal with when translating a text. But what happens when we translate a joke from a different language into our language? Or even better, how can we translate the humour of another culture into our own culture? Those are no easy questions.
It seems obvious to say that children’s literature exists as a genre of its own, separated from general literature or literature for adults, and yet, there are ongoing debates about the existence of children’s literature. The debate is in fact centred on the definition of “children’s literature”.
Children’s books keep alive a sense of nationality; but they also keep alive a sense of humanity. They describe their native land lovingly, but they also describe faraway lands where unknown brothers live. They understand the essential quality of their own race; but each of them is a messenger that goes beyond mountains and rivers, beyond the seas, to the very ends of the world in search of new friendships. Every country gives and every country receives – innumerable are the exchanges – and so it comes about that in our first impressionable years the universal republic of childhood is born.
HAZARD, Paul (1944): Books, Children and Men, tr. Marguerite Mitchell, Boston MA: The Horn Book.
One of the perks of being a translator is that it allows you to be a (better) reader. They say that translators are better at playing Trivial Pursuit since they need to know about many different subjects and knowledge areas. The thing about translating books is that you are bound to read many different stories, some of which you probably wouldn’t choose to read given the chance.
Yesterday, Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 by the Swedish Academy. It is the first time in history that a songwriter wins the award and this situation has spurred polemical reactions with some people supporting the decision and others criticizing the fact that it’s not a novelist or a poet who won the prize.
Interestingly enough, The Nobel Prize in Literature has only been awarded once to a children’s book author since its origin. The laureate was Rudyard Kipling, famous for his novel Jungle Book. Even though he didn’t write exclusively for children, it is the closest to a children’s writer that wins the Nobel Prize.