Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Sebald and Prizes
The only problem with going to London is coming back and then rising early the next morning, But it was worth it. We got down early so C could meet friend Annoula, and I could meet MT from the PBS. I finish as Chair there after the next meeting and we have approached MT to stand for Chair, or sit for Chair, whichever is more appropriate.
We have a drink before the 7pm event, meeting as arranged with friends Eva H and Stephanie, then go in. There are so many people I recognise there: poets, novelists, translators. Six prizes are to be given out for translation from Italian, Spanish, German, French, Arabic and Hebrew. The poets did well. The prize for Italian is won by poet and friend Jamie McKendrick for his Valerio Magrelli translations, Susan Wicks translations of the excellent Valerie Rouzeau (of whom I have done a few translations myself with the help of Marilyn Hacker), Christopher Johnson with Quevedo and, rather wonderfully, Peter Cole with his The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950–1492, (text of book readable here) a book I must buy, but time was short and we had booked dinner with Eva and Annoula. Had a chance to congratulate Ali Smith too, she too having stayed to dinner with friends. She is someone I had never met, but whose work I admire. On way out and very late, bump into Margaret Obank of Banipal.
The full prize list plus article is available here, at The Times.
This is a little like the kind of social diary I don't do, so on to the lecture. Ali Smith had sent a simple questionnaire to various translators, including some of tonight's prize winners, as also myself, and the first half of her talk - beautifully written and delivered animatedly at a necessary 100 mph for lack of time - consisted chiefly of answers from us all, exploring the title of her lecture, Loosed in Translation. This part was a passionate advocacy of translation, which then moved without much transition to a fascinating and highly detailed examination of Max Sebald's entire oeuvre as translated into English. The question was not so much about the nature of this or that excellent translation of Sebald, but in the ways in which Sebald's work is itself a kind of translation of history and the self, the meanings of both constantly shifting and revealing. She had clearly read the poetry too, particularly After Nature (Michael Hamburger's translation), which was interesting to me as I have only a couple of weeks ago submitted an essay on Sebald's poetry.
Ali spoke for just under an hour but it went by very fast. It was like a fast flowing river carrying all kinds of glittering fishes. I would have liked to pick out each one and examine it, but the text of the Sebald part of the lecture will appear in the TLS.
After, at dinner, we talked about the lecture and translation in general. Eva said the Polish translation of her classic book, Lost in Translation, surprised her. It sounded somehow more masculine, possibly because it was in some way more propositional than the English. We talked about the notion of gendered translation, of potentially gendered languages. For lack of time we ate just starters, though some of us ate two. Long, long drive home from Stevenage, first me then C.