Wednesday, 1 April 2009

SELTA, again

Over the past few days, presumably like other members of SELTA (the Swedish-Emglish Translators' Association) I've received some email messages from the association's honorary secretary Peter Linton, drawing my attention to various events and requests. One of these was an advertisement for an exhibition of Swedish landscape paintings in Birmingham. Another was a reminder about the Swedish culture ministry's monthly newsletter, which is now circulated by email on a subscription list. The third item, however, was a message forwarded from GKLS, a translation recruitment agency in the U.K., seeking technical translators for "automotive texts" (apparently jargon for writing about cars).

While I can appreciate that some members may like to earn the odd krona by branching out into technical translation, it seems slightly odd that nearly all the requests of this kind which Peter has sent out relate not to literary translation - the focus and of our organization, and supposedly the reason for its existence - but to technical or non-literary commissions of this kind. The last one concerned a journalist's manuscript of a coffee table book about Japanese hot springs and open door baths, while the one before that was from a person in Sweden seeking translators for books about boats.

I'm not sure what the message is here: are SELTA members being given access to a database of clients in search of technical translators, and if so, what relation does this database have to the subject and practice of literary translation? It would be good to know, but so far Peter Linton hasn't offered an explanation. Perhaps he'd like to comment?

1 comment:

  1. I too am a little disappointed that SELTA (Swedish-English LITERARY Translators' Association) is putting so many of its eggs of publicity and news in the non-literary translation basket. Like anyone else, I like earning money, but if possible by translating novels and poetry, not books about car engines - or crime novels.

    Swedish cultural activities in Britain, judging by Peter's e-mail of 31st March, seem to consist mostly of music. The one literary activity is about Stieg Larsson's crime novels. It would be nice if the Swedish Embassy, with its new cultural attaché, could devote more time to non-crime novels and even poetry. I do believe that there are Swedes writing such things. Both Mankell and Larsson are very much in the crime scene literature box.

    I note the fact that Ingmar Bergman stars subliminally, in having his son-in-law and daughter feature in Peter Linton's e-mail. Plus of course the Ahndoril book, translated by Sarah Death.

    One more encouraging list was on the actual London Swedish Embassy website, where we read that Peter Graves' new translation of "The Red Room" will be appearing with Norvik at some stage and Elin Wägner's "Penwoman" with that same press. But even that list is rather dominated by crime novels and children's books.

    Of the 20 works listed there, and if I've identified them properly, there are 9 crime novels, a horror novel, 3 children's books, a coffee table book, a play, 3 biographical books, leaving three novels, one of which is a disguised biography of Bergman and one genuine novel by Strindberg from the 19th century.

    Will Sweden one day again acknowledge the cultural predominance of serious non-fantasy, non-horror, non-crime novels, plus some poetry, when promoting its image abroad?

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