Черговий гість серії інтерв'ю з перекладачами художньої літератури - Уйям Блекер (Uilleam Blacker), який, серед іншого, переклав англійською "НепрОстих" Тараса Прохаська. (Інтерв'ю - англійською.)
How did you become a translator?
I began translating at university, where apart from coursework, I translated Russian and Polish poetry for competitions. My first Ukrainian translations were short texts by Taras Prokhasko translated for friends, purely for the pleasure of translating. My first and so far only major translation publication is a novel by Prokhasko, which I began translating because I thought it was amazing, and proposed to a journal and Canada.
From which languages do you translate? And how is it that you've selected these languages in particular?
I translate from Ukrainian. I also speak Polish and Russian, and would like to translate from these languages also. I know all these languages from my studies, and from travel and living in those three countries.
Tell me a little about how you approach your work, translating a novel, a collection of stories, a collection of poetry. What is in common? What stands out? What steps do you usually take in the process of translation?
First I read the text through, then I make a rough translation to understand the text more fully. While I’m making the first version I make a list of difficult words or phrases, then go back and try to solve the problems on this list. Then I do two or more additional drafts. Prose also requires you to think about the author’s voice and enter into it, so I think a lot about what sort of vocabulary and tone of voice to use. With poetry the problem is rather the many possibilities that come out of so few words in the original, and that are hard to fit into as few words and with the same effect in the language of translation. Prose works are far easier to translate, because they are looser, you have more room to maneuver. Poetry is a small, complicated space which is hard to inhabit once the language has been changed.
How do you get translation work? Do publishers contact you? How does this process usually happen?
My experience of publishing is limited. I offered the novel I translated to a journal they accepted. I’ve also been working recently with an NGO and a university publisher on translations of stories and poetry. They approached me after hearing about the novel: it seems that once you get something out there, people take notice of your name. It’s important to be visible if you want to get involved in translation. Publicise your work yourself – send round emails, mention I whenever you meet someone who might be interested.
What attracts you most in the area of translation? What are its positives? Negatives?
Translation is a fascinating process. It is really enjoyable to solve problems, almost like solving a cryptic crossword or some chess problems. Satisfaction comes from solving a complicated puzzle, which every text is. It is also a form of creativity, translation in many ways also shows the literary talent of the translator, this also gives satisfaction, although it is not recognized generally. Also translation, at the risk of indulging in a little pathos, fulfils an important role in intercultural contact and understanding. Without translation of literature, we would know little about the world.
Does it make sense to ask questions of the author of a work that you are translating?
It depends on the author and the nature of the problem. I have done this, and found the result partly useful, and partly confusing, as the author didn't seem to quite understand what it was that I didn’t understand. But this was just my experience. I’d say you can ask the author, but don’t take their word as sacred.
What experience, what knowledge and what qualities are particularly important for a translator of artistic literature?
Enthusiasm, love of language, some literary talent, problems solving skills, ability to improvise when looking for meanings of words or phrases, or finding cultural references, local specifics etc. Ability to imitate – copy the style of the author. Patience.
Do you recall any of your translations that particularly strike you? And if so, please speak to that a little.
It would again have to be the novel The UnSimple by Taras Prokhasko. This was the longest thing I have translated, it was a hard text to translate but very rewarding. The experience was quite intense, I really entered into the world of this author, lived and breathed his words for the weeks when I was finishing the translation. It was fascinating also as a learning experience, to find, understand and make comprehensible all the strange words and cultural details and references: lots of folk culture, plants and landscapes, philosophy… It was also a real challenge to convey the simplicity, the conciseness of the author’s style in English – it involved using far more words than in the original, and constantly involved cutting down the English. This also revealed some things about both Ukrainian and English that I had not noticed before – the elliptic nature of Ukrainian, the over-elaborateness of English!
If you were completely free to choose, which book or books, whose works would you translate?
It’s been translated already, but I’d love to tackle Bruno Schulz’s stories. The language is wonderful, so strange and evocative, it would be a feast for a translator. Also a lot of Polish poetry – like Tomasz Rozycki or Adam Zagajewski. From Ukrainian there is so much that could and should be translated. Lots of modernist and avant-garde writers have not been translated, or only partly: Khviliovyi, Semenko, Iohansen, Tychyna. More Lesia Ukrainka should be translated, as should Olha Kobylianska. Later writers like Stus and Kostenko. Contemporary writers – I’d say Oksana Zabuzhko, Iurii Izdryk and Serhii Zhadan. I’d love to tackle any of these writers!