Translation News Down Under

NSWLast week, as many of you may have seen, I looked at the happy coincidence of all the various translation announcements in the UK and the US, silently bemoaning the fact that I tend to miss out on all these things, living as I do over ten thousand miles away from the centres of literary translation action.  Still, as it turns out, Australia isn’t a complete cultural desert – and recent weeks have seen some translation news here too…

The first noteworthy event was the awarding of the 2015 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards on the 19th of May.  While most of the media focus would have been on the book prizes (including the fiction winner, Mark Henshaw’s The Snow Kimono, and the non-fiction and overall winner, Don Watson’s The Bush), there were also a couple of translation prizes handed out.  The Multicultural NSW Early Career Translator Prize went to Lilit Zekulin Thwaites (an academic and translator from the Spanish I’ve bumped into a couple of times at the Melbourne Writers Festival).

However, the big prize, The NSW Premier’s Prize for Translation, was awarded to Brian Nelson for his excellent work on several novels by Émile Zola.  This award is for a translator’s career, and other nominees included Meredith McKinney and Royall Tyler, names which (being a J-Lit aficionado) I’m extremely familiar with (in fact, I’m currently in the middle of Tyler’s translation of The Tale of Genji…).  Oh, and in case you were wondering, the prize is worth a cool AU$30,000, which is most definitely not to be sniffed at…

A second piece of information which I received this week concerned the creation of a new Australian translation prize in 2016.  A press release from the Australian Academy of the Humanities announced the birth of the Medal for Excellence in Translation, a biennial award honouring the best translation into English of the year (by an Australian translator, of course).  Further details will follow in due course, but it appears to be a great boost for translators down under 🙂

Which all seems great, except…

I only found out about this information because I was sent it by someone in the know (I won’t say who – I protect my sources!), which perhaps sums up the scene here in Australia.  There are a lot of great translators, but the general public doesn’t seem to have much of a clue as to what’s going on.  Even someone like me (and I consider myself to have a very keen interest in the world of literary translation) is generally ignorant of these kinds of events.  Sadly, I’m more clued in to what’s happening in London and New York, Norwich and San Francisco, than I am to what might be happening here in Melbourne – and that’s a shame.

If there are any Australians with an interest in fiction in translation out there, please let me know.  It could be that I’m simply unaware of a community just waiting for me to join in – then again, perhaps there really isn’t that much going on outside the university scene.  For a while, I’ve been thinking about investigating the issue further, but it does appear that there’s not as much going on (and certainly not as much being translated and published) in Australia as elsewhere.  For once, the dreaded three percent statistic might actually be a bit of an exaggeration…

If anyone has any more information, or simply an interest in all matters translation, feel free to get in touch – it would be nice to think that I’m not the only one here with a focus on this area.  If you have anything to contribute to the discussion, my comments box is always open 😉


10 thoughts on “Translation News Down Under

  1. Sounds as though things are moving in the right direction. A few years ago there didn’t seem to be much happening in the UK (or maybe I just didn’t know about it) and everything seemed to come from the US. Hopefully things in Australia will pick up soon – or you’ll discover a wonder hidden community somewhere that you can tell us all about! Fingers crossed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jackie – I have my doubts;) It would be nice to find something, particularly more focused on books and readers, but that’s something I may have to start on my own…


  2. I’ve felt the same way recently, which is part of the reason I applied for the city of lit travel grant, which is taking me to Paris and London at the end of the month (unfortunately I was slightly short on funds and time to visit the other centre of translation publishing, New York). The number of translation-related events in and around London (and New York too) is just staggering, that doesn’t mean they never happen in Melbourne (and probably Sydney too. Occasionally Auckland.) AALITRA tends to be a good place to learn about these, if you’re a member, Monash also puts on a few events – I missed the EWF event because of work, even though I had tickets.
    You’re right that there isn’t a community of translators in Australia, but with all the quality publishers around here, and decent translation programs at a few universities, along with a few people willing to start things, I think it’ll pick up.


    1. Louis – Lucky you! Have a great trip 🙂

      I know about AALITRA, but there’s never much happening there. Also, I think what you say about translators is slightly off my original point. I’m not really focused on events for translators (necessary as those are) – I’m interested in a general focus on translation: translators, books, authors, publishers, readers and all. Where are the Peirene salons? Where are the events with authors and translators outside the festivals? Where are the prizes for fiction in translation published in Australia? Where is the community of readers and bloggers with an interest in fiction in translation?

      Answers on a postcard to the usual address 😉


      1. True, but I think one necessarily comes before the other – a community of translators holding events with a community of readers and publishers, but it requires the community – which I’d also like to create!

        Liked by 1 person

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