Monday, May 18, 2015

Part 1 Recap: Trinidad and Tobago Literary Festival (Bocas Lit Fest)

The Business of Translation 

L to R: Johnny Temple, Ria Julien, Frank Wynne
The first session I attended had a panel of industry professionals give their inside perspective on the publishing world’s view of translation. I’ve only read one translated book, I think, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba, and I wondered how close the translation came to capturing the sentiments of the author. However, I did not consider that all translations are not created equal. Although it seemed obvious after it was said. 

Johnny Temple, Founder of Akashic Books, emphasized the point by saying, “In order to translate Gabriel García Márquez [the world-renowned Colombian novelist whose book One Hundred Years of Solitude is on my high priority list] you need a translator of Gabriel García Márquez caliber.” This left me itching to ask the question, and I finally got a chance to do so, how do you know if you’re getting a good translation!? Literary translator Frank Wynne’s response was golden, “Pick up a book, read the first ten pages. If it doesn't work, either you hate the author, or you hate the translation.” 

The notion of First World countries accepting other world literature entered the discussion. After two of the panelists made remarks about inclusivity, Temple interjected emphatically, “In America, African American Literature is separated from “regular” literature which is an abomination, since the best writer in the world is Toni Morrison.” How much do you love that! 

Temple went on to mention the Akashic Noir Series whose manuscripts require that people write stories about the towns that they know, the places they grew up in. And not stories of transplants writing about places they now call home. Several of those books have found their way to my to-read list.

The Unknown Eric Roach

There was a thoughtful tribute to poet and playwright Eric Roach where several authors read their favorite poems by Roach. The Tobagonian was certainly unknown to me and other than an article published by Caribbean Review of Books in 2010, a web search didn’t uncover much. To me, this confirmed the need for the session.

L to R:  Laurence Breiner, Danielle Gianetti, Andre Bagoo, Kenneth Ramchand, Earl Lovelace

The audience was informed that the University of the West Indies holds Roach manuscripts that need attention. The organizers stated that their goal was to have someone leave the tribute having been inspired to write about Roach. And that maybe someone would even be inspired to write his biography.

The tribute was encouraged by legendary Trinidadian novelist Earl Lovelace who knew Roach personally and subsequently became a student of his work. Lovelace closed the session by saying, “I think, basically, we should look at Roach again.” Thanks to the festival, I’ll be having a look for the first time. The organizers are planning a more elaborate celebration for later in the year. 

If you asked a question  that didn't get answered here, Part 2 Recap is coming...

1 comment:

Jacqueline said...

Great recap. I hate that I missed that first session...