Spotlight on Literary Translators is a regular feature here at Intralingo. The aim of these interviews is to get the word out about our profession and the works we bring into other languages. The insight the interviewees provide is also sure to help all of us who are aspiring or established literary translators. Enjoy!
Spotlight on Literary Translator Rachel Ward
LC: What language(s) and genres do you translate?
RW: I translate from German and French into English. I specialise in crime and children’s fiction and, on the non-fiction side, history and politics.
LC: How did you get started as a literary translator?
RW: I have always been an avid reader and keen on puzzles. At school I found that I was good at languages and went on to do a degree in Modern Languages. In my final year I did a translation course, which got me the best marks of my degree and was also fun. At some point, while I was doing a practice paper it occurred to me that I could make a career out of this, and that’s when I decided to apply for the MA in Literary Translation. I was then fortunate enough to find a publisher for the book I worked on for my MA dissertation, Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang (Andersen Press, 2004).
LC: What do you love most and least about this work?
RW: I love being able to spend time getting really stuck in to a text, to have the opportunity to tell stories without the effort of thinking up a plot! I love the ability to make a book travel a little further and to widen the range of what is available to English-speaking readers.
What I love least is the prevailing attitude that translated books are “difficult” or won’t sell. And the fact that those publishers who do take on translations are often focused only on “literary fiction.” I also find networking a challenge, whether that’s in terms of meeting potential clients for commercial work, or pitching book ideas to publishers. And of course it’s frustrating when nobody wants to take on a book I’m passionate about!
LC: Can you tell us a little about a recent project?
RW: I recently translated Excess by Mathias Frey, a self-published political conspiracy thriller. Working directly with the author brought a whole new set of challenges, but it was a lot of fun to do. Since then, I’ve been working on a short biography of Egon Schiele and trying to drum up interest in a spectacularly beautiful French picture book about trains…
Dear readers: Leave your questions or comments for Rachel here! I know she’d love to hear from you.
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