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 Ros Schwartz
LC: What language(s) and genres do you translate?
RS: I translate from French and specialise in contemporary fiction by Francophone writers. I also have a small translation company focusing on the visual arts, aid and development, marketing – the type of translations that require creative input.
LC: How did you get started as a literary translator?
RS: I lived in Paris for 8 years in the 1970s. While there I fell in love with a book and felt compelled to translate it. I knew nothing about publishing, or translation, but I knew I had to translate that book. Which I did. Encouraged by friends, I contacted the author, who was delighted with my translation, and she put me in touch with the publisher. Eventually, after five years, I found a UK and a US publisher. And before you ask, the book was
I Didn’t Say Goodbye by Claudine Vegh. When I returned to the UK, I discovered I was unemployable (having been out of the country for 9 years acquiring skills such as grape-picking, milking goats, and languages), so I launched myself as a translator by writing scores of letters to publisher announcing my availability. Astonishingly, one struck home and I received my first commission. Then I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair and discovered some interesting books which I proposed to publishers, including Sembène Ousman’s Black Docker.
I don’t advise anyone to start in this way (NB: this, in 1980, was before translation studies existed in universities). My recommendation to anyone wanting to be a literary translator is to find a book you’re passionate about and propose it to publishers. I have written some guidlelines which I’m happy to share with anyone who contacts me at firstname.lastname@example.org
LC: What do you love most and least about this work?
RS: What I love most is that each text brings new challenges, each day I learn something new.
What I love least is that a translation is never finished, it can always be improved, there’s never enough time.
LC: Can you tell us a little about a recent project?
RS: I’ve just delivered my translation of Lebanese author Dominique Eddé’s prescient novel set in Syria, Kamal Jann, which is being published by the wonderful Seagull Books in early 2014. It’s a grim portrait of power and corruption in the Middle East. Eddé writes in a very literary style, with a Middle Eastern sensibility, and sometimes I almost have the impression I’m translating from Arabic. She likes to be closely involved in the translation process (her English is superb), so I go over to Paris and we spend days cloistered in her apartment thrashing out the problems until we’re both happy with the result. An exhausting but ultimately satisfying way to work.
LC: Ros, you’re a great inspiration. Thanks for sharing your story!
Over her 30-year career, Ros Schwartz has translated over 60 literary works published both in the UK and the USA. Her co-translation of Dominique Manotti’s Lorraine Connection won the 2008 International Dagger Award, and her translation of Kite, by Dominique Eddé, was longlisted for the 2013 Best Translated Book Award.
She publishes articles in journals such as Context and frequently gives workshops and talks around the world. In 2009 she was made Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Ros also runs a small translation company specialising in corporate communications and the arts.