I’ve been thinking about what it’s like to start out as a literary translator today and how it may have changed since I started over a decade ago.
I remember feeling quite alone, as if the established circle of literary translators all stood with their arms tightly locked together, me on the outside, pushing against them, searching for a way in, for acceptance and assistance.
It could be the people I interacted with. It could also be this was just a sign of the times. The Internet was in its relative infancy, not at all as prevalent or as powerful as it is today. The whole culture of sharing, social media and giving information freely was still to come.
I catch glimpses of literary translation circles opening up. I see talk of royalty splits on the ALTAlk listserv, but when I Googled the topic to obtain a variety of opinions, the only post that came up in the search results was the one I wrote.
Why is that? Is ours a culture based on jealousy? Privacy? Fear of price fixing? Something else entirely? I’m not sure.
Personally, if I talk openly about things and it means empowering another translator who can and may then win a contract I might have been awarded, I’ll feel sorry that I missed an opportunity. But I’d rather share and lose than hoard and win.
Every time I face a new situation along this career path that is anything but straight or well-documented, I reach out to others for help. I don’t always find open arms, but I do feel there is a slackening of those linked arms, allowing more of us to find our way in.
How about you? As aspiring and establish literary translators, how do you view our culture? Is it changing? Opening up? Staying firmly closed? What would you like it to be like?