Friday, 15 June 2012

I've moved!

Given the trouble I've been having with Blogger over the last few days, and the fact that Google's answer appears to be to switch from Firefox to Chrome, I've moved my blog.

Come and find me at a discount ticket to everywhere in its new home!

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Translation Industry Day at the Society of Authors

I spent yesterday at the Society of Authors in London for an Industry Day put on by the Translators' Association. My level of excitement and nerves about going child-free to a professional conference was probably rather daft, but it was an excellent event and I'd have been bang on time if I'd turned the right way on leaving Gloucester Road Tube station...

Gloucester Road Underground Station, London - - 1615552
Richard Rogerson [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Speakers included publishers, editors and translators, as well as people from the TA/SoA. There was encouragement about the state of literary translation in the UK. From Briony Everroad (Harvill Secker) we learnt that there were 102 entries for this year's Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize from 44 publishers; she also raised the tantalising possibility that the Stieg Larrson effect might help previously averse publishers to learn the ropes of commissioning translations - everyone wants their bit of Nordic Noir, and maybe this will spread to other genres.

Katherina Bielenberg (Maclehose Press), Bill Swainson (Bloomsbury) and Stefan Tobler (And Other Stories) were among those who talked about the processes and economics of publishing, and what it actually takes to get a beautiful book to the reader.

There was also useful stuff about contracts and negotiations, plenty of opportunity to meet and chat with other translators, put faces to names, do a bit of networking, discover useful resources and lovely-sounding books. And a very nice lunch!

In all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and useful day, which left me feeling inspired as well as much better informed. I'm going to have to make a point of getting to these things more often - Norwich really isn't a million miles from London, after all...

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Friday, 1 June 2012

City of Literature - Update

Norwich skyline from Mousehold Heath
A while ago I blogged about Norwich's bid to become England's first UNESCO City of Literature. In case you missed the anouncement, it was confirmed on 10 May that the bid was successful: see here for what UNESCO say about it. At the time, I was rather pre-occupied with the Blogathon so I didn't get round to posting an update.

While largely agreeing with him, I was amused by this part of Sam Jordison's post on the Guardian Book Blog:

"On a more personal note, I can vouch for the fact that Norwich is a good place for writers. (...) [T]here's also a thriving community of writers and journalists living here. When I made the move, I thought I was a pioneer, but it turns out I was just enacting a cliche. Half my neighbours seem to have a novel in the pipeline, a newspaper column, a job in publishing, an eccentric authorial uncle ..."
Clearly he lives in the Golden Triangle - I can't imagine quite so many writers in our neck of the woods.

For more information on what this all actually means, see the Writers' Centre Norwich website. I'm already looking forward to the International Centre for Writing though - it sounds lovely, even if it is at least 3 years away...

Photo by soapbeard, used under Attribution License

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Fattypuffs and Thinifers!

I made it! It's May 31st, the end of the Blogathon. I've learnt a lot, discovered some lovely new blogs to follow and had fun along the way. I hope you've also enjoyed reading my children's books in translation series, and here's one more recommendation to round it off...

I was unexpectedly thrilled when browsing through the Outside In World website to rediscover Fattypuffs and Thinifers by André Maurois (French title: Patapoufs et Filifers). It's a story I read as a child, from the same rather battered copy that my Dad read in his childhood. Out of print for years, it was reissued in 2000 by Jane Nissen Books, translated by Norman Denny. It never occured to me that it was a translation then, but now it is clearly incredibly French!

It tells the story of two boys, one fat and one thin, who find their way into an underground world divided between two warring nations - the Fattypuffs and the Thinifers. Whether or not it is intended as an allegory of Franco-German relations, it has a lot to teach about tolerance, jingoism, stereotyping and the futility of war - written in 1930, it is clearly informed by the First World War.

Now I know it's still available, I really am going to have to track a copy down - I imagine the copy I remember is long lost, but I will enquire! An abiding childhood memory is of making Fattypuff and Thinifer footprints on the beach by walking on my heels and digging in the edge of a spade. (It was my Dad who started it, so maybe he did that as a child too...) And that's what a good book does - it sticks in your head, gets passed on and creates new worlds, new games.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

So many questions...

So there we are - all the way from Asterix to Zou. A couple of things I noticed as I was compiling my lists for this blog series set me wondering:

Why do so many translated children's books tackle "difficult" themes (see Brothers, Traitor or The Bear and the Wildcat for example)? And why do a large number of the rest of them seem to be in the fantasy genre?

From my own experience of pitching a translation to publishers it helps if there's some kind of hook, something that makes it stand out from what is already being published in English, so perhaps a different perspective on events, personal experience of war, an unusual topic provides a selling point. But then why aren't books on war, death, illness and so on already on the market? Do UK and US authors just not want to write about them? Or are publishers afraid of them unless they already have a proven track record in another country?

What about fantasy? Where does that come in? There's a particularly strong tradition of fantasy writing in Germany, represented here by Cornelia Funke, and given the Harry Potter phenomenon, perhaps it was just a way of tapping into what was already available to feed the boom. There's also Silverhorse, The Neverending Story and The Book of Time. On the other hand, perhaps I just noticed the fantasy books because it's the sort of thing I liked to read myself as a kid, and still do from time to time.

I don't know - I don't have answers to all these questions. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has any insight into it though...

Image from

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Z is for Zou

Zou is a little zebra created by Michel Gay, a popular French author and illustrator. It's another cracking  picture book from Gecko Press, published in 2008.

In a situation parents and small children everywhere will recognise instantly, Zou would like a cuddle in Mummy and Daddy's bed. Unfortunately, Mummy and Daddy just won't wake up, and when they do, they're terribly grumpy. What can he do about this? Then he has an inspiration - coffee! They need lots of coffee...

It's a sweet story, beautifully illustrated (and fortunately it hasn't actually inspired the boys to try and operate the coffee machine or kettle!). Sadly, the translator doesn't seem to be named, but Zou and the Box of Kisses (Gecko Press, 2011) is translated by Linda Burgess. Both boys took to it at once, and it was lovely to hear fils aîné reading it to his little brother on a similar Saturday morning not so long ago.

"One cup for Mu-u-u-mmy... One cup for Da-a-a-ddy..."

It was also translated for Clarion Press in the US by Marie Mianowski under the title Zee in 2003, as was Zee is Not Scared (2004).

Here's hoping that Zou à vélo (L'Ecole des Loisirs, 2005) and Les Sous de Zou (L'Ecole des Loisirs, 2011) will also soon be available in English!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Wordle Day

Today is Wordle day on the 2012 Blogathon so here's a word picture of my blog...

You can make your own at - let me know if you do, I'd love to see it!