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For all those interested in taking the leap into literary translation, here are five tips from some top names in the trade, as told to Kris Kosaka for her The World of Translators series:

  • “You need to get your translation as good as you can and then put it away for a time so it is no longer too familiar,” says Meredith McKinney. “Read it just as an English piece of writing. If you can do that and come to it fresh, then you get that final sense of order if it works purely in English.”
  • “If a piece of text sounds smooth and fluent in the original, but you translate it as anything but smooth or fluent, then it’s a type of mistranslation,” says Jeffrey Angles. “It’s easy to lose this style point, because sometimes it’s hard for translators to understand how something sounds in the original language.”
Stephen Snyder, translator of 'The Memory Police' | THE BOOKER PRIZES
Stephen Snyder, translator of ‘The Memory Police’ | THE BOOKER PRIZES
  • “Understand what good taste looks like and sounds like in a literary work, because if you can’t identify and distill that essence, then you’re not going to create something translated from Japanese that anyone will actually want to read,” says Stephen Snyder.
  • “What you choose to translate is one of the most important decisions you can make as a translator. Out of the wealth of literature available in a given language, whose values are shaping that decision, and what is your role in that conversation?” asks poet Sawako Nakayasu.
  • “For me, translation tends to be fairly isolated work, so it’s easy to lose confidence in what I’m doing because it’s not possible to translate with exactness. You simply can’t get everything across. But every time, just do your very best because it’s better than if the work had never been translated,” says Cathy Hirano. “You’re the one being given this chance.”

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