Remuneration, visibility: translators seeking recognition

Frank Wynne is the first translator to chair the jury of the International Booker Prize, and has decided to take advantage of the prominence linked to this function to call for the improvement of the general condition of translators in the world. A message that is part of a series of campaigns led by translators, but also writers, for several years now.

These initiatives include the open letter from the Society of Authors, an organization of British authors, signed by figures from the literary world, such as the winner of the Booker Prize Bernardine Evaristo or the author Neil Gaiman. One of the demands was in particular the systematic appearance, on the covers of books, of the names of the translators.

In France too, there are many translators who denounce the conditions of remuneration for a precarious job, as much as they highlight the importance of this profession for the publishing world.

READ: “Awareness of the presence and work of the translator has evolved among readers”

For its part, the European Council of Associations of Literary Translators (CEATL) recommends that translators ask for a percentage of the sales of the books they have translated, and appeals, implicitly, to the goodwill of the publisher during contract negotiations.

An unbearable precariousness

For Frank Wynne, the precariousness of translators partly explains the lack of diversity in the sector, indicates a press release from the International Booker Prize. Independence has become the rule for translation professionals in recent years, encouraging competition and lower prices: however, he thinks that nothing prevents better practices within the publishing world, in particular the payment of “ fair rates to translators.

Besides the editorial aspect of the issue, he also proposes that translators share the rewards with the authors when their books are awarded. A way to promote the reputation of a translator, and thus to allow him, in the long term, to be better paid, or quite simply to be able to live from his activity as a translator.

In France, standard translator contracts already offer copyright, like other European countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, or even Spain. In the UK, however, these practices are much less common. The Translators Association in the United Kingdom, like the American Literary Translators Association in the United States, nevertheless sets so-called minimum rates. Still in France, support for literary creation are also allocated each year to translators.

Born in Ireland, Frank Wynne moved to France in 1984. He notably became a bookseller in Paris, while being passionate about languages. He has notably translated Michel Houellebecq, Frédéric Beigbeder, Ahmadou Kourouma, and even Boualem Sansal.

Of the 13 books shortlisted for the International Booker Prize this year, two publishers do not transfer copyright for the translator. In this first selection 2022we find The Book of Mother, by Violaine Huisman, translated by Leslie Camhi and published by Virago editions. There is also, for the first time, a book translated from Hindi. The next selection is expected for April 7, and the winning book will be known on May 26, 2022.

READ: Cultural diversity in Europe linked to better remuneration for translators

In 2021, the prize went to David Diop for his novel soul brothertranslated from French by Anna Moschovakis under the title At Night All Blood is Blackpublished by Pushkin Press.

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Remuneration, visibility: translators seeking recognition