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Wed 27 November 2013
British students translate citybook Wim Brands
This autumn, students of Dutch at the universities of Sheffield, Nottingham and University College London will realise the English translation of Wim Brands citybook on Ghent: The Brass Band that Ate an Elephant.
The project is the energetic initiative of Henriette Louwerse, a member of Sheffield University, Department of Germanic Studies, and the coordinator of citybooks Sheffield. The project is sponsored by the Dutch Language Union, the Dutch Foundation for Literature, the Representation of the Flemish
Government in the UK, the Netherlands Embassy in London. Henriette tells us more about the translation process.
"over gebochelde straten schuurt mijn bestaan." British students translate Ghent citybook
Over the last few weeks, thirty-four students of Dutch language at three English universities (Sheffield, Nottingham, University College London) have been pouring over Wim Brands’ citybook about Ghent. In close collaboration with the professional translator Jonathan Reeder, the students worked on the English version of De fanfare die een olifant opat.
Video © Henriette Louwerse
For most of the students, the project is a first chance to become acquainted with the practice of literary translation. citybooks texts lend themselves very well to the purpose: texts that are inspired by a specific location don’t just make special literary demands on their translators, but also require a familiarity with local circumstances, and the skill of finding alternatives to cultural and practical differences that don’t straightforwardly translate. How, for instance, do you translate the word ‘naambordjes’ (something like a ‘nameplate’) when, in England, there is no tradition of displaying the family name on the home’s front door? And do you translate the expression ‘je draagt je strop fier’ literally, (in which case ‘you wear your noose with pride’) even though you suspect that the foreign reader isn’t party to the phrase’s historical context and specific cultural connotations?
Initially, students will make their own translation of a part of the text. In the second phase, they’ll discuss the differences between their individual translations in small groups. To conclude, all of the students involved will come together during a videoconference in which we’ll collectively discuss and find solutions for the particular challenges the text poses. The result will appear in early 2014 on the citybooks website.
Henriette Louwerse (University of Sheffield, coordinator citybooks Sheffield)
This is the third time that a citybook has been the subject of this special translation project. Previously, the project brought the English versions of citybooks by Abdelkader Benali (Warrior on a Horse) and Bouke Billiet (Palm Leaves and Promises) to fruition.
- Read more about the translation project with Abdelkader Benali, about Bouke Billiet’s experiences of the project as a participating author.
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