Translating beyond the academy

Written by
Danielle Ranucci '23
April 5, 2023

On Tuesday, Mar. 21, Daniel Persia and Julia Kornberg, both doctoral candidates in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, hosted “Translators Beyond the Academy,” a two-part roundtable and workshop event with literary translators Daniel Hahn and Julia Sanches. 

“We wanted to create a collaborative space and to think critically about translation as a practice that asks us to question different power structures and dynamics between universities, publishing houses and other industries,” Persia said.

Hahn is a writer, editor, and translator, with some thirty books to his name. His translations from Portuguese, Spanish, and French include fiction from Africa, Europe, and Latin America, and nonfiction by writers ranging from Portuguese Nobel Laureate José Saramago to Brazilian footballer Pelé. He is currently national program director of the British Centre for Literary Translation. Sanches is a literary translator working from Portuguese, Spanish, and Catalan into English. She is a founding member of Cedilla & Co., a collective of translators committed to making international voices heard in English, and chair of the Translators Group of the Authors Guild. Together, Hahn and Sanches have played a fundamental role in the creation of PELTA, the Portuguese-English Literary Translators Association.

The day’s roundtable covered themes of multilingualism, the relationship between translators and editors, the translation of slang and colloquial language, and the use of Google Maps to better understand place. The workshop, which was held virtually, included participants with various language backgrounds — Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Japanese among others. 

“Translators Beyond the Academy” is part of a monthly series titled “After Translation,” which brings practicing translators to the University each month to collaborate with students, faculty, staff and community members. In February, Natasha Wimmer, Lisa Dillman and Heather Cleary spoke about translation from within the university setting. Wimmer is best known for her translations of Roberto Bolaño’s works from Spanish to English. Dillman, is a translator of Spanish-language fiction and professor of pedagogy at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Cleary’s translations include Roque Larraquy’s, which was nominated for a National Book Award. March’s event served as a counterpoint, Kornberg explained. “We were interested in how they understand their work relative to the university, and how their positionality might be different from what we heard in February,” she said.

The “After Translation” series will continue on April 11 and 12, 2023 with Katrina Dodson, a writer and translator from the Portuguese, and Flora Thomson-DeVeaux, translator, writer and researcher. This event will celebrate their recent translations of Brazilian modernist Mário de Andrade — “Macunaíma,” translated by Dodson and “The Apprentice Tourist” translated by Thomson-DeVeaux. Register for “Translators on Publishing.”