In the last decade programs in Translation Studies, designed to train students in the theory and practice of literary translation, have flourished in American and European universities. Still, translators remain concerned about the future of their profession, fearing it will be undermined by a number of serious threats: English as a global language, computer translation, and the reluctance of publishers, at least in the English-speaking world, to take on the costs of publishing translations.
Although organizations such as the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) and PEN have done much to improve the professional status of translators in the U.S., most translators feel that their work is not sufficiently recognized. As Daniel Weissbort stressed in a recent article in The Guardian (U.K.), translators are no less deserving of the Nobel prize than the authors whose works they have made known to an international public.
Weissbort, founder and editor of Modern Poetry in Translation and for many years director of the Translation Workshop and the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, has now returned to England, where he is a member of the advisory board of the British Center for Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Directed by Peter Bush, the BCLT promotes literary translation in ways that reach far beyond the confines of the U.K.
The BCLT provides opportunities for post-graduate research in the field of translation. It also runs a summer seminar in Cambridge open to translators at all levels, from students to professionals. It grants brief residencies at UEA to translators working on projects and also awards prizes to gifted translators. Recent winners include Anabel Torres for her translation of This Place in the Night by Colombian poet Jose Manuel Arango. Readings, workshops, and lectures dealing with varied aspects of translation are held throughout the year, and are open to the public. On the roster of speakers for 2002 were Susan Sontag, who presented the annual St. Jerome lecture, and Lawrence Venuti.
Other BCLT initiatives strive to bring translation out of the academy by widening public appreciation of translated literature. The publication of Rearranging the World was one such initiative. This anthology of translated prose and poetry published in the U.K. last year presents an exciting sampling of some of the newest names in international literature. Edited by Josephine Balmer, the publication of the anthology was sponsored jointly by the BCLT and the New Audiences Project, which works in partnership with public libraries in Britain to develop new readerships for literature. It was distributed free of charge by the BCLT.
The BCLT also sponsors an Internet translation list where translators around the world discuss theoretical questions, share resources, and offer practical advice. But the list is much more than just a network for problem solving. It is a lively forum on global issues exchanged from many different perspectives, providing contact with translators sometimes working in very remote geographical areas or in precarious political conditions.