On Friday, I took some time off in lieu in order to visit the Society of Authors, to attend a talk on "Getting Started in Translation." I've been thinking for a while if I want to have a career in marketing for the rest of my life and I decided that I don't - not exclusively at least. I've been contemplating for some time now whether I should go back to school, and if I should do something related to Brazil (some years ago I looked into an MA in Brazilian Studies at King's, but it didn't go anywhere.)
I've noticed that all brazilian books translated into English are done so by non-brazilians. Usually they are spouses of a brazilian, or they lived there for a few years. They love the language and they love writing, but they are not brazilians... and this to me seemed like an edge I'd have as a literary translator. I'm pretty much fully bilingual and I know there are many brazilian books still waiting to find the right publishing house and distribution in the English-speaking world. Also, I wondered if translation would be a good career for later in life, when I've retired - something I could do well into my old age, as I really have no intention of quitting work one day.
17th March was a lovely Friday, which I started off with a swim at the London Aquatics Centre (I've been kicking myself for not visiting it earlier - it's amazing), and which I hoped to finish with a visit to the David Hockney retrospective exhibition at Tate Britain.
The Society of Authors is deep within Chelsea. What sort of art organisation can afford the rents there? (Unless the building was bequeathed to them by some benevolent patron...?) It was a dusty and warm place, with drawings of old authors on the walls, books and envelopes spread out across messy desks, and friendly staff all too happy to point the way to the salon with tea, coffee and biscuits, and the room beyond where the talk would take place.
There were two literary translators who had just "broken through" invited to talk - Anne Marie Jackson, a Russian translator, and Paul Russell Garrett, a Danish translator. They were introduced by Ros Schwartz, a figuredhead in the British literary scene (she was awarded the Chevalier d’Honneur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her services to French literature, with one of her most recent translations being The Little Prince.)
The main things I learnt from Anne Marie and Paul's talks: literary translation won't make you rich, but if you are passionate enough, dive head first and you will eventually find work; you don't need qualifications to do it, just committment and then proof that you can do it well; and that having a network is really important, and that there are certain steps you need to take in order to approach publishers and work well with them.
I'd seen some YouTube videos already of Ros Schwartz talking about how to be a literary translator, but it was still good to hear her talk through all the key points - she even handed out a useful step-by-step guide. There were about 15 of us in attendance - some with already some background in translation, others finishing their MAs. There were plenty of questions from everyone, including myself. I was the only one who had brought a friend along ("for moral support", Ros gently joked.) I left feeling quite inspired: I'm going to start looking at what's happening in Brazil's literary scene, work on some short pieces for practice, maybe try to get something published in literary journals. It will take time but if I start now I can slowly build myself up to eventually taking on a large commission and stepping away from 9-to-5 office work. I could potentially end up working from anywhere in the world and surviving from translation (literary and technical) alone (one can dream...)
Yesterday, I woke up at 4am to get ready for an event in Regent's Park on behalf of the charity I work for. I stood around from 6am to 2pm, helping carry boxes, lift marquees, set up desks, receive supporters, take things down, put things away, etc. By the time I headed home, I was knackered.
We had plans to see an animation at the BFI's Flare Festival (London's LGBTQ film festival) followed by drinks with some friends and then a club night dedicated to Duran Duran. I figured I could just about manage the film, Torrey Pines, which I'm now glad I did go see as it's a wonderful "queer punk coming-of-age tale, taking place in Southern California in the early 1990s".
I love this festival. The South Bank gets filled with all sorts of queer characters, mostly mature cinema goers, and there's a sense of the queer community coming together in a very peaceful, unstressful way. A lot of the films screened never make it to Netflix so it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see them on the big screen.
The tickets had been bought by a good friend who had brought along his new boyfriend, a handsome australian who is a professor of literature (and who doesn't like books, but I don't know if he said that because he's tired of teaching them...) After the screening, Clyde Petersen, who is a transgender stop-motion animator, talked about how the film was shot during 3 years in his basement flat, with the help of many queer artists based in Seattle. The film is based on Clyde's own experiences as a 12-year-old coming to terms with his sexuality while living with a schizophrenic single mother.
One of the evening's pleasures was watching the film accompanied by a live band, Clyde Petersen's Your Heart Breaks. The soundtrack was originally recorded in former Death Cab for Cutie member Chris Walla's studio in Seattle and there's a host of musicians attached to it, including Kimya Dawson (from the Moldy Peaches) who sings as Whitney Houston in one of the film's funniest scenes.
Piney Torres is a lovely, boldly colourful and touching animation, worth seeing if you get a chance.
 It was unfortunately sold out, so we walked from the Tate Britain to the South Bank and spent an hour in the Royal Festival Hall drinking hot chocolates, people watching and writing in our journals.