The irreplaceable AJP sent me a link to Joanna Biggs’s LRB blog post about the live translation event coming up in a couple of weeks at the British Museum. I’m sorry I won’t be able to attend; it sounds like a lot of fun:
The translation, of a short story in French, is done in advance by two translators: the ‘live’ bit comes into play when each of them reveals their version sentence by sentence to the audience, the other translator and the novelist, for discussion and disagreement. The idea is that the sort of close reading you need to do to translate well will bring out aspects of the text that are rarely paid attention to.
The challenge has been set by Alain Mabanckou – born in the Republic of Congo, educated in Paris, now based in LA – who has offered up a very short story about someone getting conned into buying an ill-fitting suit. He’s not much known here, but in France Mabanckou’s style, which loosens corseted French sentences with jokes, puns, slang and references to Albert Cohen’s Belle du Seigneur as well as Tati, the thrift shop in Barbès (‘les plus bas prix!’), has made him one of the most interesting, unpredictable and prize-laden contemporary French novelists. Sarah Ardizzone and Frank Wynne will be the ones perched on the sofa on 19 June, offering sentences that will be new to everyone apart from the chair, Daniel Hahn. The audience will have hand-outs of the French version and the two English versions as well as the panel to talk about ways of getting ‘Walaïïï, camarade!’ or the slightly baffling idiom ‘se mettre sur son trente-et-un’ into English. And there won’t be an exam at the end of it.
I don’t suppose anyone has any context for “Walaïïï”?