I haven’t read any novels by the latest Booker Prize winner, Hungarian author Laszlo Krasznahorkai, but I found myself singing his praises as I settled down this morning to read my newspaper.
The reason was simple: in the course of accepting his award, he made a point of explicitly thanking his various translators. Now, this may not seem especially noteworthy, but, as someone who has worked as a translator in the past, I can assure you that it is all too rare.
Given that the British public is currently enjoying an unprecedented love affair with translated European (crime) fiction, one might think that translators would be mentioned more frequently in dispatches. More often than not, however, they are accorded little more than a line or two in reviews.
Even this is no guarantee. Perusing a second-hand bookshop last week, I was astonished to discover that a translated work of Thomas Mann – Thomas Mann! – didn’t even say who the translator was. Having struggled to get to grips with Mann in the original German, I am aware of the enormous difficulty that exists in rendering his work satisfactorily in English. To remain uncredited for what must have been an enormously challenging and time-consuming task seems particularly negligent. The sentences that appear in English are not Thomas Mann’s, after all: they are the translator’s.
Which brings me back to Laszlo Krasznahorkai.
To acknowledge the hard work of his translators is a rare thing; to thank them publicly for their it practically unheard of.
Let’s hope it’s the start of a new literary trend.