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As a translator from Turkish to French and from French to Turkish (don't be alarmed, both are my native languages), I could have felt alien to the discussions going on at International Translation Day in London a few weeks back. But I didn't: I actually felt at home during ITD. Irrespective of languages, many of the issues faced by translators, authors and publishers of translated literature remain the same.
French and Turkish publishers offer much more translated literature than their English counterparts, (far more than that mythical 3% figure, anyway), so you could say I should feel lucky. But I am not so. The works I’m interested in usually don't fit into the French publishers’ vision of what contemporary Turkish literature should be, or aren’t the kind of comic books people think would sell in Turkey. I want French speaking readers to get into Perihan Mağden's work, and Turkish ones to read Guy Delisle, Posy Simmonds or new Algerian graphic narratives… and it can be just as hard to cross these boundaries in Europe as it is in the UK.
I definitely recognized my own efforts in the work of UK-based publishers like And Other Stories: this urge to share stories which get outside of what is expected from the literature of certain countries. To publish stories you think are worth sharing with readers of another language, without assuming what kind of literature they would like to read from a specific place. It's all about curiosity and sincerity. I believe audiences are curious and can feel if one is sincere or not: and that's what keeps me going.
Besides all the obvious links between translators across the globe, I realized something a bit more surprising when speaking to people that day, especially the translators of Turkish. Many of us translators don't know each other, are unsure of how to start translating professionally and some haven't even got anything ready to show a publisher when they meet one. Despite the amazing organization of an event like ITD and networks like the Emerging Translators Network, people still can be uninformed about opportunities. The very first step, I thought, would be to get to know one another, and ITD was definitely the right place to be for that.
Thinking about my residency at Free Word, which will take place between March and June in 2013, I decided I would include a very simple activity into my programme: get the translators of Turkish literature around a table (hopefully it will be a big table) and start sharing, eventually linking up with translators from other languages too. The needs for translators may vary from country to country, and from language to language, but although we all have different reasons for translating a work, many have in common this very urge to tell the unknown narratives from places they are passionate about. I hope that during my residency we can start building more stories: not just the stories of writers, but of translators too.
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