BCLT, Buenos Aires-Style by Lucila Cordone
(An Extract from My BCLT 30th Anniversary Edition)
My first encounter with the BCLT was in 2004. Peter Bush had come to Buenos Aires as one of the guest speakers in a Symposium on Cortázar, and he gave a small talk on Literary Translation at the Colegio de Traductores de Buenos Aires in which he mentioned a wonderful programme called the Literary Translation Summer School at the University of East Anglia. I had just started as a lecturer in literary translation for undergraduate students, and I immediately fell in love with the idea of going there one day. It was 2011. I already had two boys, and my brother bought me a ticket to visit him in Aberdeen, where he and his wife were expecting their second child. So there was my ticket and my great chance to go to this mysteriously wonderful Summer School.
It was Paradise. A heavenly retreat for literary translators: a whole week discussing literature, translation and writing, enjoying scrumptious food and the best wine, talking to authors and translators from all around the world over breakfast, dinner or lunch, watching the rabbits from my bedroom window, strolling along the UEA campus paths… In Argentina or Latin America there was no further training of any sort for literary translators, but we did have a long-standing tradition in literary translation, a solid and booming publishing scene and new up-and-coming generations of translators. I thought we had what was needed to arrange something similar to the BCLT Summer School in Buenos Aires – minus the rabbits. So during the farewell dinner I said to Daniel Hahn, who was then the Summer School Director, ‘I want to do this in Buenos Aires,’ to which he simply replied: ‘Do it!’ – and I took this literally.
In 2014 I came back to the Summer School’s Training the Trainer Summit with a notebook full of ideas on how to make this happen at Lenguas Vivas Teaching and Translation School with practically no funding. I shared my notes with Kate Griffin – then BCLT’s International Director – and Cecilia Rossi. The Argentine version would be an Autumn School co-organised by Lenguas Vivas and the Argentine Association of Translators and Interpreters (AATI), which was running the Literary Translation Seminar at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair. So in 2015 we launched a small pilot programme with the German author Kristof Magnusson and Martina Fernández Polcuch as workshop leader, followed by a 2016 French workshop with the Swiss writer Philippe Rahmy (sadly now deceased) and Gabriela Villalba as workshop leader.
Ever since this idea was first conceived, I had been trying to work in closer collaboration with the BCLT and bring their expertise into our Argentine programme. In 2016 Cecilia Rossi presented AATI with the possibility of being partners with the AHRC-funded Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) consortium ‘Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community,’ and participating in her research project on translation and cultural memory. This would make it possible not only to fund four years of visits by English-speaking authors, but also to provide her input into crafting literary translation as creative writing, which the BCLT Summer School had begun in 2014. The OWRI collaboration brought Englishspeaking authors Giles Foden (2017), Julianne Pachico (2018) and Katherine J. Orr (2019) to our Buenos Aires workshops, and Uruguayan-Argentine writer Vera Giaconi (2017), Argentine Felix Bruzzone (2018) as well as the Chilean author Lina Meruane (2019) to the BCLT Summer School.
We do not have the campus and the paths and the Broad and the rabbits; we do, however, have the city and the Book Fair. Our Autumn School, then, inherited the core of the BCLT Summer School, but was shaped into something else by completely different circumstances. The translation and creative writing workshops take place at Lenguas Vivas, but then we flock to the Literary Translation Seminar at the Book Fair. In 2017 we included visits to museums and specific sites, led by Giles Foden’s text to incorporate the city into our programme. The novel we were working on (a manuscript, in fact) was set in Buenos Aires and dealt with the Falklands War, which inevitably touched on the last military dictatorship. This led us to revisit our past and our cultural memory, and we (author and translators) were able to use the city to check the facts and help write and translate the story, thus pushing our experimentation with creative writing in translation to an extreme: we were actually doing research, rewriting and creating with the author; a text and a character were being conceived in the source language and in translation simultaneously.
But this collaboration with OWRI goes far beyond bringing us authors to translate. It is providing several generations of emerging literary translators and literary translation lecturers (not only Argentine, but also Mexican, Spanish, Colombian, Chilean, Uruguayan) with a different approach to literary translation. It has also enabled some of our translators to participate in the Training the Trainer programme at the BCLT Summer School.
Whenever I think of the BCLT Summer School I become nostalgic. I miss the unique magic of UEA and Norwich in July. We do, however, have a different kind of magic in our dear old 19th-century building, and a bustling city full of history where we manage to replicate part of the BCLT feel: sharing the ecstasy of discussing words and textures and meanings, of savouring language in different shades, of making new literary friends from around the world, of handing our business card to an editor for the first time, of getting lost in the Book Fair and coming back home with our bags filled with new books, of brainstorming our first book pitching, of sharing empanadas and a good glass of Argentine wine. In fact, of helping stories and languages and cultures cross borders and reach monolingual worlds.