Olivia Hellewell’s foreword to UEA’s 2021 Literary Translation MA anthology, published by Egg Box and available HERE.
‘Making something, and making something different.’
Change is often expressed as something that happens to us; an ambiguous force to be observed. ‘Everything is changing,’ we say, suggesting an external process that we witness, passively, and notice often in retrospect. Yet change is, at the same time, the act of ‘making something different’. This making – this shaping – is proactive; it is the very opposite of passive observation. It is action with intent.
Anthologies are interesting sites of intent. Never neutral, never without traces of a process of making and shaping. What might this selection of stories tell us about their translators’ intentions? About their choices and their changes?
The translators’ process of making had to take on a new form: it was changed. They had to forge a new means of making, joining together virtually, sharing ideas in a group of once-strangers, but now fellow makers. Exploring every nuance of their decisions, every weight of every choice, finding new ways to make language different. Sharing the most intimate expressions of creativity and ambition. These stories, therefore, are first and foremost a testament to a journey. They say that we were here, and this is what we did. This is what we made.
Placing these excerpts side by side records a series of resonances: every translator found a story that they wanted to tell. Their reasons for wanting to tell this story – and not that story – will each be personal to them; they may be conscious of their reasons, or they may remain out of reach. They found a voice which spoke to them, a voice which offered the opportunity to explore language in all of its layers. There are voices that challenge us, surprise us; voices which take us back in time and which guide us through worlds that defy reality as we know it.
And yet to reach us, these stories had to be made differently. Different words, different sounds, with different tools. Just as this selection of excerpts records a moment in time, so too does every word; every comma; every choice. The texts capture one of an infinite number of possible versions, but stand as records of an individual process of making something different. These versions can be understood as culminations of a process, as the end product of a journey; but we can also see them as tentative beginnings; small steps out into the world. They begin to carve out a space in which these translators can share their voices, and their stories; where they can make something, and make something different.
These translators have read and they’ve searched, and they’ve found stories they wanted to share. And then they made them different, bringing them together for us to read and enjoy; for our voices to make them different once more.