My time as Translator in Residency at the BCLT has ended. I don’t know that a single blog will sufficiently encapsulate all of my feelings about this epoch in my life as a translator, but I’ll make a worthy attempt. When describing the residency to others I’ve often called it a ‘revelation’. An apt choice of words, because these four months have revealed so much about myself as a translator.
In the seminar I prepared as part of the residency, ‘Translator as Liberator’, I suggest that we translators bring the sum of everything we have read and written to each translation. I stand by that view, it’s something I have always believed. Yet I didn’t value my own knowledge or truly believe that what I could bring to a translation was enough. Others had read more, written more, translated more than me, and I felt that my opinions and experience fell too far short to be worth sharing. Friends and colleagues busy with translations, for a number of years, I did no literary translation at all. I felt invisible.
Arthur Miller describes Tennessee Williams’ ‘restless inconsolability’ as a writer. This perfectly sums up my feelings about my own translations. However, the point of stillness in which to think, write and reflect on my own practice given to me by these months at the BCLT has imbued me with an — as yet — small, quiet confidence that can accept this inconsolability while asserting that yes, I can do this. The residency buoyed my self-belief; regular conversations with other translators and students have revealed that the knowledge and experience adjacent to the act of translation which I routinely deprecated, is in fact useful, even desirable. Gently it was brought home to me that I speak not only Catalan and Spanish, but also the language of books and bookselling — a profound understanding of the world of books and readers which, far from being something that kept me away from translation, has actually enhanced my translations.
The occasional blogs over the course of the residency also unlocked the writer’s voice within me. Stymied into silence by stronger voices, stronger opinions, I’ve not put my own thoughts into words for a long time, or even had a forum to do so since finishing my Masters. But pressed by the residency’s gentle requirements, I tentatively set down some lines about translation as I experience it, and surprised myself by how the words flowed. I’m not sure what exactly unblocked the dam in my head. Perhaps having the structure and deadlines of the residency helped. Perhaps it was the mental and physical space provided by the desk by a window in the BCLT library, surrounded by thousands of books in myriad languages. Whatever the reason, I’ve been enabled to use this voice, mine these thoughts about translation, writing, literature and beyond and share them, and for this encouragement — and so much more — I will be forever grateful to the BCLT.
Yes, the chapter of my BCLT residency has ended. But as I turn the page, filled with gratitude and promise, I’m excited to see what the next one holds.
Laura McGloughlin has been a freelance translator from Catalan and Spanish since completing a Masters in literary translation at the University of East Anglia. She was awarded the inaugural British Centre for Literary Translation Catalan-English Translation Mentorship in 2011. Among others she has translated work by Llüisa Cunillé, Maria Barbal, Flavia Company, Toni Hill Gumbao, and Joan Brossa, as well as for director Carlos Saura, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and the Association of Writers in Catalan (AELC). Her most recent publication is a translation of Wilder Winds by Bel Olid. During the residency, she plans to explore the extra-lingual factors affecting literary translation, especially the Anglophone literary tradition.