Meet the translator No.19

Any Language translation agency recently featured Altai Pilgrim on their ‘meet the translator’ page with a mini interview in Russian.

How many books have you read in translation? Les Miserables perhaps? If you’re in to the Russian classics, you might have enjoyed a twirl with Tolstoy, taken a daring run at Dostoevsky or lounged with Lermontov. Now for the next question: Have you heard of Constance Garnett, Natalie Duddington or Isabella Hapgood? Don’t worry if you haven’t they’re just the translators….

Ok, sarcasm aside, I’m a freelance Russian to English translator writing a blog, sharing a window onto my world of words, and I’m not the only one. Translators love writing blogs, almost as much as our grandmothers loved to keep recipe books. Why? Because we just have to create. The translation industry is changing. Translators are writing and speaking about their craft; publishers insist on putting our names on the front cover; there’s talk of royalties and translation agencies are featuring our personalities as a marketing tool.

Who is the translator then, and in a world saturated with information, do you really need to know? Let me put it this way. Do you need to know your grandmother? Who makes the best roast potatoes in the world? Do England’s finest Sunday side taste exactly the same at my table as they do at yours? Whoever, peels, boils, bastes and times, never will roasties cooked in two different kitchens ever taste the same. Why? Because preparing one dish involves many different processes and choices have to be made at each stage: parboil the potatoes and whack them straight onto the baking tray, or swirl them in a sieve before transferring them to the baking dish to rough up the edges a little for a crispier finish? So it is with translation. Same target text, same essential method, but hundreds of choices informing each stage in the preparation. The trick is, to find the translator who cooks a text just exactly the way your grandmother did.





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