duminică, 16 august 2009


It all started in the year 2000. My daughter was a first year medical student and had to attend computer classes for a few months. Her homework was to design a site. That was the beginning of my ‘Desperado’ page (http://lidiavianu.scriptmania.com ).
I provided the interviews and essays. My field was, and is, contemporary British literature. In 1990, I had come out of communism with next to no knowledge of fiction and poetry published abroad after the war, and the time had come for me to teach it. I struggled hard to find my own hierarchy, to put to paper my own view of a literature which I knew pretty well in its Modernist guise, but whose after-Modernist works I was only beginning to discover.
It took me ten years to read, and then write a few books of criticism on contemporary British authors. Some of these authors were kind enough to answer my letters, and so the interviews were born: David Lodge, Peter Ackroyd, Julian Barnes, Alasdair Gray, John Fowles, Graham Swift, Timothy Mo. The poets followed: Dannie Abse, Michael Hamburger, Ruth Fainlight, George Szirtes, Alan Brownjohn, Elaine Feinstein, UA Fanthorpe, John Mole, Sean O’Brien, Fiona Sampson, and many others. Eventually a book came out of that.
As I wrote along, the British Council in Bucharest accepted to invite these writers to videoconferences with my second year students (whom I was teaching British after-Modernist literature). From these virtual mini-seminars, during which we talked about the students’ translations of the invited authors’ works, the MA Programme for the Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text was only a few steps away. I started it in 2005, at the English Department of the Faculty for Foreign Languages and Literatures of Bucharest University. It began with 15 students, and has reached 200 now.
While making the MA programme work, I had to invent my way as it unfurled before me. I founded a review of the MA Programme (and of my PhD students, who also publish there quite a lot), Translation Café, at http://www.e-scoala.ro/ctitc/translation_cafe_eliot.html ), which has reached its 78th issue (in only two years).
In 2008 I came to know (virtually) Anne Stewart (poet and literary agent, poetry pf, http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/ ), and we started together an international project of translation which she baptized poetry pRO (http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/poetrypro.html#Tour ). Its palpable results so far are a huge number of translations of British poetry into Romanian, hosted by the Romanian Broadcast Corporation (the poet Dan Verona, Radio Romania Cultural), a bilingual anthology of these translations (with a CD of the broadcast poems), published in England by Anne Stewart (And the Story Isn't Over..., http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/poetrypro.html#AntCD ), and quite a number of Romanian translations published in Timpul, Diagonale, Luceafarul,Caietele Internaţionale de Poesie.
This international project has become a living body of translators, and the best way for it to function was by creating a yahoo discussion group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/translationcafe/ , where England, the States, Romania, even South America meet. This group was meant to be a ‘living dictionary’ for young translators in need, but it has become something much stronger, a means of connecting young and old lovers of contemporary literature who embark upon translating
As expected, MTTLC (the MA Programme for the Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text) was the centre of all activities. This year, the 45 students who have graduated have translated a volume of contemporary British poetry each (the poets represented by Anne Stewart). The MAs have been in touch with the poets translated, have asked questions, have even interviewed them (a volume including these interviews is to be published soon). Their translations will be published in book form. To this purpose, I have created Editura pentru Literatură Contemporană/Contemporary Literature Press – an online publishing house of MTTLC, under the patronage of Bucharest University and the Romanian Cultural Institute, with whom my MA programme closely cooperates. We have not received an answer from the British Council yet (as to their possible support of this online publishing house), but hope to have one soon, since what we are doing serves their purpose.
A few days ago, the bilingual anthology of the Romanian PEN Club Mia-ar trebui un şir de ani/It Might Take Me Years. Antologie. Anthology came out in Bucharest. The volume was authored by the poet Constantin Abăluţă (head of the Romanian PEN Club), and it was translated into English by MTTLC students. The process of translation had three stages: first the MAs translated the texts; second, their teachers checked the correctness of the translations; and third, sixteen English poets (Anne Stewart’s group) stylized the students’ versions. What came out was first-rate poetry in English.
One more volume of the same kind (Lucian Vasilescu) is on its way to publication. Dan Verona’s poems are being translated. We hope more will follow.
Besides translating volumes of poetry, the MAs have also translated the site of the National Theatre of Bucharest (http://www.tnb.ro/index.php?page=home_en ) and are now translating that of Radio Romania Muzical (the person in charge there is Alina Olimpia Miron, a remarkable second-year MA with prodigious energy and eagerness to work).
Working with MTTLC students has been a reward in itself. I have included some of them in the volumes I have translated myself and published in my collection of Contemporary Literature in Translation at Editura Univers Enciclopedic (Ruth Fainlight: Autorul la Rampă / Author! Author!, Mimi Khalvati: Poeta din Zid / The Poet in the Wall, Peter Ackroyd: Bucurii din Purley, Alan Brownjohn: ‘Gasping for Love/Tânjesc după iubire’, George Szirtes: The Ache of Your Otherness/ Fiorul că eşti altfel).
I have started a collection within Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, ContBritLit, and have included in it texts by my PhD and MA students (The Critical Rub. To read, to write, perchance to dream; The Critic’s Dilemma. The awful daring of a moment’s surrender; The Critic’s Light. The moment after clarity is night).
On the whole, I have tried to turn MTTLC (which was initially a mere MA programme in literary translation) into an active group (including all graduates so far and the present students) of readers, translators and propagators of contemporary literature both ways: translated from Romanian into English and from English into Romanian. Time will tell whether I have been successful or not...

August 6, 2009

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