Tag: The Guardian

Climate change …

… but not the global emergency sort

The cultural climate in relation to Wales and the Welsh language also seems to be warming, if this newspaper headline is anything to go by.

I’ve been aware of an increasing media focus* on Wales and Welsh in the last few months. Even before Wales qualified for the football World Cup.

This recent Radio 4 programme in the series One to One is only the latest. It explores what it means to be a Welsh person in England (Emma Garland), and English in Wales (Mike Parker).

A cynical person might think

that this sudden interest in Wales is a move to set against the growing interest in independence for Wales.

Is it a deliberate policy of trying to neutralise the feeling of being ignored/abandoned by Westminster?

An uncynical person

might interpret it as a realisation: ‘Wow, it’s 2022 and now we’re more attuned to diverse voices and cultures within the UK, we can see that we’ve got this whole home-grown one right in our midst.’ Or – depending on your degree of Unionism – ‘We’ve got this whole home-grown one right next door to us’.

Whatever the reason

my fervent hope is that BBC-listening, heavyweight-newspaper-reading and politics-following publishers will clock all this and think: ‘Yes, we think novel-reading people are ready for a gem of a story translated from Welsh. It’s not an oddity, it’s interesting. Let’s take a look at this Susan Walton and her translation of Yn y Tŷ Hwn from the Welsh.’

 

Climate change (the emergency sort)

A little aside: if you are interested in the accelerating change in the earth’s climate (and who isn’t?) you might like to take a look at my other blog, where I post my original writing: ’Sgwennu Sue.

I’ve been writing the words: ‘Pan fydd yr holl iâ’n toddi, bydd y môr yn cyrraedd fan hyn and ‘When all the ice melts, the sea will be up to hereover and over and over on PostIt notes.

Starting to open up …

It’s now eighteen months since I finished my period of being mentored and when I finished the final version of This House, a translation into English of Yn y Tŷ Hwn by Sian Northey. Now, as covid repercussions diminish, some publishers are starting to open submission windows, and in-person cultural events are happening.

Submissions, submissions

In early January, when I last posted on this blog, This House had already been rejected by publishers A–E, and was awaiting an outcome from publishers F and G. It was swiftly rejected by G, and the outcome from F is still unknown after six months, so I’m presuming it’s not wanted.

Multiple submissions

Over the next few months, I’m not going to wait for the outcome of one submission or query before making the next. This means multiple submissions and queryings – but my spreadsheet is my friend. Bids H, I and J have already been sent.

 

Raising awareness of the Books Council of Wales

The other new tactic is to make submissees aware of possible Books Council grants that are available to publishers.

It’s only recently dawned on me how ignorant publishers outside Wales are about these. Because many source countries whose literature is translated into English help with this process financially, I’d presumed that publishers would automatically assume the same thing would be true of Wales – not so, it seems.

Meanwhile, on the border …

Hay Festival

I had rolled over a booking for two nights’ camping at Hay Festival since 2020, the year of being mentored. I decided to take the plunge this year, albeit without plunging into the enclosed performance spaces: I’m still being very cautious where I take my nose and windpipe.

Still, my main reason for going was to cruise and chat, and this I did – round the town and round the festival. And very interesting and enjoyable it was, especially watching an episode of Radio 3’s The Verb being recorded. Daniel Morden’s opening a – re-telling of the legendary origins of the bard Taliesin – was magnificent.

Whilst flâneuring about, I had the pleasure of running into one of my Sue Proof anchor clients. It was lovely to see her in person and have a chat over lunch.

The dark underbelly

The photo is of a commercial unit just next to the campsite I stayed on. It shows the other side of Hay. The campsite supervisor told me that these are dead books. This is the dark underbelly of ‘the town of books’: when Amazon divests itself of stock, it sells them to the warehouse chap. When he doesn’t sell them in Hay, this is how they end up.

In other news

My latest commissioned translation for the publishing house Gwasg Carreg Gwalch came out in the spring. It was chosen by the Books Council of Wales as one of its books of the month for May. That’s it in the front: Faster Than the Swords.

My next commissioned translation, Fleeing the Fascists, is almost done and will be coming out in September. This is the cover of the Welsh original, but the English will likely have the same design.

 *Long footnote

As well as the ‘One to One’ programme mentioned above, between February and June 2022 on BBC Radios 3, 4 and 6Music, I noticed:
—  Welsh comedian and national treasure Tudur Owen had a two-part dramatised story on Radio 4, and was a guest on both Start the Week and The News Quiz
—  a couple of months later, there was an entire Start the Week programme on the theme of Welsh identities
—  mention of St Dwynwen’s Day (the Welsh lovers’ day) was shoe-horned into a question in Counterpoint where Bryn Terfel happened to be singing the music in the question (but not in Welsh, nor was it Welsh music)
—  Katherine Stansfield’s poem ‘Beware Welsh Learners’ was on Poetry Please; it finishes with a line in Welsh: ‘Bore da, bore da.’ (Kath was, co-incidentally, one of the tutors on the course I attended at Tŷ Newydd)
—  there was a three-part series on Radio 4 from Jeremy Bowen called This Union: Being Welsh
—  Free Thinking on Radio 3 had an entire programme called ‘Speaking Welsh’
—  the 6Music Festival came from Cardiff this year, with Welsh being used as an equal language to English in the trailers for the event
—  Cerys Matthews presented a programme on Radio 4 called ‘Youth Unites’, celebrating the centenary of the Peace and Goodwill messages sent by the youth of Wales to the youth of the world by the Urdd Gobaith Cymru (oh, and guess what the topic is for 2022? –  the climate emergency)

On top of the i newspaper trumpeting Wales’ soccer achievements with its headline in Welsh, there have been these newspapery events:
—  The Sunday Times changed its style guide for naming our highest mountain – it’s now Welsh language first for Yr Wyddfa
—  to the bafflement of most of the UK press, Guto Harri, newly appointed Director of Communications for Boris Johnson, gave his first press interview to Golwg 360, which is a Welsh-language news website
—  the English translation of Manon Steffan Ros’ Welsh bestseller The Blue Book of Nebo was selected for inclusion in a list of children’s and YA books in The Guardian
—  The Bookseller recently devoted multiple spreads to the literary scene in Wales.

 

Words ©Susan Walton 2022. Photo of i newspaper ©Non Tudur, 2022. Photos of ‘can’t wait to be independent so we don’t have to deal with this crap anymore’ t-shirt, ‘when all the ice melts’ PostIt note, The Bean Box cafe in Hay on Wye, and dead books in Hay on Wye ©Susan Walton 2022. Photos of letter ‘H’ by Nikhil Mitra, letter ‘I’ by Michael Dziedzic, and letter ‘J’ by Zyanya BMO, all on Unsplash. Photo of Books Council of Wales books of the month from that organisation’s social media accounts. Video of the Urdd Gobaith Cymru’s Peace and Goodwill message from that organisation’s YouTube channel. Cover of Ffoi Rhag y Ffasgwyr ©Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2022.

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What’s with the July blues?

July blues? July shouldn’t be the month for blues – that’s January, surely. But this last month has brought up sad thoughts and revealed sad news. Bear with me.

K

That man at the top of this post had his birthday in July. Every year until 2015, when he didn’t. He and I parted company ten years before 2015, but we remained friends until the end.

K was a visual artist, and I realise now that a great deal of what I understand about creativity I learned from him. He had creativity coming out of his ears and he was prolific. In the time we were together he spent months in California and in London, trying to get his artistic career off the ground. But – as with many artists – he wasn’t great at following through on promotion/marketing/being organised. His head was always fizzing too much with the next idea.

The Guardian

All through that time – and especially while he was away – I used to open the Guide and Review sections of The Guardian on a Saturday and wish there’d be an entry for one of his exhibitions. That he’d have a show worthy of inclusion. It never happened.

When I found out I’d been awarded a place on Literature Wales’ Mentoring Scheme, I started a new notebook – a project notebook, to keep notes about this project separate from my jottings about ongoing proofreading jobs and to-do lists. Within the first few pages of this notebook I’ve written:

I used to look and wish for a K review in the Guardian. Now I want a review in the Guardian.

So, privately, that’s what I’ve been working towards, the thing that would be  my indicator of having arrived as a literary translator: a review in The Guardian.

Then the news broke in July that The Guardian is going to shed 180 staff. The rumours on Twitter were that the outcome  would be no weekend supplements: no Guide, no Review, no Magazine. By the time I find a publisher for Yn y Tŷ Hwn, there may be no Review section in which it could be reviewed.

Hence the July blues.

Progress in the wake of the first meeting with my mentor

My first meeting with my mentor was at the end of June. Some of the ‘homework’ they suggested, I’ve been able to work on, and some I haven’t. I’ve worked my way through all the comments and suggested changes on the first third of the Word document. It’s quite a revelation being on the other end of such a process – and quite sobering. It’s like a hotel owner staying in their own establishment!

I’ve also given  attention to something that was new to me – that the language of the translation needs special treatment in the passages that convey the story’s themes. I found this difficult to think about at first; I thought all the text had to be brilliant. However, once I’d hit on the metaphor of arias for these particular passages, I got it. In an opera, it’s the arias that carry it, it’s the arias that make it memorable. So, I’ve extracted the ‘arias’ and will work on them as if they were poetry translations.

 

Project work vs. paid work

Just after the first meeting with my mentor, I secured a huge proofreading job for my Sue Proof business. It’s the revision of a 175K-word, non-fiction book with lots of facts and figures. I’ve also got two novels from two regular self-publishing clients lined up for proofreading in  August and early September. (I think everyone’s been busy over lockdown!)

Obviously, paid work has to come first, so the ‘homework’ task of reading all Sian Northey’s novels and short stories to imbibe their essence isn’t going to happen for a while. However, I have managed to read the Sahar Khalifeh’s novella Passage to the Plaza, translated from Arabic by Sawad Hussain. This was useful for thinking about how to treat cultural terms in the source language; in other words, how much to ‘domesticate’ and how much to ‘foreignise’ them in the target language.

Learning through the ears

When I’ve been proofreading for hours – especially facts and figures – I don’t much feel like reading more. Because of this, much of my learning in July has been via my ears rather than my eyes. This included listening to Sawad Hussain being interviewed about Passage to the Plaza, which helped me understand the novel better.

Other pearls of wisdom have come from The Verb’s interview with Salman Rushdie; a Free Thinking episode with Ian Rankin; and a comment by American artist Laurie Anderson during an edition of A Good Read. She observed that, although the book in question (Sleep no More by L. T. C. Rolt) was written in English, she’d had to imagine canal towpaths and tunnels because she’d never seen any. Penny … dropped: even when not in translation, not everything has to be explained to be enjoyed.

Energy and guts

To counterbalance the July blues, I’d like to end on a positive note. This is a picture of ‘my’ author, Sian Northey, signing some of her books outside our local independent bookshop, Browsers Bookshop.

Browsers is currently shut and isn’t going to reopen for a while yet. However, within a few weeks of lockdown starting, Browsers’ owner had a trading website up and running and started selling online. She also made up over a hundred book packs which were distributed through local food banks. In good weather, she has been leaving children’s books on the shop’s doorstep for passers-by to pick  up for free.

Then, in July, came this message on Facebook:

We are installing a reading room here at Browsers and a community space for workshops/readings/exhibitions etc upstairs. … having been forced to close, the opportunity to turn a dream into reality has presented itself. Timing is not good financially, as I’m sure you can imagine, but the opportunity to undertake work that we would have had to close to complete otherwise is an opportunity we have to take.

Browsers was formerly the Morris Chemist shop and, in gutting the shop, these business cards have been revealed. ‘Ilford’ is a brand of photographic film – pharmacies used to sell films – and ‘Cupal’ is a make of antacid tablet.

If you don’t have your own handy independent local bookshop, please consider buying from Browsers.

And now I have a new thing to aim for: a launch event in Browsers’ new community space. Maybe by next summer there’ll be no July blues.

 

Static images and words ©Susan Walton 2020, except for  the image of María Bayo by WikimediaImages from Pixabay, and the images of Sian Northey and the old business cards ©Browsers Bookshop 2020; video ©ArabLit Quarterly 2020.

 

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