Saturday, September 9, 2017

Interview _ Dania Schüürmann

Dania Schüürmann, born in Münster, Germany, studied Social and Cultural Anthropology (BA) at VU University, Amsterdam, Netherlands and Interdisciplinary Latin American Studies (MA) at Free University Berlin, Germany.

She completed her PhD in Brazilian literature in 2012. Since 2016 she works as an author and literary translator from Portuguese and Dutch in Berlin.

In this interview, Dania talks about project management, literature and Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe the work that you do? What drew you to it? How did you start?

Since 2016 only I am working as a freelance translator and author.

After having completed my PhD in literature, I have been working in the area of project management for some years, but somehow I couldn’t get rid of literature. I kept on reading a lot and one day began writing myself, which somehow changed things.

When you are dealing with literature as an academic, you are also passionate about it, but looking at it from an analytical perspective only. I simply never dared to write myself and when I began with it, it was a revelation – it was very hard to produce something I liked, it still is, I am still actually always totally unsatisfied and have never published anything until today, but it makes me happy.

Translating literature makes part of this new productive relationship with literature and is equally hard and equally satisfying. But I am still a total beginner in translating and writing – I am currently working on my first literary translation for real.

What would you say are the most challenging aspects of the work you are doing?

The most challenging aspects – well, there are so many! I suppose that persistent self-doubts are one of those aspects ... difficult sometimes to deal with. You try very much to do your best, but it’s solitary work that normally also takes quite a long time, so that means you are struggling yourself with the words and the text and no one can really help you.

I really like an essay of the German philosopher and literary scholar (and translator) Walter Benjamin who talks about the Aufgabe des Übersetzers. Aufgabe means task, but the word also refers to the verb aufgeben and that is to give up. As a translator you have to make so many decisions with every sentence, you have to be decisive, but to be good, you also have to be aware of all the pitfalls and difficulties and sometimes you also have to give up and let go to really be able to create something new, the new text, the translated one. So, there are quite some difficulties and challenges in translating as in writing as well, but still it’s a very rewarding work.

Dania Schüürmann's translation into German of “What’s in a Name”, a poem by Penny Jones, from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.5.

What would you say are some of the things that connect the various aspects of the work that you are doing?

Translating and writing are both about language. Also, I am teaching German classes in Berlin – another language-related issue. Language would be the material I am working with in all the aspects of my work.

I think that perhaps I am very fascinated by the relationship between form and content, i.e. texts in which the form cannot be separated from the content really. And that’s an enormous challenge for the writer as for the translator.

Which writers influenced you most?

I am very much into Portuguese and Brazilian literature, so I suppose writers as Clarice Lispector, João Guimarães Rosa and also the more unknown Hilda Hilst have influenced me a lot.

In poetry, I like Rilke a lot, somehow, poems I prefer to read in German, my mother tongue. But generally I read a lot and cannot always define how writers have influenced me.

I suppose I am fascinated by how writers as Lispector or Rosa have created their very own language and literary style ... form and content are intricately interwoven and that’s what I deeply admire.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

A friend of mine sent me an e-mail talking about the project. Since I was also involved in a project of encounters between German people here in Berlin and refugees from all over the world, I was immediately interested. As a translator I thought I could make a contribution.

Most challenging certainly was the fact that I am normally not translating from English and I suppose that some of the poets also have different mother tongues. That’s a challenge and very intriguing at the same time.

What I really liked is that whilst translating a poem you really have to make it your own; it’s a way of intense reading and listening to the other writer that wrote it. It’s an act of communication, a very focused one, without haste. Exactly in that way we should also talk to each other more often, I think.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

The value of an initiative like Journeys in Translation is exactly this – by the exercise of translation you listen carefully and intensely to the Other. That’s what I think our society should be more like, a community of listeners. The Other has so much to tell and perhaps, by listening very well, you might became another, too.
Dania Schüürmann's translation into German of “Dislocation”, a poem by Pam Thompson, from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.120.

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Interview _ Dominique Cox

Dominique Cox is a pediatrician who loves to read. She lives and works in Argentina and freelances as a Spanish / English medical translator.

In this interview, Dominique talks about medicine, poetry and Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe the work that you do?

I work as a Paediatrician, focused primarily on high-risk populations in Argentina, immersed in the socio-political context that this entails. Alongside clinical work, with a co-worker, we developed TRA-Doctor, a firm specializing in translations within the medical field.

In spite of always being an avid reader, it was only through my experience as a doctor that I fully discovered the value of words. I realized that words could dramatically change the meaning and the impact of whatever it was I might be trying to convey, as well as my patients´ reactions. Sometimes language was the only barrier to be broken to ensure treatment adherence, reassure distraught parents or bring comfort to a suffering child.

Who or what has had the most influence on you especially as a reader, a writer and a translator? 

People, our humanness, have always fascinated me. Books have been the means by which I was allowed, from as far as I can remember, to enter the lives of people from different times, geographical locations, religions, etc. With a simple turning of a page I could find myself immersed in someone’s life, thoughts and experiences. I read whatever book I came across, undiscriminating.

To my understanding, books and an open-minded family upbringing have been the tools that enabled me to develop an ability to step out of my own reality into someone else’s without a second thought. A skill I have found essential as a physician.

Carol Leeming’s “Song for Guests”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.92. Translated into Spanish by Dominique Cox.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

I was invited to participate in this project by Laura Chalar, a very passionate Uruguayan lawyer, writer, translator and mother, who also happens to be family. We have always shared our passion for books, and in many ways she has been a link to the literary life that sometimes seems forgotten in the midst of work and motherhood.

Up until now, I had never attempted translations outside the medical field, so in a sense this has been my most significant challenge, having stepped out of my comfort zone.

Which were the easiest aspects of the work you put into the project? And, which were the most challenging?

I was not sure I was up for the challenge. In spite of being truly motivated, I had never attempted to translate poetry before, and my medical translation plus reader experience somehow seemed lacking. I wanted to be as faithful as possible to the original versions, whilst adapting to the Spanish grammatical structure. The effort to do so was fully rewarding.

As a reader I felt it was easy to empathise with what was being conveyed by each poem, and thereafter immerse myself in the writer’s mind-set, speculating about their particular choice of words.

Kathleen Bell’s “Waiting”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.62. Translated into Spanish by Dominique Cox.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

There is great value in the power of words as a means to break barriers, yet language is sometimes the only hurdle. This initiative exponentially multiplies each poem's effect by means of translation, broadening their possibility to reach out to as many people as possible.

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.