“Translators of Czech literature deserve greater attention”

says Dutch translator Edgar de Bruin, owner of the Pluh Literary Agency, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.


Edgar de Bruin

Edgar de Bruin

What do you think ought to basically change in our attitude towards authors and translators?
Translators of Czech literature deserve much greater care and attention from the Czech Republic, as they are very much to be credited for its publication abroad. The annual meetings of Bohemists (who are not necessarily active translators) organized these days by Book World are not enough on their own. This issue was dealt with in detail some time ago at iLiteratura during the iLiForum on Czech literature abroad.

To briefly summarize, translators from Czech these days are no longer always associated with Czech studies abroad, but they could be supported more if translators’ workshops were organized and/or a translators’ centre established. If the Arts and Theatre Institute can provide residential stays for foreign authors (of no great importance in the case of the Dutch author last October), why aren’t such opportunities open to translators of Czech literature, who need them much more for their work?

At the same time the standard of translation has a direct bearing on how works are received abroad. For example, the Expertise Centre for Literary Translation (Expertisecentrum Literair Vertalen) in the Netherlands has been experimenting recently with workshops online, which not only significantly reduce costs, but also circumvent other organizational problems. Another effective way for translators to develop professionally is through mentorships, while an award for the best foreign translation from Czech literature (if only every two years, at least for translations into world languages) would be of great symbolic and practical value.

Interviewed by Zuzana Kůrová