Found in Translation

Julian Barnes, Ali Smith, Sandra Smith & Adam Thirlwell

Filed under: Fiction

Of the thousands of books published in Britain each year, only a handful are translated from foreign languages. Given the dominance of English as the international language of business and politics, perhaps our literary chauvinism is inevitable.

Does this narrowing of our reading world matter? Are we in danger of missing out on today’s Tolstoy or tomorrow’s Murakami? Novelist Adam Thirlwell has recently masterminded Multiples, a globe-trotting collection of 12 stories, translated in and out of English and 17 other languages by 61 authors. He chairs a conversation between three champions of translated literature – the writer and francophile Julian Barnes, the novelist Ali Smith, and Irène Némirovsky’s translator, Sandra Smith – as they discuss the challenges of Anglocentricity, the relationship between authors and their translators, and the role of translators in shaping our cultural imagination and inheritance.

We are grateful to Portobello Books for sponsoring this event, and to the TLS for supporting it.

Recorded Monday 16 September 2013.

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Ali Smith 2007