Translation Theory Lab

Translation Theory Lab Free for commercial use

Catching Fire: Daniel Hahn

The Translation Theory Lab is free and open to all translators, near and far, working in any language pair, who have an interest in the background questions, the theory and ethics of translation.

The Translation Theory Lab is an online-meeting via Zoom from 6.30pm to 8.00pm, organised by the Goethe-Institut in Glasgow and is free to attend.
Translation is the art of creating a new piece of literature, the craft of moulding language to reflect an original text -- but it is also a lot of meticulous, detailed work, of having to get words on a page, of drafting and redrafting edit after edit until a text resembles something the translator may even be a little bit proud of.

In this Translation Theory Lab season, we get the chance to follow the process of a translation, from beginning to end: During the lockdown of early 2021, translator Daniel Hahn set out to translate what came to be called Never Did the Fire in English, a short but fiendishly difficult-to-translate novel by Chilean writer Diamela Eltit. Along the way, he kept an online diary of the process which describes the different tasks that make up his work, and gives insight into the various and multifaceted questions with which a translator is faced: How to be comfortable with ambiguity in a translated text? Is it OK to use words in a translation just because you like them? When to use a Latinate and when to opt for an Anglo-Saxon word in your translation? And, crucially, “To the or not to the?” The end goal of all of this is to create “a new thing, one that’s identical to the original book, except for all the words.”

Catching Fire is not a how-to guide for translating, but a how-do-I translate account of a prolific translator, sharing his insights and expertise, his musings, quandaries, his hurdles and joys with the reader -- the process by which the translator has to fall in a love with a book, even if just for the duration.

We'll be meeting three times, between April and June, to discuss excerpts from the book and questions that arise from it. We are also very pleased that Daniel Hahn has agreed to join us for a discussion and Q&A for the third session in June.

Relevant text excerpts will be emailed in advance via our mailing list, although you are always encouraged to read the whole book, which is available to pre-order here; an earlier version can be found here, amongst other places. Participants are asked to read the excerpts provided beforehand and reflect on them in preparation for the sessions.

You can register your interest free of charge on Eventbrite or join our Facebook group. The events are free to attend.

You might also be interested in our Translators’ Stammtisch which focuses on practical translation questions and discusses participating translators’ translation projects-in-progress.