French and German student wins prestigious Cambridge Translation Masterclass competition

James Keighley reports on the exclusive "Trends in Translation" masterclass and award-winning translation from a debut novel.

James reports from the Masterclass:

The "Trends in Translation" masterclass was an exclusive one day event on the 27 April 2017 at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Only 10 people were accepted to the event, led by award-winning translators Shaun Whiteside and Frank Wynne, which involved different presentations on the translation “industry” as well as a two-hour translation workshop.

The masterclass was extremely insightful and engaging. The opportunity to ask questions and hear about the day-to-day workings of publishers and literary translators etc. was very useful, considering it is an industry that remains somewhat invisible to this day. The masterclass took place in the impressive surroundings of Magdalene College, including a special trip to the Samuel Pepys library, where all manner of historical documents were laid out for us to see, including seventeenth century indices from the Frankfurt Book Fair.

After the masterclass, all the participants were asked to submit a short translation from another section of the novel we had looked at during the masterclass, in my case a debut autobiographical novel “Petit Pays” by Gaël Faye, as a competition. I was fortunate enough to win this competition, the prize for which is a trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair 2017, in October. Whilst it would be ambitious of me to give advice on how to translate well on the base of one success, one piece of advice amongst many did stick out to me – “As a writer, you can be bad, but you can never be wrong. As a translator, you can be good, but you can never be right. So put your stamp on it!”

I shall be using the trip to Frankfurt to further investigate my professional possibilities, as it is where a huge part of the world’s publishing/translation deals are concluded each year, and certainly am very interested in pursuing a career in translation after receiving excellent teaching at the University of Leeds.