Hungarian children’s books in translation: tips from two translators

Filling a large Hungary-sized gap here on World Kid Lit blog, today and tomorrow we’ll have not just one but two features on the best Hungarian children’s books, with tips from two translators of Hungarian literature into English.

Today Veronika Lukács and Anna Bentley tell us about the best Hungarian kids’ books already out in English translation, and tomorrow they’ll recommend which books should be translated and published in English.

Veronika says:

There are very, very few Hungarian books available in English and these are not necessarily the best ones, either. I also can’t judge the quality of the translation as I have never read them in English. But one of the giants of Hungarian children’s literature for several decades now has been Veronika Marék.
boribonShe has a couple of picture books for younger children out in English: Good night, Annipanni (published by Cantamilla, 2009); Boribon the Teddy Bear (published by Budapest-based Móra, 2012); The Ugly Little Girl (Móra, 2013) and Tommy and the Lion (Móra, 2013). These are lovely stories but the bestest by her, I think, are the stories about The Rabbit with the Chequered Ears and the story of Father Christmas and the Silver Teddy Bear, but neither of these is available in English.
ruminiA firm favourite with older children is Judit Berg, with a number of books translated into European languages under her belt. One of these, Rumini, is available in English in various editions (including one published by Pagony in Budapest). Rumini is a series about the magical adventures of the eponymous sea-faring mouse. I’m working on another of her stories about time-travelling dinosaurs. Wildly popular in Hungary, she’s an excellent writer and the books have great illustrations too.
The rest is a treasure trove of untranslated books! This is one reason why Anna’s translation of Arnica is so welcome: not only because of its quality but also because it’s the first properly translated major children’s book. ARNICA, THE DUCK PRINCESS by Lázár Ervin, translated by Anna Bentley, came out in February this year from the UK’s Pushkin Children.
Anna says:
Tommy and the lionMy children loved the Veronika Marék’s Boribon books, and I thought Tommy and the Lion a great one for kids who don’t feel as brave as they’d like to.
something's always happening to meAlso in English are a few by the well-loved author Éva Janikovsky illustrated by the witty Lázsló Réber. These are published by Móra, now owned by her son, János.
Andrew C. Rouse was the translator of Something’s Always Happening to Me and Believe It or Not, while If I Were a Grown-Up was translated by Elizabeth Szász.

If i were a grown up

Janikovszky’s books are funny and wise, clear-eyed and observant. She wrote many books for children and a few for teenagers, but also weekly columns for adults.
Vuk the fox cubA book that is generally regarded as a children’s book because it is about a young animal (though it wasn’t written for children) is István Fekete’s Vuk: The Fox Cub (translated by Andrew G. Biri, published by Hungarian press Móra). Fekete knew how animals really lived  and his foxes behave and think like foxes. His books really show what the animals’ experience could be like… Vuk’s family are killed by the gamekeeper and his dogs (pretty gory) and must make his own way in the world with the help of another fox he meets. I’d say age range 9 and above.
Thank you Veronika and Anna for these recommendations of Hungarian children’s books to look out for!
Tomorrow we’ll feature Veronika and Anna’s tips of the best Hungarian children’s and YA books still to be translated into English.

Anna Bentley 2018 for HLO - Copy (768x1024)Anna Bentley has lived in Budapest since 2000 and began translating Hungarian literature in 2015. Her translation of Ervin Lázár’s well-loved children’s book Arnica, the Duck Princess was published by Pushkin Children’s Press in February, 2019. She graduated with ’outstanding’ from the Literary Translation Program at the Balassi Institute, Budapest, in 2018, for which she translated four stories by György Dragomán.

Several of her prose and poetry translations have appeared in the online journal Hungarian Literature Online. Her translation of an excerpt from Natália Szeifert’s latest novel About Sedatives was included in the 2018 year’s collection of translations published by the Hungarian Translators’ House. Her translation of Anna Menyhért’sWomen’s Literary Tradition: Five Key Hungarian Writers from the 20th Century is soon to be published by Brill. Most recently, her translation of Gabi Csutak’s short story Funeral appeared in Asymptote Magazine’s blog Translation Tuesday. 

Anna’s translation of a short story by Márta Patak was longlisted by the John Dryden Translation Competition in June 2019.

Originally a translator of contemporary Hungarian fiction, Veronika Lukács developed an interest in translating children’s literature after becoming a mother and reading Hungarian and German books to her trilingual sons. She is currently working on a funny book about the adventures of time-travelling dinosaurs written by the award-winning Hungarian author, Judit Berg, for which she is seeking a publisher. Besides doing translation, Veronika enjoys talking about translation and has run school workshops and tasters on multilingualism, reading and books in translation.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Veronika studied English language and literature at university. She then took a
career break to raise a family and when her children were old enough to cope with her being away, she
went on to complete a Literary Translation MA at the University of East Anglia. Her prose and poetry
translations have appeared in various anthologies and, most recently, in Hungarian Literature Online.

Veronika was awarded a scholarship and two-week residency at the Hungarian Translators House in July-
August 2019.  She’s a member of the Translators Association, Society of Authors, as well as the Emerging
Translators’ Network. She lives in Oxford.



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