British writer and literary translator Daniel Hahn has been awarded an OBE in the The Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020 for services to literature…
By Claire Storey and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
On Friday 9 October it was announced that writer and literary translator Daniel Hahn was honoured with an OBE in the The Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020.
All over social media, translators and members of the publishing community have expressed their delight that Daniel’s energetic efforts in promotion of writers, literary translators and children’s book publishing should be rewarded and recognised at such a high level, especially at a time when the arts sector is under such pressure.
For years, Daniel Hahn has been actively serving the writing and translating professions as mentor and pioneer, founding countless schemes which have transformed the community, and vastly improved training and professional development for literary translators – both in the adult and children’s literature worlds.
But perhaps few of us know the extent of his many achievements, even those of us who have benefitted from the literary translation programmes and initiatives he has spearheaded or helped to set up. So here are a few great things Daniel has done for literary translation and children’s publishing in particular…
The BCLT summer school
Long a beloved institution and an integral first step for many literary translators on the path into the profession, the Literary Translation Summer School at the British Centre for Literary Translation last year offered a workshop focussing on translating for children and young adults – a week-long intensive translation course hosted by Daniel Hahn. Daniel has led the Spanish workshop for several years and also introduced the multilingual prose workshop, broadening access to literary translation training for those with less commonly translated and supported languages.
NCW mentorships for emerging literary translators
Founded in 2010 by Daniel Hahn, these mentorships for emerging literary translators were originally hosted by the BCLT and have been run by the National Centre for Writing in more recent years. Literary translators working from a broad range of languages have benefitted from the professional development and insight into the publishing world offered by this excellent scheme, which this year offers a non-language specific Visible Communities mentorship.
Booktrust In Other Words scheme
Daniel worked with UK charity BookTrust on a ground-breaking scheme called In Other Words: publishers worldwide were invited to submit children’s books, of which a small number were selected to promote to UK publishers. The scheme funded sample translations and a showcase booklet to present to publishers at the Bologna and London Book Fairs, as well as a grant for translation and production to the Honour Titles.
The scheme began as a prize in 2017-2018 and resulted in several foreign-language children’s books being acquired by English-language publishers: Anna Woltz’s Talking to Alaska (translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson), Davide Morosinotto’s Red Stars (translated from Italian by Denise Muir), Siri Kolu’s The Robbersons (translated from Finnish by Ruth Urbom), Jaco Jacobs’s A Good Day for Climbing Trees (translated from Afrikaans by Kobus Geldenhuys), Bjarne Reuter and Kirsten Raagaard’s Elise and the Second Hand Dog (translated from Danish by Siân Mackie) and The Raven’s Children (translated from Russian by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp).
The In Other Words website is now a portal packed with excellent resources to help publishers find out about and acquire children’s books from around the world.
Riveting reads: A world of books in translation
A bible for anyone keen to expand their horizons and find out about the world of translated children’s literature, this is a 60-page compendium of book reviews, arranged by age group, featuring 100+ books from 20 languages. Daniel edited the guide with Joy Court of the School Library Association, and a copy was sent to every secondary school in the UK. Daniel is also author of The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, where he managed to squeeze in a good few translated classics. Daniel has also introduced us to the world of children’s and YA writing in translation through the various issues of Words Without Borders he has curated, and the anthologies of European short stories in translation he compiled in partnership with Aarhus/Hay Festival: Quest and Odyssey (Alma Books).
Bologna editors’ trip
Daniel Hahn’s 2019 Arts Council England funded scouting trip gave 10 UK children’s editors of varying experience the chance to explore what the Bologna Book Fair has to offer. Any editor could apply as long as they worked in children’s and YA publishing and wouldn’t otherwise be going to Bologna in 2019. The only stipulation was that they didn’t already have extensive experience publishing work in translation but had an interest in doing so.
This professional development and network-building opportunity was a creative and proactive way to encourage a new generation of publishers to look beyond their shores and learn the nitty gritty of foreign rights acquisitions, including how well supported they are by translation grants.
TA First Translation Prize
The Translators Association First Translation Prize is an annual £2,000 prize for a debut literary translation into English published in the UK and Ireland. The Prize is shared between the translator and their editor. It was established in 2017 and generously endowed by Daniel Hahn, with support from the British Council. This prize is the first worldwide to recognize the invaluable and essential input of the commissioning editor and celebrates the collaborative nature of translation.
CONSISTENTLY BRILLIANT ADVOCATE FOR the craft of LITERARY translation
Daniel can explain better than anyone what translation is, how it works and why it’s so important. This video is one of many examples out there on the web, and another piece worth listening to is his case on BBC Radio for why more children’s books should be translated into English. On Twitter last year, while hosting the community @TranslationTalk account, Daniel shared an excellent breakdown of the myriad of tiny but troublesome decisions that the translator faces in the process of translating two pages of a picture book.
TRANSLATOR OF SOME excellent WORLDKIDLIT
A few of the many children’s books Daniel Hahn has translated from French, Spanish or Portuguese:
More from Daniel Hahn, on translating children’s literature…
- The Art of Translating Picture Books (The Children’s Book Review, 2020)
- The Anthea Bell Lecture: The Genius of Getafix (Hay Festival 2019, £10 one-off fee to view)
- Daniel Hahn advocates for children’s literature (SCBWI magazine Words & Pics, interview with Julie Sullivan)
- Twenty-Seven of the Best: A Personal Reading Journey (Books for Keeps)
- Literary Ventriloquism: Daniel Hahn on the translator’s art (Books for Keeps)
- Interview at New Spanish Books
- Children’s Literature in Translation: An Interview with Daniel Hahn (Center for the Art of Translation)
- Ask a Translator: A column by Daniel Hahn (Asymptote, not specifically about translating children’s books but well worth a read)