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The World of Literary Translation

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Know your interests

When I found out that the British Centre for Literature Translation (BCLT), based in the University of East Anglia’s School of Literature, needed two interns for the weeks leading up to their renowned summer school, I jumped on the opportunity and applied straight-away.

I already knew about BCLT from translation modules taken during my studies. While I had changed my mind about a possible career in translation, I retained a strong interest in the field and was keen to network with international translators and editors and to gain further experience working at events. 

One thing leads to another

For once, I felt that I was in a good position to apply. I had studied English which reflected my interest in literature. I am also bilingual and had studied Spanish at school. I could demonstrate a prior interest in translation through my choice of university modules and my experience volunteering as a translator for a co-operative. I even had experience working at summer schools and events.

I was really stressed about the interview but the campus career services provided support and guidance for writing CVs, cover letters and interviews. I was overjoyed when I was finally offered this internship. After a number of unsuccessful applications elsewhere, I needed the confidence boost.

Immersed in the world of literary translation

The other intern and I became a really strong team and were immediately immersed in the world of BCLT. From day one we were free to choose what we wanted to do. Together, we discussed making a promotional video of the summer school. This involved a lot of planning at the start of our internship but, inevitably, forced us to be creative and reactive in order to get the best possible shots and interviews during a busy week of summer school workshops.

We also approached post-graduate students to gather their bios to help improve the Centre’s website and invited one of them to film a video explaining their research on the challenges of translation and why translating matters. The videos were made publicly available on the BCLT’s website and we posted them on YouTube.

Before the summer school, we participated in captivating translation events and discussions with speakers from all sorts of backgrounds discussing their writings and translations. This really opened my eyes to the challenges of contemporary translation and about what is at stake when talking about foreign literatures in a world dominated by English.

Our internship took an unexpected turn after discovered Doris Lessing’s translated books archive – which had been donated after her death – in dusty cardboard boxes stored at the BCLT. These books, left untouched for years, needed to be catalogued. I started this colossal work with enthusiasm, feeling as though we had uncovered a long-forgotten treasure.

The internship culminated with the 2017 Summer School, an exciting week of translation and creative-writing workshops and lectures bringing together translators from across the globe. During this week, we helped with general administration, ensuring that everything ran smoothly, and worked hard on our promotional video and interviews.

It was over in the blink of an eye but the week was inspiring and memorable. I had met people and heard stories from immigrants to emigrants, retired translators to young people searching out new experiences. All of us, whether from Korea or Lithuania or the UK, were connected through our passion for languages and translation.

 

Anne-Sophie Kleczewski graduated from English Literature at the University of East Anglia in 2017. Whilst at university, she became a prolific blogger writing on student life and sharing her experiences as a European student in the UK. She is now an intern working on an educational project at Big C, Norfolk’s Cancer Charity, and also volunteers at Norwich Mind/Wellbeing Service and Banana Link.