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Report on literary translation workshop


One month after the celebration of the literary translation of 122 classic short stories into Kreol, some twenty of the 66 participants in the LPT Prize that detonated the collective production of  the translations, met for a literary translation workshop.

 It was held at the LPT Building on Sunday 21 October from 9:30 to 12:30. Presided by Alain Ah-Vee, he said how important it was that the challenge of the Prize was launched collectively by an Association and was taken up collectively, even though everyone individually had to do the work of translating. He said LPT had a long tradition of publishing translations and adaptations. Taken together, the 122 new texts in Kreol represent an enormous richness, he said. He then introduced the three volunteers who shared their knowledge and experience of literary translation.

 Vinesh Hookoomsing emphasized different registers in Kreol as in other languages. He said that over some 3 centuries, there are different registers even in written Kreol. From the administrative text to announce the liberation of slaves to literary texts, for example. He said how translaters need to be sensitive to these different forms of language register, in particular the formal and super-formal vis-a-vis the informal and the very informal. Later in one group people, wanting clarification, came up with an example. If someone dies, the meaning is clear they have died. However, there are different registers. You can translate he died, as “Li finn mor” (formal, factual), “Li finn desede”, (very formal, as in a radio announcement similar to “he passed away”), “Li finn kat,” (ver informal, light, he pegged), or “Li finn kreve” (disrespectful in the extreme, he bit the dust).

 Marjorie Desvaux put emphasis on the need to “take the power to undo and redo the structure” of the text you are translating so that in the end it is a stand-alone work. She said translation is skilled craftsman’s work. It takes minuteous attention to detail, she said. It is also, she said, “spiritual”, in the sense that you need to get into the “spirit” of the original, and then somehow recreate this. At the same time, someone reading it, must not be reminded all along that it is a “translation”. 

 Lindsey Collen gave eight “hints” that the LPT has gleaned for people writing in Kreol or translating into Kreol. These included remembering that: the plural marker “bann” is most often assumed in Kreol (like a silent letter), so at the editing stage, you can cross most of the “bann” out, and it will improve the flow of the written text. She explained this “deformation” of over-using “bann” by drawing attention to the repeated punishment meted out to us in school for leaving off an “s” in French or English. She also said that many grammatical structures, like serial verbs, because they do not exist in English or French, get lost by the pretentious classes, and said you would be more likely to hear these unique grammatical structures in a pub than in a church. 

 Then each of the participants, with these new ideas onboard, then set about on-the-spot doing a re-edit of the classic short story they had submitted for the Prize.  Here, too, however, people worked collectively, in groups, bringing up difficulties they were getting with those sitting near them.

 There was a vociferous demand for another such session.