Situation vacant: Mandarin translator for Dun Karm

National Book Council seeking translators in other global languages including Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin

National Book Council seeking translators in other global languages including Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin
National Book Council seeking translators in other global languages including Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin

Attempts to translate the works of Malta’s national poet in various languages is proving to be a challenge, due to the difficulty of finding a translator who can grasp other global languages.

The National Book Council has already commissioned three authors to translate the Dun Karm Psaila’s works and make them accessible to a global audience.

The pledge to have Psaila translated in five different languages was made in the Labour Party’s electoral manifesto.

So far the National Book Council has commissioned translations in English, Italian and Arabic, three languages spoken by nearly two billion people. The English translation will be undertaken by Clare Vassallo, helped by Oliver Friggieri as assistant editor, while the Italian translation will be carried out by Prof. Joseph Eynaud and the Arabic one by national book prizewinner Walid Nabhan.

“If we fail to find people who can translate from Maltese to other languages, we will have to unfortunately resort to translating from the English bridge translation, however, this is an option which I am trying to avoid,” council chairman Mark Camilleri told MaltaToday.

The biggest challenge for the National Book Council with regards to translations is that excluding the English language, there are “very few qualified translators who can translate from Maltese to other languages,” Camilleri said.

Camilleri is calling for a greater appreciation of a greater plurality of languages. “I’d like to encourage students and aspiring intellectuals and academics to grasp other languages such as Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian, Mandarin and Portuguese.”

And he promises that the National Book Council has enough work for them to keep them occupied.

“We need plenty of translators and the volume of work is endless. I guarantee that Maltese translators who will learn how to translate Maltese literary work in the languages mentioned above will surely have work available for them.”

Translation work can also be very lucrative compared to what authors earn from their own books. “Funding for literary translations will keep growing and the demand for translators is growing ever still, so translators who translate into languages other than English will be guaranteed work.”

The only condition for Camilleri is that the work of the translators must be impeccable. “There is no room for amateurism in this field,” a pre-emptory Camilleri declares.

The Dun Karm project may well be the launching pad for putting Maltese literature on the international map.

“This falls squarely in the book council’s strategy to export Maltese authors and this is being backed by budgets. Every year we travel to foreign book fairs to export and promote Maltese authors and books,” Camilleri said.

“Dun Karm is the Maltese poet who literally invented the wheel of Maltese literature and hence he is our national poet. He cannot be replaced in this position. Translating his work into other languages and making them available into foreign markets is a prime government priority to keep exporting our literature all over the world.”

More in Books

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition