(thanks to Ben Kearney, Madison-based Dutch>English translator, for this contribution)
I admit to being a bit sceptical when I was invited to the t&t open mic. Like most translators living in the U.S., I am continually obliged to explain and somehow account for the work I do, and I’m accustomed to the obscurity that is assigned to translation. Even if they are passionate about reading or foreign places, non-translators (or non-interpreters) whom I encounter tend to view the profession as either exotic or imaginary, and I have reconciled myself to this state of (exalted?) exile in the minds of friends and family members – with no good prospects for repatriation. So though I looked forward to an evening of reading and listening fun, I expected the event to be attended solely by working or would-be translators.
What struck me first was the organic coziness of the Lakeside Coffee House. What a welcoming space! I really felt transported. But the best part was the enthusiasm among those gathered to hear works in translation read aloud, regardless of the subject matter or literary form. The range of material (Beowulf? Really?) and the number of readers surprised me, as did the size and composition of the crowd that came to listen. There were any number of non-translators attending who were eager to hear something different for a change. And that’s really what it was: a unique and open platform to present the translated word, with no strings attached.
It was so fun to take part in this experiment and see my preconceptions dissolve. If you have friends with their own preconceptions/non-conceptions about translation, then bring them to the next edition of t&t, and bring along something to read! I can’t wait to hear what people come up with next. Tasty bits indeed.
(For more information on the t&t open mics, go to http://www.andwordplay.com/tt-open-mic/)