The Literary Translator’s Hardships and Delights

Some texts are harder to translate than others. Some authors are tougher to adapt than others.

Are they complex or delightful ?

According to readers, the writing style of the author wholly contributes to the pleasure and richness of the act of reading. That also holds true for translators.


In a recent interview given to the ATLF (Association of Literary Translators of France), Nathalie Bru defines her work method along with her appreciation for Paul Beatty, the writer who led her to literary translation.

“Exulting while suffering atrociously.”

Nathalie Bru explains that she discovered this author while studying and that, being captivated by his work, she decided to overcome the obstacles by choosing it as the topic of her thesis. Believing Paul Beatty deserved to be better-known in France, she then presented her thesis to publishing houses.

She underlines the importance of distancing oneself from the text in order to translate it better, and the necessity to “absorb” the text to save its essence and meaning, rather than its form. Fidelity implies a precise knowledge of the French language so as to find a writing method meant to save the essence of the source material, instead of wanting to stick to the text at all costs. Nathalie Bru explains : “I let myself be carried along by the text as I see fit, as the text resonates with me. Then, I try to adapt this music to a French one that seems to be in keeping with my style, all the while letting myself be carried along as much as possible by my writing. Numerous adjustments obviously need to be made afterwards. (…)

With this kind of writing, trying to remain as faithful as possible to the original text paradoxically means taking more liberties than when translating more ‘typical’ texts.” Translators themselves have to create innovative structures and seek new sources to draw their inspiration from. Their colleagues, friends, and children become part of the creative process, putting their new ideas to the test.

This method is reminiscent to that of Andre Markowicz. When he translated Dostoïevski’s works, he chose to recreate the intensity of the author’s words, their musicality and their theatrical aspect. This decision caused quite a stir among purists.

Nathalie Bru mentions that a text filled with cultural references could raise. These types of texts require translators to ask themselves, both beforehand and while they translate,  if they fully comprehend each reference to transcribe them properly. Will the reader understand these references ? Did the writer intend for the reader to understand them or not ? Is their understanding essential to grasp the meaning of the text ? Do they need to be explained ? How can they be explained ? How can translators resist the urge to give readers all the clues -proof of the writer’s skill- they have happily gathered during their research ?

To quote Nathalie Bru, isn’t every literary translation “a work that is both exhilarating, exhausting, rewarding, at least culturally if not financially, and extremely frustrating” ?

Alexane Bébin

Translated by Céline ECHILLEY

Source : http ://

First Working Experiences : Asking the Right Questions

For the first year students of the 2018/2019 class of the CFTTR’s Translation and Technical Writing Master’s degree, the time to get in touch with companies for the first time draws near. Indeed, they have to fix the specifics of a possible internship following their second semester.

Diversity is at the core of our line of work and greatly contributes to the interest we hold for specific fields of expertise. However, our working experiences also find themselves impacted by this diversity.


As translators or technical writers, what do we need to be mindful of when interacting with clients or companies in order to establish a strong basis when taking up a position ? Below are a few tips to help answer that question.

The cornerstone of discovering what your role within a company entails lies in trying to understand how the company operates. Of course, you should research the company beforehand and be aware of its field of expertise so you do not find yourself at a loss when confronted with a vocabulary that is, for example, overly specific.

If this assessment seems obvious to you, don’t hesitate to go beyond and conduct a more indepth search about the company’s particularity : 

  • Which kind of client is it aimed at ?

This question is essential as it will help guide your work. The answer will help you adapt the terms – whether they are specific or general – as well as the register you should use. 

  • Is the company used to working with people whose resume is similar to yours ? Why do they need you ?

That will help you better understand your role in the company.

  • What tools will you be using ? 

Some companies will indeed impose you to work with specific CAT tools or file formats, while others will let you work as you wish. For this matter as for many others, you can assuredly suggest some solutions in order to improve the team workflow. But you always must stay flexible and understanding.

  • What will be the legal status of your work ? 

A few of your assignments will perhaps be protected by a confidentiality clause. Being an efficient professional, it is necessary to inquire about this topic as soon as possible to avoid information disclosure (e.g. with informal conversations or web searches).

  • Is there an expected deadline ? Is it negotiable ? Will you work alone or as part of a team ? What are the steps preceding the final delivery of your work ? 

You must keep all those questions in mind to build your professional integrity and avoid many obstacles and casualties that would prevent you to prosper in the company and in your relations with the customers.

For a young professional, enthusiasm is required and often valuable. But it is also fundamental to adopt a true reflective position so as to get the foundation right, instead of diving head down into a blurred project. Therefore, the company and yourself will be able to engage in a deliberate and quality business relationship.

Maxime Cicurel

Translated by Céline Echilley and Sarah Deville

Source : https ://