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Friday, 09 September 2011 11:30

Robert Chandler on BBC Dramatisation of LIFE AND FATE

Many of you will know that the BBC is about to do a long dramatisation of Vasily Grossman's LIFE AND FATE.  This is based on my translation of the novel.  This is a dramatization, not a reading, and therefore it does not use only the words of my translation. Nevertheless, most episodes use a large number of my words, and at least one - The Last Letter - uses few, if any, words indeed that are not mine.

If you read through this press release, you will find credit duly given to directors, producers, dramatizers, actors, composers and players of music.  There are no prizes for guessing who is not mentioned: the invisible translator.

http://tennantnews.blogspot.com/2011/09/life-and-fate-press-release.html

Some of you will have noticed that this seemingly wilful ignoring of the role of translators is a part of the culture of the BBC.  If you listen to a translated novel on the programme "Book at Bedtime", the translator is usually credited after, on average, one in five episodes - whereas both reader and adaptor will be mentioned after each episode.  And it is the same with all too many programmes.

Nowadays no respectable newspaper or journal treats translators in such a cavalier manner.  Why the BBC behaves in this way I do not know - but I think it is important that we do what we can to change things.  I'll be very grateful to everyone who can write a brief letter of complaint.  Here is an email address:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

In the words of the Unesco Nairobi Recommendation on the Legal Protection of Translators (1976), “the protection of translators is indispensable in order to ensure translations of the quality needed from them to fulfil effectively their role in the service of culture and development.”  In other words, if translators remain as undervalued as they generally are, it is very difficult for them to earn a living.  And if it is difficult for them to earn a living, it means that much good literature either gets translated badly or does not get translated at all.  Which is a loss for all of us.

All the best,

Robert

Robert Chandler, 42 Milson Road, London, W14 OLD

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