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Sixteen Lithuanian authors’ works will be translated into eight languages around the world

Lithuanian Culture Institute

Shelves in The United Kingdom, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Russia will soon carry sixteen works by Lithuanian authors.

Foreign publishers submit application to the Translation Grant Programme being run by the Lithuanian Culture Institute when they become interested in the opportunity to present their readers a piece of work from Lithuania.

Clearly, the most popular piece currently on the international book market is Undinė Radzevičiūtė’s novel “Žuvys ir drakonai.“ The SIA Apgāds Mansards publishing house and translator Dace Meiere introduced this book to Latvia; Typotex Publishing Ltd. and translator Aranka Laczházi introduced it to Hungary; and Panorama and translator Antonija Penčeva introduced it to Bulgaria.

According to Vakarė Smaleckaitė, the project manager at the Lithuanian Culture Institute who coordinates the Translation Support Programme, the success of Radzevičiūtė’s novel shows that one translation of a book often opens the door to others. “Žuvys ir drakonai,” for example, began its successful relationships with German and Austrian readers during Lithuania’s special presentation at this year’s Leipzig Book Fair (Cornelius Hell’s transltion was published by Residenz Verlag), and in 2018, Romas Kinka’s translated novel will be published in the United Kingdom (published by And Other Stories). “As British Council literature programme director and London Book Fair board member Corina Butler said at the time, editors working at publishing houses probably won’t know Lithuanian, but many of them will be able to read and assess pieces translated into German, French or other languages. The growing number of Lithuanian works translated into German can have a direct impact on, for example, British publishers, who traditionally tend to be rather wary when it comes to translated literature,” said Smaleckaitė.

While preparing for the 2016 presentation at the Leipzig Book Fair last year, German translations were the Translation Support Programme’s priority. Focused efforts led to the presentation of 26 Lithuanian books to German readers. On the eve of 2018, as the Baltic states’ Market Focus programme at the London Book Fair approaches, efforts are being made to interest the United Kingdom’s publishers.

The Translation Promotion Programme will finance Dalia Grinkevičiūtė’s memoir, “Lietuviai prie Laptevų jūros“ (published by Peirene Press, translated by Delija J. Valiukenas), Renata Šerelytė’s “Vardą tamsoje“ (published by Noir Press, translated by Marija Marcinkutė), Sigitas Parulskis’ novel, “Tamsa ir partneriai“ (published by Perter Owen Publishers), Tomas Venclova and Ellen Hinsey’s book of conversations, “Magnetic North. Conversations with Tomas Venclova“ (published by University of Rochester Press / Boydell & Brewer), and a collection of poetry (published by Parthian Books).

In an additional effort to make literary translations into English more active and to include more translators in the process,  the Lithuanian Culture Institute, the British Centre for Literary Translation and the Writers’ Centre Norwich are organising a workshop for translators from Lithuanian to English in Norwich and are financing the participation of the five participants with the most potential.

Another trend is foreign publishers’ interest in Lithuanian classics. Antanas Baranauskas’ poem “Anykščių Šilelis” recently appeared in Spain (translated by Carmen Caro Dugo, published by Librería y Editorial Remacimiento). Kristijonas Donelaitis’ “Metus“ is being read by Italians and Spaniards, and they are soon to be joined by the French as well. Grinkevičiūtė’s memoir has already been published in German and French. Antanas Škėma’s “Balta Drobulė“ (published by Guggolz Verlag, translated by Claudia Sinnig) in German was a triumph in Leipzig, and the German press is calling it a literary event. Škėma has even been called a Lithuanian Albert Camus. It’s no coincidence that the Lithuanian Culture Institute has already received a request for “Balta Drobulė“ from publishers in the Netherlands and France.

Two translations of Tomas Venclova and Ellen Hinsley’s “Magnetic North. Conversations with Tomas Venclova” will appear in 2017-2018: Maria Ochab will translate it into Polish (to be published by Fundacja Zeszytów Literackih) and Vyacheslav Tsyba will translate it into Ukrainian (to be published by Duch i litera), and the book will be presented in English as well (up until now, only the German publication had been presented). Latvian readers can look forward to Radzevičiūtė’s novel and Danutė Kalinauskaitė’s “Skersvėjų namai“ (to be published by SIA Apgāds Mansards, translated by Indra Brūverė-Darulienė). In addition to Venclova and Hinsley’s book, two more works will be published in Ukraine as well: Algirdas Julius Greimas’ “Apie dievus ir žmones: tautos atminties beieškant“ (to be published by Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Publishing House, translated by Vladyslav Prostsevich) and Vytautas Račickas’ “Berniukai šoka breiką“ (to be published by The Old Lion Publishing House, translated by Dmytro Cherednychenko).

Croatian translator Mirjana Bračko is translating Jurgis Kunčinas’ “Tūlos“ (V.B.Z.) and Giedra Radvilavičiūtė’s “Šiąnakt aš miegosiu prie sienos“ (Disput d.o.o). Vilnius and Kaunas architectural guides will be published in Poland (Fundacha Centrum Architektury, translator Kamil Pecela). Two books will be published in Russia: Tomas Saulius Kondrotas’ “Žalčio žvilgsnis“ (Ivan Limbakh Publishing House, translated by Tomas Čepaitis) and, on Algirdas Julius Greimas’ 100th birthday, a collection of works from an authors’ collective entitled “Gyvūnų pasaulis mitopoetiniu atžvilgiu“ (Legorussia SAS, translated by Maria Zavyalova).

The Translation Support Programme being run by the Lithuanian Culture Institute is an ongoing programme that began in 2001 under the Lietuviškos Knygos organisation that had been active at the time. The institutions engaged in these activities have change, but the programme was never closed and has received financing every year according to availability.  Over 16 years, the programme has led to the publication of 246 Lithuanian authors’ books in 29 languages – with no less than 15 Lithuanian books a year.

Two competitions are held every year to receive applications. All of the applications are evaluated by a commission consisting of 5 independent experts (literary critics, translators and literary academics). The primary criteria for evaluation is the high quality of the literature, dependable and professional translators, and an active publisher with potential. The programme finances both book translations and trial translations – translations of excerpts that translators can later present to potential publishers.

The foreign publishers’ visits that the Institute regularly organises have a significant and long-term impact on the Translation Support Programme. During these visits, publishers meet the authors and learn about the literary market and the country’s culture in general. There are also translators’ seminars and residency programmes that provide the conditions for people translating Lithuanian literature to meet personally with the authors of the books being translated, with literary experts, to visit archives for consultations, and to update their knowledge about the most important books that have been published.

Last year’s budget for the Translation Support Programme included about 4,000 euros for trial translations and over 100,000 euros for book translations.