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Legendary verse by Antanas Baranauskas, translated into 12 languages, resounded in Anykščiai

Lithuanian Culture Institute

On 3-6 October, the town of Anykščiai hosted an international community whose shared language is Lithuanian, as 25 professionals attended the tenth edition of the Lithuanian literary translators’ seminar. They travelled from the USA, the UK, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Sakartvelo, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

The seminar has been held biannually since 1999. Previously, translators had gathered in Nida, Birštonas, Druskininkai, Kėdainiai, Dubingiai. This year its place became Anykščiai, famously celebrated by Antanas Baranauskas (by the way, the translation of Antanas Baranauskas’ The Forest of Anykščiai by the regular seminar participant Carmen Caro Dugo was published in Spain in 2017).

Traditionally, within the scope of the seminar translators get acquainted with the latest works by Lithuanian writers, meet their authors, listen to lectures prepared by specialists, participate in formal discussions and share professional experience. This year, translators looked into the most notable tendencies in contemporary Lithuanian prose and poetry of the past two years, learnt about the latest Lithuanian children’s books and issues of language standardisation. A meeting with representatives of Lithuanian publishing houses and a translation workshop on translating The Forest of Anykščiai were also held as part of the seminar. Presenting their lectures to the participants were literary scientists Jūratė Čerškutė, Eglė Baliutavičiūtė and Virginija Cibarauskė and linguist Loreta Vaicekauskienė. Translators also had an opportunity to meet the writers Jurga Vile, Benas Bėrantas and Vytautas V. Landsbergis.

On 4th October, a public evening of readings by short prose writers Jurga Tumasonytė and Daina Opolskaitė was held at Anykščiai Arts Incubator, moderated by J. Čerškutė. As has become a tradition, translators also had a chance to familiarise themselves with the town and its stories and legends.

According to Aušrinė Žilinskienė, Director of the Lithuanian Culture Institute, the organiser of the seminar, she personally has been counting translators’ seminars since 2002: “I had the honour to organise one of the first seminars in Nida. The same warm feeling of communion persists and is present in the tenth edition of the seminar, as Lithuanian literary translators are a kind of family, united by the same desire to make the works of Lithuanian writers speak in their own language, thus enabling the translated texts to live not one but several lives. Translators’ seminars organised by the Lithuanian Culture Institute are a very valuable opportunity for translators from different countries to meet, learn the news from the Lithuanian literary scene and even just to communicate in Lithuanian.”


Cornelius Hell, an Austrian translator of Lithuanian literature into German (the list of his translations includes works by Undinė Radzevičiūtė, Giedra Radvilavičiūtė, Rimvydas Stankevičius, Renata Šerelytė and others) recalls the first translators’ seminar in Nida in 1999: “I was very nervous then because I didn’t know what to expect and I was in Nida for the first time. I remember that I was very pleasantly impressed that we came from so many countries but were able to speak freely with each other in Lithuanian, that Lithuanian becomes an international language in our seminars. Everyone understood me and I understood everyone. Except for my German colleague – him I could not understand. Later, when just the two of us, we spoke German, but I still hardly understood him at all – whether in Lithuanian or German, he always spoke with a strong Saxon accent.”

Carmen Caro Dugo, who presented not only Baranauskas’ poem, but also Kristijonas Donelaitis’ The Seasons and a number of future classics of Lithuanian literature to Spanish readers, remembers her first seminar in 2011: “At that time, I hadn’t yet translated much and I was impressed by the seminar because I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time thinking about translation work, my translation plans, talking to other colleagues… Usually, translating for me is a leisure or summer activity, so going somewhere specifically dedicated to that, communicating with other translators and writers was very beneficial”.

Like all participants of the 2017 seminar in Dubingiai, Carmen will never forget the adventure of the coach stuck in the mud that was only rescued by the combined efforts of translators, poets, playwrights, the staff of the Lithuanian Institute of Culture and a tractor brought from the nearby village. At that seminar, C. Caro Dugo had another dilemma: “In Dubingiai, Margarita Santos and I were engaged in resolving a “conflict” by the lake: we both had started translating Dalia Grinkevičiūtė’s Lithuanians by the Laptev Sea and had to decide who will complete the translation… We amicably decided to translate it together and are currently doing so successfully. For the first time, I have a twin translator/editor who reads my translation and we comment on each other’s work, which is a very good experience,” shared Caro Dugo.

Translator and balticist Pietro U. Dini remembers the translators’ get-togethers organised by the Lithuanian SSR Writers’ Union at the end of the Soviet era when foreigners could move only 28 km from the capital and only with a special permit… Dini, who has published translations of many contemporary Lithuanian poets and prose writers, is convinced that regular gatherings of literary translators in Lithuania have formed a professional community. “It is a certain sense of belonging, I would call it our common lituanitas.” stated the translator.

Awards on the eve of the seminar

Before leaving for Anykščiai on 3rd October, translators will commemorate the professional holiday of Saint Jerome at the St Jerome Award ceremony held at the Ministry of Culture in Vilnius. This year, the annual award by the Lithuanian Association of Literary Translators was given to Nana Devidze for her prolific, diverse and professional translation of Lithuanian literature, for decades-long popularising of Lithuanian literature in Sakartvelo and her merits in developing links between Lithuanian and Kartuli literature and cultures. Thanks to Nana Devidze, an impressive collection of works were published in Kartuli: an anthology of Lithuanian poetry (2 volumes), an anthology of Lithuanian children’s poetry and folklore, an anthology of contemporary Lithuanian prose, an anthology of works by young Lithuanian poets, a collection of short stories by Romualdas Granauskas Sacrifice of a Bull, short stories by Bitė Vilimaitė, Jurga Ivanauskaitė, Saulius Tomas Kondrotas, Birutė Jonuškaitė and Renata Šerelytė, Antanas Vienuolis’ Caucasian Legends, Vladas Braziūnas’ poetry collection Dienos atsivertimas( Metamorphosis of the Day) and a book of essays by Herkus Kunčius’ The Captive of the Caucasus.

A letter of honour, another biannually awarded sign of recognition established by the Lithuanian Culture Institute, is presented to the most active translator of Lithuanian literature into foreign languages. This year, it honoured Kamil Pecela, a Polish translator, and Rimas Uzgiris, an English translator.

As many as six books translated by K. Pecela have been published in Poland in the past two years: Vilnius 1900-2016. Architecture Guide (compiled by Marija Drėmaitė, Rūta Leitanaitė, Julija Reklaitė), Kaunas 1918-2015. Architecture Guide (compiled by J. Reklaitė), Lithuanian Sketches by Herkus Kunčius, Vilnius Poker by Ričardas Gavelis, Dalia Grinkevičiūtė’s Lithuanians by the Laptev Sea, Giedrė Milerytė-Japertienė’s The Visions of Lithuania and Polish Relations in Emigration 1945-1990, as well as two translations of Dalia Staponkutė and Tomas Venclova’s texts published in periodicals.

The second honour letter from the Lithuanian Culture Institute was awarded to the translator, poet and editor Rimas Uzgiris for translations of poetry by five Lithuanian poets and numerous translations of prose, poetry and criticism into English for the publication The Vilnius Review. Over the past two years, he published translations of books of selected poems by Judita Vaičiūnaitė, Aušra Kaziliūnaitė, Marius Burokas, Gintaras Grajauskas and an anthology of the New Baltic Poetry.

This symbolic recognition aims to honour translators who produce the most translations of the highest quality, fruitfully collaborate with publishers in their countries and, in conjunction with the Lithuanian Culture Institute, present Lithuanian fiction and non-fiction to foreign readers. Four years ago, the honour letter was received by Klemen Pisk, a Slovenian translator and poet, and two years ago the recipient was Cornelius Hell.