An Outing with the Nymph by Meike Ziervogel

‘No one will agree with your short list.’ I’m packing up books and notes to head to the judges meeting for the Arts Foundation Literary Translation Prize 2016. Peirene has stopped working and is watching me.

‘Why not?’ I put on my coat and grab my handbag.

‘Because you used the wrong criteria,’ she announces with pursed lips. ‘You didn’t just judge them on the quality of their translation, did you?

‘That’s right.’ I pause. I don’t really have time for a discussion. But then I continue: ‘They all submitted solid translations. The winner will receive £10 000 so we should reward someone who is willing to go the extra mile. A translator’s job doesn’t finish with creating an English text. If foreign fiction is to become part of our culture the best translators realise that they must perform, blog and organize events. Because there is no better advocator than the translator.’

‘Impressive.’ Peirene crosses her arms and legs. The foot on top bounces up and down. ‘But what if a translator doesn’t like doing any of that stuff.’

I shrug my shoulders. ‘In my view, it’s part of the job. And every job has aspects we like, and others we don’t.’ I’m suddenly irritated with the Nymph. Our attitudes usually coincide with regards to book promotion. So why is she being so antagonistic? Moreover, as soon as I sit in the cab I feel nervous. What if she is right and I have misunderstood the brief for the prize. I calm down by telling myself that my decisions are based on sound reasoning and I will be able to argue my point of view.

At the judges meeting, we draw up the short list in no time. We all agree on three out of four candidates. And we are also in harmony about the two who deserve to win. Opinions differ on which of the two should be the winner. But we finally reach a satisfying decision. It was an invigorating meeting.

‘I’m pleased the meeting went well, ‘ Peirene comments laconically as I walk back into the office.

I settle at my desk. ‘Why were you so negative earlier on?’ I eventually ask.

‘No, I…’

I interrupt her: ‘Don’t say you weren’t. I know you too well.’

‘Ok, I was.’ She pulls a face. ‘Because I wanted to be a judge, too. It’s always you who gets asked. Never me. And then you walk out of office in your high heels and lips stick. And I’m stuck here and can never dress up.’

‘Oh, Peirene. ‘ A warm glow for my little envious Nymph rises inside me. ‘We are a team. I didn’t realise you wanted to come. Next time I’ll take you with me.’

Image by Daniel70mi, creative commons.

By Meike Ziervogel

This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 17 November 2015.

Category: The Pain & Passion of a Small Publisher


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