LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. AI and Literary Translation. ‘With AI we’ve no chance’, a poem by Ana Flecha Marcos, translated by Alice Banks

This month’s La Española is a bit of a different one, as I translate a poem by Ana Flecha Marco, a translator from English, Norwegian and French into Spanish. The poem, ‘With AI we’ve no chance’ was first published on the Instituto Cervantes online magazine, El Trujamán, a publication that collaborates with ACE Traductores and Vasos Comunicantes here in Spain to publish weekly articles on translation.

The poem was written to draw attention to an issue that is currently effecting literature and translation across the whole world – not just in Spain. That’s right, the dreaded words that are on every translators’ lips right now: artificial intelligence. Ana’s poem accepts that AI is here to stay, and that quite honestly, there’s nothing we can do about it: “we’ve no chance”. However, she reminds us that this only means we need to be more aware of what AI cannot do when it comes to constructing creative, artistic pieces, when it comes to understanding the complexities, nuances and numerous contexts of a literary piece. The poem also encourages us to consider how we want the art we consume to be created, and questions the moral aspects of what accepting and using AI for creative productions would mean for the literature we would consume, the pockets we would line, and the people we would leave jobless.

Recently, stories of agents using AI to translate samples of books, or even publishers running entire novels through artificial intelligence software to then be ‘post-edited’ by translators (of course at a much lower fee) seem to be cropping up more and more. AI definitely feels like a bit of a buzzword right now in the world of literary translation (and I imagine many other creative professions), however, unlike the usual buzz words, this is one that holds great importance, and needs to be taken seriously. As generative artificial intelligence is advancing more and more, it is quickly becoming something that we translators need to be aware of and work against; fortunately, this is something that is slowly, but very surely happening in the Spanish translation world right now. 

Whilst in Spain, like in the UK, we are seeing more and more articles, online discussions, panels, and research surfacing around what AI really means for the literary translation world, much awareness is also being generated thanks to a campaign against AI in translation that was founded by Spanish-French translator and member of ATLAS, Margot Ngyuen Béraud. Margot has been working very hard at spreading the word in France; the petition has been signed by editors, publishers, translators, authors, and readers alike, and is gaining real traction. The campaign has been translated into English, French, Spanish, German, Arabic, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Hebrew, Romanian, Slovenian, Serbian and Turkish (with many more languages in the works). To mark its translation into Spanish, I chaired an event here in Madrid at Desperate Literature bookshop with Margot and translator Mateo Pierre Avit Ferrero to discuss the aims of the campaign, highlight the negative impact of generative AI on the literary translation world and literature in general, and spread the word among the Spanish-speaking literary scene. 

You can find out more information about exactly what the campaign is aiming towards here: En chair et en os. Make sure to sign the petition and share the campaign, bringing it to the attention of English-language readers, translators, and writers so we can spread the word far and wide!

To mark the importance of human translation, here is my ‘flesh and bone’ translation, of Ana’s ‘flesh and bone’ poem…

With AI we’ve no chance

Nowadays, we take communion,
even atheists communicate
with giant cogs
that look like mills:
the market is regulated,
there’s supply, 
there’s demand.
Yet those who work with words,
don’t have two pennies to rub together.

And if they want to believe
that a machine frees
if the money and 
the words it generates
are for the owner and the owner alone,
let them.

Of course, it’s not that I don’t worry
about what this means for us,
but intelligence,
artificial or not,
is not what scares me.

I don’t give a shit
if a computer, a thousand
want to take my job,
that there’s no turning back.

Ha! I wish! 
My head would be happy in the clouds,
if livelihood were not on the line.

Because this is the question
of the last bastion
I want to defend.

Work is dignified,
if together with the sweat, 
the tears, the creative effort,
the fatigue, the charm
of reading other authors,
we receive good payment,
compatible with life.

And it’s not that we’re idle,
even the most decorated
must still fill their stomachs.

Another matter is whether AI
is capable of doing
everything a brain can do.
And of course, the brain alone
isn’t worth much without the eyes,
without the tongue and the ears
and the fingers and the skin.

I doubt it, but, look,
that’s the least of it.
We can’t dance around
when it comes to earning our daily bread.

With AI, we’ve no chance,
because it’s here to stay,
but there’s no need to conform, 
to let yourself be convinced.

What matters more to us
than experience,
training, knowledge
sense and sensibility?
All this will not be replaced
from dusk to the next dawn
by a handful of programs
that neither understand context,
nor have seen it coming.

I don’t know if this convinces you,
but the words
that make up these verses,
were first written with a pair of hands, 
then translated with a head:
hands and a head that someday
worms will certainly eat
because our bodies are human
and so is our intelligence.

By Ana Flecha Marco

Translated by Alice Banks


Ana Flecha Marco is a Spanish translator and writer, specialized in Norwegian literature who also translates from French and English. In 2021 and in 2022, her translations Estado del malestar, by Nina Lykke, and Los inquietos, by Linn Ullmann were finalists of the XVI and XVII edition of the Esther Benítez Translation Award, respectively. She is a member of ACE Traductores and is part of the Books from Norway board.


Alice Banks is a creative and literary translator from French and Spanish based in Madrid. After studying the MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia, Alice began working with the European Literature Network as an Editorial Assistant. She also volunteers as a copy editor for Asymptote Journal and is a publishing assistant at Fum d’Estampa Press.


Read previous posts in La Española series:

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. Asturian Lit: Extract from THE FORCE OR THE FOUR EPIPHANIES OF MARTÍN FEITO by Xaime Martínez, translated from the Asturian by Robin Munby

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. III Festival of Queer Spanish Literature in London

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks & The Spanish Riveter. Latin American Focus

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks & The Spanish Riveter. From THE DEAR ONES by Berta Dávila, translated by Jacob Rogers

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. November – Katixa Agirre’s DE NUEVO CENTAURO

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. October – Katie Whittemore’s Translator Triptych

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. June – Feria del libro, Madrid

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. May – Non-fiction

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. April: Catalan Spotlight at the London Book Fair

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. March: From Ukraine to Spain

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. February: Spain, a nation of booklovers

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. December: Galician Focus

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. November Author focus: Elizabeth Duval

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. October: Basque Focus

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. September: Children’s Literature. By our guest columnist Claire Storey, introduced by La Española editor Alice Banks

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. Las Sinsombrero

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. July: Crime and Thriller Writing

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. June: The Short Story

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. May: Contemporary Fiction

LA ESPAÑOLA: Riveting Writing from Spain with Alice Banks. April: Catalan Focus

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