A Changing of the Guard

Marian Schwartz

Saturday, May 20, 2017, marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. After many years as the tireless leader of the AATIA’s Literary Special Interest Group, Marian Schwartz stepped down and passed the torch to Michele Aynesworth and Kristin Siracusa Fisher. Marian’s support and encouragement for literary translators of all stripes has earned her a well-deserved niche among the association’s most distinguished teachers and mentors.

Michele Aynesworth (seated) and Kristin Siracusa Fisher

As she stepped away from the role she has played for about two decades since taking over from Andy Hurley, and Fritz Hensey before him, I asked Marian to share some of the thoughts that have guided her during her tenure as Lit-SIG Coordinator:

The motivation has always been to educate and inform, of course, but more generally to support literary translators, whatever the stage of their practice. The group’s longevity can probably be attributed to how rewarding each and every meeting ends up being.

The nature of the group has varied over the years, primarily with members’ experience level. At some points, meetings were in great demand to workshop individual projects; nowadays, with greater numbers of newer literary translators, the meetings tend to focus on education, in a broad sense.

By far and away the biggest accomplishment was Thresholds* (2003), an anthology produced from start to finish by the group over the course of a good two years.

There has not been a wide range of languages represented in the group. Almost everyone works with Spanish these days. We have had some German and French in the past, we have Swedish now, and there’s always my Russian. For purposes of group discussions, we have tended to focus on Spanish.

Beginning literary translators—indeed, all literary translators—have to understand the nuances of the original text but they also have to write well in English in order to convey those nuances. Practice is always good, but the constant here is reading, in both the original and in English, to deepen mastery of both languages.

Choice of project is critical. A publisher can’t be any more passionate about a project than the translator is. In fact, a project that inspires passion, even if the translation isn’t stellar, is much more likely to get published (and improved by editing) than a simply excellent translation.

In passing on the coordinator role to the wonderful and generous Michele Aynesworth and Kristin Siracusa Fisher, I’m hoping they will inject fresh energy and perspective so that the group can continue to serve its members, whatever their stage of practice.

Thank you, Marian!

*Read Tony’s article in the AATIA Letter about the presentation of Thresholds at the ALTA conference.