Past Program

Feb 21 - Feb 26, 2009

Traduttore Traditore? Recognizing and Promoting the Critical Role of Translation in a Global Culture


Boyd Tonkin, literary editor of The Independent in London, and seventy literary translators, writers, agents, publishers, critics, scholars, and cultural authorities from around the world gathered at Schloss Leopoldskron to shed new light on the unsung art of literary translation and on the vital role translators play in making literature accessible to international audiences.

In an interview with Salzburg’s communications director Tina Micklethwait, Tonkin speaks about the importance of discovering the various places around the world in which good fiction exists. Readers, he argues, can gain a set of experiences from fiction in translation they would never get from authors in their native languages.

Some of the main themes that emerged during the week’s deliberations included ways to create greater demand for translation through various audience-building efforts driven by book fairs, libraries, schools, prizes, the media, and the web; the importance of English as a "platform language" to dramatically increase the chances of a book being translated into other, less common languages; strategies to counter the "invisibility" of the translator, often working in isolation, and empower him/her to be a visible advocate for literature in translation; ways to use the new media as a tool for marketing, making translations more available, and reaching new audiences; and, finally, how to influence the Academy (at all educational levels) to include translation as a critical component in curricula, including better translation training, global reading lists, and a change in the widely held view that translation is an activity inferior to original scholarly research.


Literary translation is a key to cross-cultural communication: it enables literature to cross linguistic borders and facilitates inter-cultural exchange and understanding. How else would we be able to enjoy and learn from literature written in languages other than our own? How else would we gain insights into societies and cultures about which we know little or perhaps nothing at all? Given the undeniable value of literature as a means of understanding societal developments and of capturing and transporting the rich diversity of our cultures, one must ask, then, why so many works go untranslated and why the critical art of translation is so little understood or valued?

This session will bring together literary translators, literary agents, publishers, critics, scholars, cultural authorities, philanthropists, and translation advocates from around the world together to shed new light on the unsung art of translation and on the vital role that translators play in making literature accessible to international audiences. Participants will work together to identify where particular deficits exist, and what actions could be taken to encourage the publication of more and better translations. Plenary sessions will focus on the following questions: Who decides what gets translated and how can these decisions be influenced? What role can the public and philanthropic sectors play in encouraging more translation? What can translators'associations and authors' networks do to increase awareness around the importance of translation? And finally, what case studies show how translation can be successfully promoted - through prizes, regional projects, or publicly-sponsored programs - and how could they be adapted and applied to a variety of contexts?

The fee for this session is 3,300 EURO. The fee covers the cost of the program, accommodations, and meals. Limited scholarship funding may be available for those who are unable to pay the full fee (i.e. from developing countries or NGOs). Participants seeking scholarship assistance must submit an application for financial aid to our admissions office.

The Salzburg Global Seminar’s deep appreciation is owed to The Edward T. Cone Foundation, for making Session 461: Traduttore, Traditore? Recognizing and Promoting the Critical Role of Translation in a Global Culture possible, and to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Nippon Foundation for additional funding.


Gabriela Adamo
Executive Coordinator, Fundacion Typa, Buenos Aires
Esther Allen
Translator; Professor; Author, International PEN Report on Translation and Globalization; Co-Founder PEN World Voices Festival, New York
Marion Boers
President, International Federation of Translators, Montreal; Office Manager, South African Translators Institute, Rivonia
Antonia Byatt
Director, Literary Strategy, Arts Council England, London
Cecilie Cave
Program Manager, European Commission, Directorate General for Education and Culture, Brussels
Jacqueline Csuss
Translator; Board Member, Austrian Literary Translators Association, Vienna; Board Member, European Council of Literary Translators´ Associations
Geeta Dharmarajan
Executive Director, Katha Books, New Delhi
Karin Graf
Literary Agent, Graf & Graf, Berlin
Susan Harris
Editorial Director, Words Without Borders, New York
Michael Krüger
Translator; Author; Director, Carl Hanser Publishing House, Munich
Göran Malmqvist
Linguist; Translator; Sinologist; Emeritus Professor, Stockholm University; Member, Swedish Academy, Stockholm
Brian Nelson
Professor, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University, Melbourne; President of the Australian Association for Literary Translation
Bastiaan Pauw
Director, International Writers' Program, Foundation for the Promotion and Translation of Dutch Literature, Amsterdam
Marie Paule Roudil
Head of Culture Unit, UNESCO Venice Office
John Siciliano
Editor, Penguin Classics, New York
Teresa Solana
Novelist, Translator, Barcelona; Former Director, Spanish National Translation Centre, Tarazona
Boyd Tonkin
Literary Editor, The Independent, London



For the Summary of the Session and Working Group Recommendations click here

Session Report

For the complete Session Report and Participants List click here

Working Group Recommendations

For the complete Working Group Recommendations click on the Title of the respective Working Group

A. How is it possible to influence the publishing world?

B. How can we make the case for public and private sector funding?

C. What is the role of literary translation in the educational process? (Recommendations for governmental stakeholders) What is the role of literary translation in the educational process? (Recommendations for academic stakeholders)

D. What can translators and their associations do to promote literary translation?

Keynote Presentation

The session’s keynote presentation "The Meaning of Translation" was given by Esther Allen, assistant professor of modern languages at Baruch College at the City University of New York and executive director of the Center for Literary Translation at Columbia University.

To read her presentation, please click here (PDF)