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'Brexit to have adverse impact on translations of literature into English'

 Agencies |  2017-01-26 14:58:53.0  |  Kolkata

Brexit could have an "adverse impact" on the funding of works being done in translating foreign literature into English, say writers.

However, some British authors feel Brexit would fade into insignificance over time because literature and arts cannot be restricted by closing borders and there would be a "fight-back".

"The number of books of foreign literature that are translated and published is very low. It is about 3 per cent. Britain translates the least of all the countries of Europe. There is less of curiosity. To make the translated books less expensive, grants or subsidy from the government is important to produce translation.

"European Union provides funding and there is a programme called Creative Europe. An adverse impact in the sphere of translation is expected after implementation of Brexit. The government has to have an agreement with EU to be part of the programme. I think this would not be the (British) government's priority," Alexandra Bachler, Director, Literature Across Frontiers, a European Platform for Literary Exchange, Translation and Policy Debate at Aberystwyth University in Wales, told IANS.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet, she said in France and Germany, the governments provide large amount of money to publishers to translate foreign literature into their languages.

Philip Hensher, who teaches creative writing at Bath Spa University, said the whole question of nationalism and closing down borders that Brexit seems to be involved with, appear to be "arrow shafts pointed at the heart of literature".

"Literature and arts celebrate difference and they draw energy from the difference. They do not stop at the borders of Europe and they reach out beyond to every sort of fragment of humanity. They want to reach out to find connections across culture. I think Brexit is going to fade into insignificance in the end," said English novelist and critic Hensher.

Speaking at the session titled 'Brexit and the Arts', he cited the example of West Bengal's Burdwan University which has a unit translating Australian aboriginal poetry into Bengali.

"The two societies never had a direct connection. They are reaching out through the means of literature. It is important we preserve this energetic connection," he said.

Stephen Kelman, a British author, whose first novel - "Pigeon English" - was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker prize, described Brexit as a development "of utter despair".

"Closing of a border or channel where ideas can be transmitted is going to lead to a reduction in everybody's opportunity. There is going to be fight back and resistance to this idea of closing border. When people find the stories they present are less reached than once they were and their access to stories, culture, literature and arts is being restricted, they are instinctively going to fight back against that," he said at the meet.

Bachler, who was "deeply wounded by Brexit", said Britain has "not been a very hospitable place" to literatures coming from other countries. "They are not receptive to literature from other places and writers from other places," she added.

Countering Bachler, Hensher said: "It is true for the readers but it is not for British writers. They are absolutely fascinated by writers from different cultures. They go to great lengths sometimes to get translations of literature of foreign countries."

He also said: "I have talked about the need for British writers to reach out beyond Indian writing in English and perhaps reach out to writers in Bengali who had never made into English. There was pressure to get a proper translation of Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay's novel - 'Pather Panchali'."

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