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In an engaging panel session titled ‘World Fiction’, which was held at the Main Stage auditorium on the opening day of this year’s Dhaka Literary Festival, authors, reviewers and translators, Daniel Hahn, Nichola Lezard, Anjum Hasan, Marcia Lynx Qualey and Amy Sackville, discussed the latest trends in global fiction.
The speakers touched on a wide range of topics relating to fiction. On the subject of realism, writer, editor and translator Daniel Hahn said, “The way you think about realism is also culturally determined to a great extent, and the extent to which a book or a piece of writing is supposed to be authentically representing the reality that the writer experiences.”
The discussion then moved on to the importance of translation work in the literary world, where the speakers acknowledged that extraordinary classics such as those written by great writers like Tolstoy and Tagore, would not have received the exposure and acclaim they deserve had they not been translated into English and become accessible to millions around the world.
Among the questions that were asked by the audience at the end of the discussion, one was on how translations and works by authors from non-English speaking countries were verified when considered for international literary awards.
“There are a lot of translators who are not writers of British-English, principally. They have to publish in English but they are translators who are themselves translating into, as it were, American-English, Australian-English, it might be Bangladeshi-English or English from any where else. On the whole I don’t think this is much of a concern. But going back to your exact question, I suspect that its one of the reasons why we have a problem about getting writing from the sub-continent translated into English published in the UK, because there is a sense of it somehow being the wrong kind of English. I think that there is still some kind of prejudice about different kinds of English having sort of different levels of acceptability within the English language publishing centres in London and New York,” explained Hahn.
Daniel Hahn’s work has won him the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Blue Peter Book Award, among others. He is a past chair of the Society of Authors (the UK’s writers’ union) and the Translators Association.