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In pursuit of excellence, or pleasure vs pain

Yes, it's been an odd year so far. School closures for six months have put a crimp in my translation time, and I'm sure I don't need to tell you about the effort it's taken to coerce a 14- and a 12-year-old into getting some exercise and doing something constructive every day we've been cooped up together without us all imploding. And I've so missed being in a foreign country: those first forays into a local supermarket where you spot all kinds of things you never see at home, the joy of deciphering a menu, and if you're a bit more fluent, a sneaky earwig of nearby conversations.


When I'm translating though, it always feels a little like a holiday: words from a different land can conjure up those faraway places and bring them closer. It's a pleasure to work at something that actually relaxes me. And so, when I have a spare hour here or there, I sometimes work on translation competitions to hone my skills and transport me somewhere else.


It's paid off. Yesterday I found out that my translation was in the last three (out of 120) in the 2020 Austrian Cultural Forum translation competition. And earlier this year, in the midst of lockdown, I reached the John Dryden Translation Competition's shortlist. The odd thing is that so far, this has only ever happened to me during these strange Covid times: it's almost as if the misery of this new, paler, sadder version of the old world is being directly offset by some huge bursts of excitement and pleasure.


And there's more to come: it's too early to blow that trumpet for sure, but it's looking likely that I'll be translating a book soon. A lovely little German book that drew me in from the start, that made me want to translate an excerpt and that pushed me to the scary step of writing to a publisher about it. And they liked it!


You may, or may not, know that I love to swim in Clevedon Marine Lake whenever I get the chance, all year round, whatever the weather (although I do hate getting changed in the rain). Once you're in, and acclimatised, it's 250 metres long, and as I'm not a very good swimmer, and my goggles steam up, it's hard to see where I'm heading and to believe I'll reach the other end.


Oddly there's a lake in this book too. I am so looking forward to taking another dip; I've improved my stroke and it's going to be just wonderful to cross.


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    2019, Jo Heinrich Translation