In December 2018 a rather unique project resulted, after a year of hard work, in a Polish e-anthology with the title “Za Tamą”, which roughly translates as “Behind the Dyke”. A logical title for an anthology containing twenty stories by Dutch authors, given the fact that almost thirty percent of the Netherlands is below sea level. The anthology contains five articles about Dutch language and literature as well.
The driving force behind this anthology is Damian Olszewski, a Polish student of the Dutch language, who did the editing for publisher Grupa Widawnicza Alpaca. This publisher is a non-profit organization that aims at making way more speculative fiction available in Poland to as many readers as possible, preferably for free. A heart-warming initiative which was endorsed by the six Dutch authors who made their stories available for free and by Polish students and staff at a Dutch faculty who volunteered to translate the stories.
This anthology may be a coincidence, but the underlying concept could be a very powerful approach to the problem of making speculative fiction from the European countries available to each other. Basically this approach has the following elements:
1) A language faculty at a university that will let its students translate stories written in the language they have to learn into their native language, as part of the curriculum.
2) A coordinator/editor with the right contacts to select stories in the foreign language, in cooperation with a member of the faculty, who is responsible for the translation project.
3) A publisher who is willing to compose and publish a book or a magazine, digital or printed, containing the translated stories.
An example: a French language faculty in Sweden could translate stories by authors in the French self-publishing circuit. A publisher could make them available to Swedish readers.
Limiting the domain of the activities to the self-publishing circuit is important, because otherwise the student translators would compete with professional translators. To further limit the risk of conflicts of interest the authors should not be paid for their stories and the publisher should work on a non-profit basis or, better even, for free.
This approach to conquer the high walls of the language barrier has several advantages.
1) It is more direct than the present approach where the author translates a story into English, very likely not perfect because it is not the author’s native language. In the next step someone translates to story from English into the target language, which again may not be perfect.
2) By clustering a number of stories into a project the subsequent step of publishing may be more feasible.
I do hope this concept will soon get a foothold in the self-publishing arena. Until we have an AI that is better in translation work than humans, that is.
If you can read Polish, you may download the e-book here: http://ksf.org.pl/alpaka-nasze-publikacje/