Cantera 2023: a treat for Spanish literary translators


View of the courtyard at Universidad de Alcalá
Universidad de Alcalá, an inspiring location (Photo credit: alitral)

The city of Alcalá de Henares, Cervantes’ birthplace, was the perfect backdrop for hosting Cantera 2023. Cantera is an initiative launched in 2018 by alitral (the Ibero–American Alliance for the Promotion of Literary Translation) that resumed this year after a pandemic-imposed hiatus.

Cantera’s main goal is to provide a venue where literary translators from English, French, German, and Italian into Spanish who are new to the publishing world can exchange ideas and learn. Cantera has also traditionally been organised to coincide with local book fairs to tap into the flurry of literary and cultural activity.

I had the honour of being invited by the Asociación Argentina de Traductores e Intérpretes (AATI) to be a facilitator for the English–Spanish literary translation workshop, which was attended by translators from all alitral member countries: Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Spain. Thanks to the support of FIT and the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs, my trip became a reality, and I arrived in Alcalá on 30 May full of anticipation and excitement.

Before too long, it was time to get down to business! The morning sessions were devoted to three Irish short stories we had selected for translation. The participants’ dialectal differences and their diverse academic backgrounds posed real challenges for all of us, giving rise to fruitful discussions and increasing our awareness  the commonalities and differences of our language.

Worthy of note was the online interview of Irish writer Rónán Hession that was both enlightening and moving. Rónán openly expressed his deep gratitude towards literary translators, as he relies on our work to write his weekly reviews of foreign literature translated into English for the Irish Times.

Cantera wasn’t just traditional workshops. The afternoons were filled with a wide variety of interesting activities held either in Madrid or Alcalá. Instructors and participants gathered several times on the Universidad de Alcalá campus to attend presentations on the working conditions of literary translators and the intellectual property rights and contract terms in force in our countries. In all these presentations, speakers emphasised the importance of professional associations, as they can keep track of what is going on in the real world and work to improve work conditions for everyone.

Another highlight of our packed schedule was a very stimulating meeting between writers, literary journalists, copyeditors, and publishers, all key players in the publishing industry.

As if this weren’t enough, Cantera also included special visits to the National Library and its legal deposit collection, the Cervantes Award Exhibition, the Museum of Graphic Arts, and the countless booths at the Madrid Book Fair, which was a real treat!

Thanks, FIT, for your invaluable support of literary translators!

Julia Benseñor (AATI)

Spanish literary translators interview an author over Zoom
Participants interviewing an author, guided by Julia Benseñor and Andrés Catalán. (Photo credit: alitral)
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