London Book Fair Musings

London Book Fair 2015

London Book Fair 2015

The London Book Fair has been and gone again. It was exhausting, but fun, and I’ll write up some of the individual sessions in the next little while, but first I wanted to put down a few impressions and share some survival tips.

It’s marvellous to have a “home” at the Literary Translation Centre – the first time I visited there was nothing like this, and it was truly hellish. Yet I found that on some of the panels  speakers seemed to have a different idea of what they were about than my expectations from the programme. This year, I also made it over to the Children’s Hub twice. Once was for my highlight of the first day – a panel on inclusive and accessible children’s books from around the world that have been translated for Outside In World. They all sound beautiful, and lovely, and I want to read them all. It was great to have three translators on a panel outside the LTC and a lovely end to the day.

Star of the show on the second day was the annual translation slam featuring the “market focus” country – Mexico this year. The author and two translators discussed her text and their translations in wonderfully geeky detail, overseen with panache and good humour by all-round translation guru Daniel Hahn. The second day is generally when I find myself in the zone at these things – the first day is overwhelming and the third, exhausting. On the second day, I managed my best networking, and it also featured the Emerging Translators Network’s annual social. It was a shame to be in a gloomy pub on the most glorious day of the year so far, and two tables were woefully insufficient for the sheer mass of translators per square inch, but we can’t have everything.

The most inspiring talk of the third day was a discussion of the role of public libraries in promoting translated literature – something I’ve seen a bit of via Norfolk and Suffolk’s Summer Reads scheme, but also with a crossover with Translators in Schools that’s worth pondering some more.  The end of the third day also featured free champagne and free books, and then Persian food before a train home, shattered.

So, what are my top survival tips?

Trees in London park

My haven of lunchtime tranquility

Bring sandwiches, or find somewhere outside the exhibition hall to eat. Captive audiences result in uninspiring sandwiches at sky-high prices… In fact, getting out to a lovely sunny park to eat my lunch every day made the rest of it so much more bearable – particularly important if you’re an introvert like me! A little fresh air is also always good.

And when it comes to coffee, not all artisan coffee bars within Olympia are equal and there are (comparative) bargains to be had.

Comfy shoes! Nuff said.

Check out seminar streams beyond the Literary Translation Centre. There were some very interesting panels in the Children’s Hub and the Market Focus streams that were just as relevant.

If you want to have targeted conversations with publishers, book meetings in advance. But random, casual chats can also bear fruit.

And a note to whoever dreamt up the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party café in the children’s section. If you’re going to decorate it with teapots, you might want to consider having actual tea on the menu!


About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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