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ILE: TRANSLATING IRELAND TO THE WORLD MARC CABALL the establishment of the Ireland Literature Exchange/Idirmhalartán Litríocht Éireann (ILE) in 1994 inaugurated an exciting new phase in the promotion of Irish literature. ILE works to increase the international readership of Ireland’s contemporary literature in translation. Working in cooperation with the international publishing industry, ILE provides financial support for the translation of the literature of Ireland to foreign languages. As of February 1999, the agency has facilitated the translation of 254 Irish literary works into 27 languages in a geographical spread extending from China to Argentina. In addition to its role in the area of translation grant-aid, ILE also acts as an information center for publishers, translators, academics and other groups interested in Irish writers. This article describes the background to the foundation of ILE as well as the agency’s growth and development, and it concludes with an assessment of ILE’s overall impact in showcasing Ireland’s literature abroad during the past four years. LITERATURE WITHOUT FRONTIERS: THE BACKGROUND TO ILE’S ESTABLISHMENT With financial support from a variety of statutory bodies and other groups, Michael Cronin, Liam Mac Cóil, and Jurgen Schneider researched and produced a 1990 report entitled Literature without Frontiers: a report on the study of Irish literary translation in the European context.1 This study was primarily concerned with the question of translation between Ireland’s two domestic languages and European languages. It documented how other European countries such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands had made institutional provision for the international proILE : TRANSLATING IRELAND TO THE WORLD 112 1 The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, Bord na Gaeilge, The Irish Writers’ Union, Roinn na Gaeltachta, The Translators’ Association of Ireland. motion and translation of their respective literatures. In fact, Ireland was the sole exception among European Union (EU) states in not offering financial support for the foreign translation of its authors. The report also discussed the concerns of writers, publishers, and translators with regard to translation. In general terms, the authors of the study stressed that, in light of the importance of translation in the Irish literary and historical tradition, the level of translation activity in the post-war period was disappointingly limited . They noted that the amount of Irish translation work undertaken in recent decades compared unfavorably with the achievements of the past and bore little relationship to present and future potential in this area. They argued that it was inappropriate for Ireland as a member of the EU not to have an official mechanism to manage the systematic administration of support for the translation of Irish literature. More particularly, it was demonstrated that a serious imbalance existed between the relatively large number of pre-1945 Irish classics translated and the altogether more haphazard rate of translation for post-war works of literature . An analysis of bibliographies of translations of Irish authors’ works illustrated that, in the case of Irish translations published in France, only 9 percent of the authors were born after 1945 as opposed to 60 percent for the period 1900 to 1945. The imbalance was more serious again in the case of the German-speaking triad of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria . In the latter example, only 5 percent of the Irish authors published in translation were born after 1945 as opposed to 40 percent born between 1900 and 1945. In the case of Irish translations published in Italy, it was shown that only 5 percent of the authors were born after 1945 as opposed to 32 percent born between 1900 and 1945. Moving eastward, the authors investigated the situation in Poland and found that only 3 percent of the authors were born after 1945 as opposed to 42 percent for the period 1900 to 1945. More startling still, the percentage of Irish authors born before 1900 and translated in these four language areas was exceedingly high: 31 percent in the case of France; 55 percent in the case of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland; 63 percent in the case of Italy; and 55 percent in the case of Poland. The authors of the report advocated Irish emulation of the European literary resource agencies...


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