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Literary Festival 2012: Storytelling and Translation


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Speaker(s): Marina Lewycka, Jeremy Sams, George Szirtes

Recorded on 3 March 2012 in Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building.

A panel of experts discuss translation and storytelling in novels, poetry and opera. Are there fundamental elements to storytelling that are shared across cultures, languages and genres? What is lost, and what is created, in translation?

Followed by a reading of the winning entry in the LSE micro-fiction student competition and a performance by students of a classic one act play.

Marina Lewycka was born in a refugee camp in Germany in 1946 and moved to England with her family when she was about a year old. She spent most of her life since then trying to become a writer, and finally succeeded in 2005 with A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian which has sold more than a million copies in the UK alone. This was followed by Two Caravans in March 2007 and We Are All Made of Glue in July 2009. Her latest novel is Various Pets Alive and Dead.

Jeremy Sams is a translator of opera libretti as well as a lyricist, theatre director, composer, orchestrator and musical director. His latest work, The Enchanted Island, recently opened to critical acclaim at the New York Metropolitan Opera. His many translations include Mozart’s Figaro’s Wedding, La Boheme, The Magic Flute and Wagner’s The Ring Cycle (English National Opera); The Merry Widow (Covent Garden); and Les Parents Terribles, The Miser and Mary Stuart (Royal National Theatre). His film scores have won awards from BAFTA (Persuasion) and Ivor Novello (Enduring Love). As a theatre director his credits include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Sound of Music (Palladium), Noises Off (West End and Broadway) and The Wind in the Willows (Old Vic).

George Szirtes was born in Budapest in 1948 and came to England as a refugee in 1956, following the Hungarian Uprising. He has published some thirteen books of poetry in English, most recently Reel (2004), New and Collected Poems (2008) and The Burning of the Books (2009). These have won the Faber Prize, the Cholmondeley Award and, most recently the T S Eliot Prize. As a translator from Hungarian he has published and edited several books of prize-winning poetry and fiction. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and teaches at UEA.

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