Friday, February 27, 2009

Europa Editions Part II: The Translator

I agree that Europa Editions make lovely books and they have an excellent editor in Michael Reynolds (let us not underestimate the role of the editor in producing good books). But my experience with them as a literary translator was the worst I have had. They are the only publisher not to give the translator copyright in his work. The copyright in my translation of Death Rites by Alicia Giménez-Bartlett belongs to Europa Editions, not to me. And I never understand this, since it costs the publisher nothing (even if they grant the translator royalties of, say, 0.5%, these will never be payable since they will never exceed the fee he received and royalties are payable against that fee).

They are the only publisher I have worked for not to pay an advance, as if the translator, while working, needed no money. Half the fee was paid two months after delivery of the translation, the other half six months after delivery of the translation.

And, because I live in Bulgaria and there is no labour agreement between Bulgaria and the United States, they then applied a 30% withholding tax, so that I only received 70% of an already modest fee. I was not told about this tax until after delivery, when there was nothing I could do.

These are old values only in that they confirm the precarious position the literary translator is forced to work in! If we understand the other, we are far less inclined to want to punch them and this is something literary translators, as well as editors of literary magazines such as Absinthe, are fighting to achieve. According to WikiAnswers, a US military bomb costs $25000. How much better this would be spent on experienced translators and functioning literary magazines!

1 comment:

Michael Reynolds said...

Thanks Jonathan for your kind words about me and about Europa. As for the less flattering essence of your post, there is, of course, "our side of the story"; but I don't think a public blog is the place to get into a discussion of this nature, and anyway, the people directly involved are well enough acquainted with both sides of the story.

I just wanted to say to you Jonathan, and to readers of this blog, that it's a shame our collaboration came to an acrimonious end, because you are a fine translator whom we would have been honored to work with again in the future.

All best
Michael