December 2008, No 24

Editors: Vera Ebels, Christina Zorich


Czech “SKŘIPEC”: Prize for the worst translation of the year

Plagiarism – Signing off on others’ translations


Ukrainian Books for Education in Tolerance 2008 – 2011

Ukrainian Book Trade Project 2005 – 2008

Books Recently Published



Czech “SKŘIPEC”: Prize for the worst translation of the year

After decades of Communist censorship, following its demise at the end of 1989 the hunger for previously forbidden books was enormous, and so was the demand for translations of foreign literature. Translations were churned out at great speed. Many publishers began to commission translations from just about anybody. Do you know some English or other Western language? Then go and translate! And there were many people who liked to believe they could. Let’s publish the book as fast as possible! In other words, quantity not quality ruled the waves.

It soon became clear that many publishers were out of their depths when it came to translations because, to keep costs low, they dispensed with editors, the very people who could assess the quality of the translated text and work with the translator to improve the quality of the edition.

The number of badly translated books published in the first years after the Velvet Revolution was mind-boggling. Experienced translators from the Czech Literary Translators’ Guild, which was founded in 1990, knocked their heads together to see what they could do. Write critical reviews? Certainly, but they are read only by a narrow circle of readers. Something with more of an impact was needed. Out of these dire straits came the idea to set up a prize for the worst translation of the year.

The prize was baptized “Skřipec”, a Czech word meaning both an instrument for reading – pince-nez – and a tool of torture – the rack. The one for non-fiction translation was called “Skřipeček”, a diminutive of “Skřipec”. The prize is publicly awarded every year during the Prague Book Fair’s “Book World” by an independent jury of experienced translators nominated by the Literary Translators’ Guild.

Since 1994, when the idea was first launched, 14 prizes have been awarded, leaving publishers to tremble and run for the hills in trepidation And no wonder. The prize is both a  public and a media event.

The Czech initiative inspired the association of Lithuanian colleagues to establish a similar prize, which they awarded for the first time in 2007.

Our prize was awarded not only to inept translators, but also to publishers who had usurped an already existing translation and, in an attempt to avoid paying translation fees, published it under an invented name. That happened, for example, in 2004 with The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. We are pleased to say that three publishers acknowledged their wrongdoing and took the books in question out of circulation. Leonard Cohen’s lyrics even received a brand new and excellent translation.

Sometimes it is argued  that awarding this kind of prize  is not very collegial. Quite the opposite is true. By drawing the attention of the publisher and the public to the necessity of preparing a book properly for publication and not entrusting the translation to just anybody, we protect inexperienced colleagues from shame.

Right at its launch in 1990, the Translators Guild established a competition for young translators, who send in texts of their own selection, and on the basis of assessments of their translations by a jury of experienced colleagues, the Guild awards the best works. The festive awarding of the prize each spring is followed by a more or less informal debate between young translators and  seasoned colleagues.

Since the mid-1990s, the Guild has developed the tradition of literary translation workshops. The workshops are organized each year for English, French and German, and if there are at least three candidates for another language, a workshop is set up for them as well. The program is organized with a subsidy from the Czech Ministry of Culture. It lasts one semester, and the fee is symbolic (max. cca € 10). The participants come mostly from the world of professional interpreters, technical translators, students and fledgling literary translators. The workshops are conducted by winners of translation prizes, i.e. by the most experienced amongst us.

And, last but not least, highly seasoned colleagues set up individual mentorships with talented young colleagues whom they initiated into the craft and art that is translation.

By Alena Lhotová (Czech translator of French literature), translated from Czech by Vera Ebels

PLAGIARISM – Signing off on others’ translations

Translators and publishers, as natural allies, held their 4th annual meeting at the 2008 Belgrade Book Fair. They were unanimous that their position is unenviable and that it is only by joining forces that they can raise controversial issues and hope that they will find solutions as quickly as possible.

The main topic this year was a subject that has been quite neglected until now: the usurpation of translations. Agreeing that the translation is crucial for the proper presentation of a book, translators noted that it is much harder to prove that a translation has been plagiarized than an original piece of writing. They called for treating the former on a par with the latter: as a crime. To do this, it is essential to establish rules that define plagiarism in translation.

In our region, this kind of plagiarism occurs mainly through the mutual usurpation of translations published in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Existing translations are simply adapted to the target region; minor changes are made and somebody who is not a translator is signed off. There is a solution to this problem: if the translator agrees to have his/her translation “adapted” then the person can sign their name to it and be paid accordingly, in which case there can be no talk of a usurped translation. The biggest problem, say translators, is the inefficiency of the courts.

The other issue discussed by translators and publishers was the quality of translations. They agreed that publishers know how to get good translations and that quality, deadlines, but also fees are key to professionalism in this field.

Source: website of the Belgrade Book Fair, October 2008

Translated by Christina Zorich


The Allianz Kulturstiftung, which has been generously supporting the CEEBP’s European Literature and History programme since 2005, has announced that it will continue its sponsorship in 2009.

In Sepember 2008 work began on the Books in Print project of the Romanian Publishers Association AER with the support of CEEBP and the Austrian ERSTE Stiftung for a duration of three years. It is scheduled to be launched online in late spring 2009.

The Dutch Ministry of Culture, on the recommendation of the Council for Culture (see here), has announced its increased structural support for CEEBP for 2009 and its intention to continue its support in the years 2010 – 2012.

In December, CEEBP launched its redesigned website making information about its infrastructural projects and other activities more easily accessible.

Ukrainian Books for Education in Tolerance 2008 – 2011

In October 2008, CEEBP, in cooperation with the Anne Frank Foundation and Ukrainian partner organisations, started the Ukrainian Books for Education in Tolerance project, co-financed by the Matra programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The aim of the project, initiated by Ukrainian history teachers, is to bring to a wider audience history and other quality books on the subject, books that can assist in acquiring knowledge and a better understanding of the past and the present, and that can be used in secondary and university education, but also reach a larger readership outside academic circles. The book list includes memoirs, biographies, and quality novels. The project consists of:

  • the dissemination of educational materials developed by the Anne Frank Foundation and its Ukrainian partners (the Ukrainian Congress of Minorities, the Ukrainian Centre for Jewish Studies, the Ukrainian Centre for Holocaust Studies, the Centre for Studies of the History and Culture of East European Jews, and the Ukrainian Association of History Teachers “Nova Doba” with the Center for Civic Education)
  • the translation, publication and dissemination of books concerning relations between Ukrainians, their neighbours, and minorities in Ukraine
  • introducing the books in seminars for secondary school history teachers, school inspectors and school supervisors, lecturers and students at faculties of education, librarians and journalists,  to assist them in using the material in their daily practice. The seminars will take place in each of the 25 regional capital cities.

In order to disseminate the publications to seminar participants, use will be made of the distribution network developed with the assistance of CEEBP in the Ukrainian Book Trade Project (see below).

Ukrainian Book Trade Project 2005 – 2008


The project, aimed at enhanced access to reliable professional book trade information, a greater variety of Ukrainian publishers’ books across the country, and improved professional skills and standards of publishers and booksellers, was completed in November 2008 with excellent results.

With the assistance of the project, the Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association launched a book trade portal for professionals.

Dzherela M and Summit Books jointly set up the “100 Hundred Books” (“100 tisach knizhok”) distribution network with regional centres in fourteen major cities across the country: Chernivtsi (Chernowitz), Dniepropetrovsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kherson, Khmelnitsky, Lvov, Mykolaiv, Poltava, Rovno (Rivne), Vinnytsa, Odessa, Simferopol, Uzhorod, and Zaporizhia. Moreover, they developed an online Books in Print catalogue of books available on the Ukrainian market with a website for professional users and a book information website for the general public, offering book reviews, interviews with authors, announcements of new books, and other items from the book market.

Extensive training for publishers and booksellers was conducted in Kiev, Lvov, and other regional capital cities. In addition, trainers’ training for booksellers was provided in The Netherlands in 2007 and in 2008.


In October 2008, the CEEBP awarded ten grants for books and four special grants. The grants for books were awarded for seven West – East translations, and three East – East translations. Four of the grants concern works in the humanities, five are titles in belles lettres, an one is a work of poetry.

The special grants were awarded for translation and editing honoraria of a Belarusian journal, a website of a Montenegrin quality bookshop selling books from all former Yugoslav republics that has been set up in 2005 with CEEBP’s support. Another special grant was allocated for an Amsterdam World Book Capital fellowship of a Romanian publisher. The last special grant is a contribution of CEEBP to the Ukrainian Books for Education in Tolerance Project (see elsewhere in this Newsletter issue).

Six of the grants for books were awarded within the framework of the European History and Literature program sponsored by the Allianz Kulturstiftung, Munich.


  • Amos Oz, A Tale of Love and Darkness, English – Albanian translation by Etleva Pushi Kondakçiu, Skanderbeg, Tirana
  • Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Justiz, German – Belarusian translation by Vasil Siomucha, Kovcheg, Minsk
  • Dževad Karahasan, Izvjestaji iz tamnog vilajeta (Reports From the Dark World), Bosnian – Bulgarian translation by Paola Ivanova, Paradox, Sofia
  • Marcel Simon & André Benoit, Le judaïsme et le christianisme antique, French – Bulgarian       translation by Manol Georgiev, KAMA, Sofia
  • Michel Meyer, Manual Maria Carrilho, Benoît Timmermans, Histoire de la rhétorique, des Grecs à nos jours, French – Croatian translation by Vanda Mikšić, Disput, Zagreb
  • Nikolaj Kancsev, Lajkucskata Nehape, a uhae, Bulgarian – Hungarian translation by György Szondi, Napkút, Budapest
  • Vittorino Andreoli, Capire il dolore. Perché la sofferanza lasci spazio alla gioia, Italian – Polish translation by Maciej Bielawski, Homini, Cracow
  • Wilhelm Reich, Die Massenpsychologie des Faschismus, German – Polish translation by Ewa Drzazgowska, Aletheia, Warsaw
  • Eginald Schlattner, Das Klavier im Nebel. German – Polish translation by Alicja Rosenau, Czarne, Wołowiec
  • Audre Lorde, The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde, English – Slovenian translation by Kristina Kočan, Društvo Škuc, Ljubljana

Other grants

  • Arche, political and cultural monthly, Minsk – translators’ and editors’ honoraria
  • Karver bookshop, Podgorica  – website with internet bookshop module
  • Amsterdam World Book Capital fellowship for a Romanian publisher
  • The Diary of David Rubinovich (in Ukrainian translation), Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies, Kiev, a special grant within the Ukrainian Books for Education in Tolerance Project


H. G. AdlerTheresienstadt 1941-1945. Das Antlitz einer Zwangsgemeinschaft, translated from German into Czech by Ludmila Šedová: Terezín 1941-1945. Tvář nuceného společenství. Díl III: Psychologie. With an epilogue by Jeremy Adler. Nakladatelství Barrister & Principal, Brno 2007 *

Jurij AndrukhovicMoscoviada, translated from Ukrainian into Bulgarian by Albena Stamenova and Rayna Kamberova: Moscoviada. Roman na uzhasite, Paradox, Sofia 2008

Jurgis BaltrusaitisLe Moyen Age fantastique, translated from French into Czech by Martina Turková-Sládková: Fantastický středověk, Jitro, Prague 2008

Robert CalassoK., translated from Italian into Czech by Zdeněk Frýbort: K. , Slovart, Prague & Bratislava 2008

Tomasso CampanellaLa città del sole (1602), translated from Italian into Albanian by Erion Kristo: Qyteti i diellit, Instituti i studimeve politike & Dita 2000, Tirana 2008

Elias CanettiDie gerettete Zunge. Geschichte einer Jugend, translated from German into Bulgarian by Elissaveta Todorova Kusmanova: Spasseniat ezik. Istoriata na edno detstvo, Lege Artis, Sofia 2008

Loring M. DanforthThe Macedonian Conflict. Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World, translated from English into Macedonian by Durim Tace: Konflikti maqedonas.Nacionalizmi etnik në botën transnacionale, Shkupi, Shkup 2008

François Dosse, La marche des idées. Histoire des intellectuels – histoire intellectuelle, translated from French into Bulgarian by Kaloyan Pramatarov:Chod’t na ideite Istorijata na intelektualtsite – intelektualnata istorija, SONM, Sofia 2007 *

Walter van GervenThe European Union: A Polity of States and Peoples, translated from English into Bulgarian by Stanislava Milanova: Evropeickijat s’iuz. Politicheska obschost na drzhavi i narodi, LIK, Sofia 2007 *

E.T.A. HoffmannKlein Zaches, gennant Zinnober; Ritter Gluck; Don Juan, translated from German into Belarussian and preface by Vasil Sëmucha: Kurdupel Tsaches …et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Kaska, navely, Kovcheg / ed. Viktar Korzun, Minsk 2008

Mark MazowerSalonika: City of Ghosts. Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950, translated from English into Macedonian by David Vitkov: Solun: Grad na duchovi. Christijani, Muslimani i Evrei 1430-1950, Az-Buki, Skopje 2008

Daniel MendelsohnThe Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, translated from English into Polish by Piotr Szymor: Zagubieni. W poszukiwaniu sześciorga spośród sześciu milionó, Czarne, Wołowiec 2008

Nicholas OstlerEmpires of the Word. A Language History of the World, translated from English into Serbian by Aleksandar Kavgić: Carstva reči. Jezička istorija sveta, Geopoetika, Belgrade 2008

Anna PolitkovskayaA Russian Diary: A Journalist’s Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin’s Russia, translated from English and Russian into Slovenian by Miha Lampreht: Zadnji Zapisi. Dnevnik umorjene ruske novinarke, Sanje, Ljubljana 2008

Rainer Maria RilkeDie Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge. Nach der Ausgabe der Werke, kommentierte Ausgabe in vier Bänden, hrsg. von August Stahl, Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main und Leipzig, 1996. Translated from German into Romanian by Bogdan Mihai Dascălu, comments and annotations translated by Crişu Dascălu, with an afterword by Aura Christi: Însemnările lui Malte Laurids Brigge, Ideea Europeană, Bucureşti 2008

Michael K. Silber (ed.), Hungarian Jewish History – In a Different Way. A Jerusalem Anthology. With texts from Joszef Ben David, Jakov Katz, Nataniel Katzburg, and Michael K. Silber. Translation from English and Hebrew into Hungarian by Judit Stöckl a.o.: Magyar zsidó történelem – másképp. Jeruzsálemi antológia, Múlt és Jövő, Budapest – Jeruzsálem 2008

Maria TodorovaImagining the Balkans, translation from English into Polish byPiotr Szymor and Magdelena Budżińska: Bałkany wyobrażone, Czarne, Wołowiec 2008

*) published in 2007, but received in 2008

For a list of all books published with CEEBP support see our website under Books


  • Allianz Cultural Foundation, Munich
  • ERSTE Stiftung, Vienna
  • European Cultural Foundation, Amsterdam
  • Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, The Netherlands
  • Matra program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands