The Translators' House at Balatonfüred, a well equipped house for visiting translators of international repute, is under dire threat: private sponsorship has been withdrawn after several years of great generosity, and ministerial financial support is to be severely cut.
Over the years the writer Gábor Lipták entertained many notable figures in the worlds of art, music and literature at his house in Balatonfüred, and bequeathed it to the Arts Foundation on condition that it be used for literary pursuits. Over the past fifteen years his purpose has been met in full: sponsorship – ministerial, municipal and private – has turned the villa into a well equipped house of international repute, where visiting translators from many countries have found an atmosphere conducive to productive work in the beneficial company of their colleagues. Lipták's bequest to the nation has borne much fruit in the world-wide dissemination of the best of Hungarian culture, and until recently seemed likely to continue to do so. Now, however, it is suddenly under dire threat: private sponsorship has been withdrawn after several years of great generosity, and ministerial financial support is to be severely cut. The resultant shortfall, if it cannot be urgently offset, will result in the loss in the near future of a cultural facility that has few, if any, equals in the world. (See also: The Memory Room - an essay on the Translators' House written by Ottilie Mulzet.)
As presently constituted, the Translators' House has an annual budget of 12 million Hungarian forints – approximately ₤32,000, $53,000 or €43,000 – not big money for an almost unique and steadily developing establishment – recent improvements have included the provision of wheelchair access to part of the premises. All hope is not yet lost of a better offer from the Ministry of Human Resources, but the worst is devoutly to be feared. Any assistance that may be forthcoming, be it in the form of advice or tangible support, will be gratefully received.
The Hungarian Association of Literary Translators has approached the Ministry of Human Resources (Emberi Erőforrások Minisztériuma, EMMI) by means of an open letter on the subject of its withdrawals of funding in cultural areas, addressed in particular to the Minister, Zoltán Balogh, and the Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs, László L. Simon, with reference to the curtailment of provision for the Translators' House.
Hungarian Association of Literary Translators
Executive Committee: Chairman: Péter Papolczy; Vice-Chairman: Mónika Mesterházi; Members: Anikó Ádám, Márta Pávai Patak, Katalin Szlukovényi
For the attention of His Excellency the Minister and of the Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs.
Budapest, 18 November 2012
Subject: Restrictive measures in cultural areas, with special reference to the Hungarian Translators' House.
Excellency, Dear Secretary of State,
The Executive Committee of the Hungarian Association of Literary Translators wishes to associate itself with the views expressed in the open letter on the same subject addressed to you by the Executive Committee of the Attila József Circle. In addition to the arguments of principle therein expounded in support of the work of the Hungarian Translators' House, it would advance the following professional points:
We have every right to be proud of Hungarian literature from its earliest beginnings to the present day. Were it not for literary translators, however, our desire for it to be made known to the wider world would be futile. The number of speakers of Hungarian, coupled with the paucity of related languages, means that without ambassadors to represent it, translators to bear it abroad, Hungarian literature would be trapped at home. Every time that a book achieves success outside Hungary it redounds to the credit of a translator, and in the recent past several Hungarian writers and their translators have enjoyed public recognition in the form of distinguished awards. To quote Péter Esterházy's words to the Hungarian Telegraphic Agency on the occasion of the presentation to him and his translator Ágnes Járfás of the Prix Laure Bataillon (source: www.litera.hu): “I am delighted when translators are awarded prizes, because they don't receive a lot of attention, and the only books of mine that appear abroad are those of which I haven't written a single word.”
Furthermore, the case of those that translate from Hungarian is a special one. Anywhere from Madrid to Ulaanbaator it is much easier to access grammars and mono- or bi-lingual dictionaries for the major world languages than it is to find the equivalent for Hungarian. Numerous Hungarian books are translated from intermediary languages. The Hungarian Translators' House facilitates the work of those translating from the original, and is specifically equipped to make available to the visitor practically every work of reference that exists on Hungarian language and literature, in addition to a generous provision of contemporary literary material. It offers the opportunity for focused and undisturbed work, and at the same time for consultation with others similarly engaged. The Hungarian Translators' House Foundation has been since its inception a member of the Réseau Européen des Centres Internationaux de Traducteurs littéraires (RÉCIT, the European Network of International Literary Translators' Centres), and participates in its activities.
The functioning of the Hungarian Translators' House must not be jeopardised, as that would mean leaving in the lurch not merely those that translate Hungarian literature, but also Hungarian culture itself.
The Executive Committee of the Hungarian Association of Literary Translators:
Chairman: Péter Papolczy
Vice-Chairman: Mónika Mesterházi
Members: Anikó Ádám, Márta Pávai Patak, Katalin Szlukovényi
Translated by: Bernard Adams