What’s involved in Translating Non-Fiction? Rewards and Challenges.

There’s no doubt that compared to fiction – which is sometimes mistakenly perceived as the sole category of literary translation – non-fiction doesn’t get its share of the limelight. Translation probably accounts for a tiny fraction of the overall non-fiction market, but – anecdotally, at least – the numbers seem to be growing. So, what are the challenges, and the rewards, and how might you start working in this field? Following your interests and qualifications, identifying books and honing your research skills are just a few of the topics covered.

Lucinda Byatt is a translator, academic and editor. Her PhD focused on a Florentine cardinal’s household in early sixteenth-century Rome. Before that, she studied history at St Andrews University, although languages were a close second, having studied French and German until second year. Her first translation from Italian – of a book by Piero Camporesi – was published in 1991, and she has translated many non-fiction titles since then, plus numerous academic and general articles, and other shorter publications. She has been a (part-time) teaching fellow in history at the Centre for Open Learning at Edinburgh University since 2009, and she also teaches Italian-English translation to honours students in the Italian department. She was secretary to the Committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland from 2015 to 2018 and is keen to support translation activities and events north of the border. Recent translations include a sixteenth-century art treatise, a biography of Leonardo da Vinci, and a lengthy volume on lordship in medieval southern Italy.