Meet the ’17 Fellows: Timea Sipos

Each year, ALTA provides four to six $1,000 fellowships to emerging translators to attend the annual ALTA conference. This year’s winners were selected by Dick Cluster, Sara Novic, and Sebastian Schulman. We are excited to feature Travel Fellow Timea Sipos:

PictureBorn in Budapest, Timea Sipos immigrated with her parents to Los Angeles at six years old. As someone who grew up between two cultures and two countries, translating from English to Hungarian and vice versa was an everyday necessity.

To fulfill her undergraduate foreign language requirement, Timea spent a summer in Hungary working closely with a Hungarian tutor so that she could, for the first time, learn proper Hungarian grammar and read canonical Hungarian literature. The works of Géza Gárdonyi, Áron Tamási, and István Örkény hooked her right away. At this time, Timea began translating prose from both languages into the other in preparation for her language exam.

When applying for creative writing programs, one of the greatest draws of the MFA at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for her was its translation requirement. Excited at the prospect of literary translation, she tried her hand at translating István Örkény’s flash fiction before receiving her acceptance from UNLV. Upon her acceptance, however, it soon dawned on her how many more male Hungarian writers are translated into English than female Hungarian writers, and how few female Hungarian writers she had read in the first place. With the goal of bringing the short stories of a living female Hungarian writer to an American audience, Timea traveled to Budapest during the summer after her first year in her MFA program and eventually discovered the sometimes fairytale-esque, other times absurd, but always mesmerizing Angyalvacsora (Angel Dinner) by Ilka Papp-Zakor. So far, her translation of “Kaviár” (“Caviar”) has appeared online at The Short Story Project; the remaining stories are either in the process of finding homes in literary journals or awaiting translation.

While she aims in her translation to bring Hungarian text into an English that sounds natural to an American reader, nonetheless maintaining the sound, rhythm, and style of the original wherever possible, her goals for her original fiction are very different. Namely, she aims in her fiction to mimic Hungarian speech and translate Hungarian idioms word by word into English so that the unique flavor of her characters’ mother tongues can seep through into her stories. She also quietly harbors the goal of teaching Americans some Hungarian through her original writing, and thus peppers her stories with Hungarians words when she can create the proper context to do so.

As an attendee of the first ever conference for translators translating from Hungarian literature into foreign languages, hosted by the Petőfi Irodalmi Múzeum (Petőfi Literary Museum) in Budapest this year, Timea had the rare chance to personally meet translators she’s been reading for years. Similarly, both attending the 88th Ünnepi Könyvhét(Celebratory Book Week) in Budapest and volunteering at the literary tent at VOLT Festival in Sopron this year allowed her the chance to connect with established contemporary Hungarian authors.

Timea is thrilled to attend the 2017 ALTA Conference in Minneapolis, where she hopes to continue to build her network of practicing literary translators.

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