There aren’t many types of translation that spark discussions as heated as those regarding literary works. Partly because the target group is extensive, partly because it’s so easy to voice a critical opinion about them.


Numerous scientific works and conferences were devoted to the issue of all desired characteristics of a perfect literary translation. Obviously, experience is key – but if we already know that this is the path we want to follow… where should we start? One can easily get lost in a plethora of preferred concepts and contrived suggestions regarding the translator’s transparency. But there’s also the age-old dilemma – is the perfect text supposed to be beautiful or faithful? And should the translator follow closely the source text… or maybe the reader’s habits?

Translating books – where to start?

For many reading aficionados, finding phrases “literary translation” and “work” within one sentence seems like a dream come true and a perfect way of living. The reality, however, can quickly verify our expectations and make us change our tune. The perspective of working on a single paragraph for many hours on end makes this task far less appealing than it initially seemed to be – and that’s why not every person is destined to become an appreciated specialist in this area. Linguists determined to turn their passion for literary translation into a source of income face some tough times in the very beginning of their career. Literary translators most often work as freelancers or cooperate with various publishing houses. Even though the latter most eagerly rely on their proven linguists that can boast impressive experience, the sector is growing at such a fast rate that publishing houses are often looking for new specialists to join the ranks of their employees.

Keep your eyes open – enquire, search… and translate

It’s also worth remembering that those with any experience are at an advantage when trying to get a job related to literary translation. That’s why it pays off to go the extra mile and work hard for your future success. Do your best to turn a distant dream of translating books for a living into reality. Explore the offers of internships at both publishing houses and translation agencies. Advertisement websites and social media will come in handy when looking for your first tasks. Publishing houses also accept suggestions regarding a book you would like translated into a given language. Translate a short excerpt from this book and send it along with your offer of linguistic services – maybe that’s all it takes to start a long-term cooperation.

Between reality and the world of fiction

Translating books undoubtedly remains one of the most demanding types of translation, as it mercilessly shows mistakes of any kind. There are also far more critics of our work, as basically any person can voice their opinion about it. The responsibility for a translation that lands in the laps of thousands of readers is huge. The reception of an author’s work depends on our skills and ability to reflect the universe they had created. It’s always worth confronting our dreams with fears, participate in classes and courses or read even more literary works in foreign languages… and stop thinking obsessively about how to start translating books instead of just launching our career within this field.