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Residencies In Review: Banff International Literary Translation Centre

Residencies in Review highlights international residencies for writers and translators of French by sharing the experiences of past participants. Some of these programs provide literary artists with structure, scheduled workshops, meetings, and excursions, while others provide the time and space to work away from the concerns of day-to-day life and let the writers and translators plan their own work schedules.

In this edition, Rachael Small shares her experiences at the Banff International Literary Translation Center (BILTC).


Rachael Small received her MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Iowa in December 2012. She has taught Rhetoric and Workshops in Literary Magazine Publishing & Review Writing at the University of Iowa, as well as a course in French Cinema at Coe College. Her translations from the French and Spanish have appeared in Fiction France IX and XI, and The Buenos Aires Review. She now lives in New York and interns at the Book Department of the French Embassy.

Dates of your residency: June 3-24, 2012

Project you worked on while at the Banff Centre:Mon Maroc (My Morocco), the first book by Abdellah Taïa. It is a collection of autobiographical vignettes based around places, people, items and events in Taïa’s life in Morocco, as well as his initial experiences leaving his home country and living in Europe.

Please tell us a bit about your experience at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre:Let me first say that Banff is one of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever visited. The Banff Centre, a small complex set up in the hills overlooking the tourist town of Banff, is equipped with dining facilities, a gym, a wonderful library, performance spaces and comfortable, hotel-style rooms. Each year, BILTC brings together a fantastic group of translators and authors to work (both collaboratively and individually), talk about literature in translation, and be inspired by the natural splendor of the Canadian Rockies.

As a student participant, I was treated with no less respect or expectation than the more experienced translators, those whose books covered the coffee table in our writers’ lounge. For the first time in my career as a burgeoning translator, I had the space and time to work on my craft without the distractions of teaching, my own graduate coursework, cooking, cleaning, and other day-to-day tasks. My two responsibilities were to translate and discuss translation three times a week at our “work sessions.” During these afternoon meetings, translators would give presentations on their work, focusing either on issues they were having with the language or on broader themes such as routine and author-translator relationships. In this way, we were able to familiarize ourselves with each other’s work, help our fellow participants, or seek help from them. By the end of the first week, we had already created a tight-knit and productive community.

Aside from the weekly work sessions, the setting and environment were extremely conducive to creative work. Each room at the Centre is outfitted with a nice office space and coffee maker, which helped me wake up each day ready to work. The library, with its wealth of books and windows, was an inspiring workspace as well, and when I felt I had been sedentary too long, I would go for a run or swim at the gym, take a yoga class, or go hiking in the mountains surrounding the Banff Centre. We all had the option to take day trips to sites such as Emerald Lake in British Columbia and the stunning Lake Louise, and at various points in the residency, we shared the Centre with jazz and chamber musicians, who gave regular concerts.

I feel honored and privileged to have spent a summer at the Banff Centre in the presence of such an accomplished and kind cohort of translators. Since returning, I have strongly urged all the translators I know to apply.

The Banff International Literary Translation Centre is open to literary translators from Canada, Mexico, and the United States translating from any language, as well as to international translators working on literature from the Americas.  

Applicants must have published at least one book-length literary translation or the equivalent thereof. Eligible projects include translations of works of fiction, literary non-fiction, poetry, children’s literature, oral tradition, and drama.  

Translators may request a joint residency of up to one week with the author they are translating. Most guest authors come from Canada, the United States, and Mexico, but the program is sometimes able to bring authors from farther afield.

Each year BILTC accepts one student from each of the following countries: the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Students wishing to apply need not fulfill the publication requirement. 

More info

For information about other residency programs, please visit the Residencies in Review homepage.