Live French Literature Festival 14-21 May 2018 at the Institut français, London

Live French Literature Festival

14-21 May 2018 at the Institut français, London


The Institut français in London is pleased to announce the second edition of Beyond Words, Festival of French Literature: a week-long programme packed with guest appearances of French-language writers recently translated into English, and English-language writers (and a few Europeans) recently translated in France, such as Atiq Rahimi, Marie Darrieussecq, Laurent Gaudé, Eimear McBride, Claire-Louise Bennett, Esther Kinsky.

2018 is an exciting year for French fiction in translation: Leila Slimani’s Goncourt prize winning Lullaby has been published in English by Faber to great critical acclaim, the film adaptation of Pierre Lemaître’s See You Up There has just won 5 Cesar awards, Virginie Despentes’ Vernon Subutex, published by MacLehose, is shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize… The Festival will be showcasing these works and other recently translated books, both in French and in English, through an entirely bilingual series of guest writer appearances, panel discussions, staged reading performances and film adaptations, in total 30 events involving over 40 writers, translators, actors, musicians and journalists.

Beyond Words Festival opens on a historical note on Monday 14 May with writers and journalists Eric Hazan, Lauren Elkin, Mitch Abidor and Paul Mason commemorating the May 1968 Paris uprisings and their legacy. It then launches fully on Tuesday 15 May with several salon style events and readings on translation and European literature today, involving an exciting selection of European writers just published on both sides of the Channel: Claire-Louise Bennett (Fitzcarraldo/L’Olivier), Esther Kinsky (Suhrkamp/Fitzcarraldo/Gallimard) and Jakuta Alikavazovic (L’Olivier/Faber).

Hugely popular in France, prize-winning writers Marie Darrieussecq (Femina Prize), Laurent Gaudé (Goncourt Prize), Atiq Rahimi (Goncourt Prize and English PEN award), Miguel Bonnefoy will be making exceptional London appearances to talk about their recently translated novels (Being Here is Everything, Hell’s GateLullaby, The Patience Stone, Black Sugar) with leading figures of the translation scene such as Daniel Hahn, Daniel Medin, Adriana Hunter, Frank Wynne and Boyd Tonkin on Tuesday 15 May and Wednesday 16 May.

Highlights of Beyond Words are literary conversations between some of the best and newest English- and French-language writers of these last few years: Noemi Lefebvre and Eimear McBride on Thursday 17 May. Throughout the programme, Women Writers and Rebel Ladies will be strongly represented with a musical and live drawing event with graphic novelists Penelope Bagieu, Bryan and Mary Talbot on Tuesday 15 May, as well as conversations with great women writers such as Marie Darrieussecq and Leila Slimani. In a closing event celebrating the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, a performance of staged and musical readings from Virginie Despentes’ shortlisted Vernon Subutex will take place on Monday 21 May.

Further highlights and opportunities to discover new voices include a focus on Publishing à la française on Wednesday 16 May, with exceptional pop-up readings from famous French writers published by the late Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens (such as Georges Perec, Emmanuel Carrère, Marguerite Duras and Olivier Cadiot), and an evening of readings and performances around the literary ties that bind us with Fresh Voices in French Fiction on Thursday 17 May (with Noemi Lefebvre, Pierre Senges and Hélène Frederick).

Translation is at the heart of the festival programme, as an essential link between worlds and as a key element of French and British book cultures: with the presence not only of leading and emerging translators, and no less than three former Man Booker international judges, but also a choice of writers who are translators themselves (Marie Darrieussecq has translated Virginia Woolf into French, Jakuta Alikavazovic has translated Ben Lerner into French, Esther Kinsky has translated Olga Tokarczuk into German, Frédéric Boyer has translated Shakespeare into French).

Film and theatre adaptations include screenings of See You Up There (Pierre Lemaître), Phantom of the Paradise (Gaston Leroux), The Red Collar (Jean-Christophe Rufin) and Based on a True Story (Delphine de Vigan) in the Ciné Lumière, and for Proust lovers and theatre goers, an exciting Proust in just an hour performance by Véronique Aubouy and a staged reading of Iane Soliane’s Bamako-Paris on Friday 18 May.

Among the events:

– Wednesday 16 May, 8pm, Publishing à la française: an evening of pop-up readings taken from exciting, poetic and bizarre French writers published by the great filmmaker and publisher Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens, including formidable names such as Olivier Cadiot, Georges Perec or Marie Darrieussecq

– Thursday 17 May, 6.30pm, Eimear McBride, Noemi Lefebvre & New French Voices: an evening with of readings and performances by up and coming writers Eimear McBride, Noemi Lefebvre, Pierre Senges, known for his radio adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s Bouvard et Pécuchet, as well as for his quirky, poetic Lichtenberg Fragments (Dalkey Archive), and Quebec-born Hélène Frédérick 

Beyond the Institut français walls and outside London, further events with festival guests will take place in 6 other locations across the country: Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Bath, Oxford and Liverpool. 

There will be on-site booksellers and book signing sessions throughout the festival, with partner bookshops Librairie La Page, Caravanserail and European Bookshop. To achieve this programme the Institut français has worked closely with publishers of fiction in translation: MacLehose Press, Fitzcarraldo Editions, Les Fugitives, Harvill Secker, Ebury, Bloomsbury, Faber, Gallic Books, Text publishing, Europa editions, Pan McMillan, Dalkey Archive Press, Penguin Random House, Jonathan Cape, Unbound, Kero, POL, Actes Sud, Albin Michel, Verticales, L’Olivier, JC Lattès, Gallimard, Payot&Rivages. With the support of the Friends of the French Institute trust.


TalkingTransformations: Home on the Move

Very excited to have received Arts Council England  funding for


for shows at Whitstable Biennale (9-10 June), Ledbury Poetry Festival (29 June – 8 July) & The Poetry Library, Southbank Centre, London (26 July – 14 October), so that the show will travel from the Kent coast to rural England and then stop in the city.

The show includes poetry, literary translations, art films and a sound installation.

I’ll post details of our programme of public workshops, roundtables, poetry reading and events soon.

With thanks to Arts Council England, the Ledbury Poetry Festival, the Poetry Library, King’s College London, the Whistable Biennale Satellite, & the following Cultural Institutes: Instituto Cervantes London, Institut français du Royaume-Uni, The Polish Cultural Institute & The Romanian Cultural Institute.





Guest Post: ‘Palimptexts’ by Xiangyun Lim



i. Swallow / Fish

See, homes grow from soil, moulded
by the sea’s pulse. Islands
of water, of trees, of fish, for

someone out there
breathes in the condensation of time.

A swallow flies past:
pilgrim from Song, beating
a familiar refrain of the pensive,
fleeting tail flicks of light

for it was bait of
glinting waves. Not a romance,
but a voyage in a home not its own
to discover, upon landing
a face rearranged

(drilling sounds pierce the walls as
dark chapped hands
build new lifts
in a cacophony
of foreign banter)

Sometimes, walking on these grey roads
void of any other, I hear myself anew:
his steps an intimate timbre.
Do the same consonants and vowels grammar his
boredom, plans, clutter

(a swallow flies past, pilgrim from Song
the familial refrain)

tracing vaults of oils and sculptures:
perhaps he too became a fish
like the fishes we now own
from the school of Chaozhou

v. Island

Staircase: old man
bringing down a tower of cardboard
boxes. Boy with Down’s
Syndrome trails
in the memory of standing upright,
unmoving as an old man lifted his bag

Or stairs: Malay wife
climbing with hands
of husband, bolstered
by the plastic promise of new pillows.

Station platform: toothy wall-
poster child, sitting atop a
when sand still papered playgrounds, drawing cats
that became the wiles of our myths: cat spirits.

(Oh tower of Bolligen: where do I find my
stone, tower of Bollingen)

Sunset: without night,
illuminating how we
and wait for the train,
or perhaps for home.

Odyssey: a story fossilised in
fish bones as the sea’s pulse
still moulds, washes and beats.
See this island. Island of
water, of
trees, of
fish, for

a long time ago
we sat with dinner
as the sky blinked at us
beneath the hawker’s shelter and
echoing shouts. It rained, suddenly,
careless tears time forgot till
it was late. As passers-by
scurried, you stayed with me
at our umbrellaed table,
eating chicken rice,
drinking soup,
quiet as islands.


Palimptext I

Palimptext II

Palimptext III


Draft I

Draft II

Draft III

© (Xiangyun Lim) 2017


My project is a conscious exploration of the process of literary translation, and a probe into particular ideas of ‘creativity’ associated with practice. The experiment looks at the translatory reading of a text, which continues after the first encounter through the various interactions a translator experiences in the bid to embody it in and through another language. My own initial journey in translating Chinese poetry has materialised into what I call a palimptext: booklets made out of tracing paper in which layers of engagements with the chosen text are presented as a physical whole.

The term “palimptext” is a portmanteau of ‘palimpsest’ and ‘text’. The word ‘palimpsest’ forms from the Greek word ‘palimpsēstos’, from ‘palin’ (again) and ‘psēstos’ (rubbed smooth), and refers to ‘a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing[1]’. My process is effectually palimpsestic in which engagements with the poems were distinct in time of occurrence, nature, and consequential result — always with the same source, but not through the same tools — in the same way a palimpsest emerges from the same material carrying traces of earlier writings by different pens or inks. To represent the palimpsestic process in distinct layers, I chose to use only tracing paper, with each layer — each engagement — presented together as a whole; a booklet made out of tracing paper.

To call this product a palimptext was thus deliberate. Rather than being ‘rubbed smooth’, every layer is unhidden and integral to the product in totality. The word ‘text’, with etymological roots from French ‘texte’, or ‘textus’, can refer to the ‘wording of anything written or printed[2]’. Yet is writing only limited to words, and words necessarily made out of letters? ‘Write’ too has various roots that refer to actions such as ‘to score’ (from Old English wrítan) to ‘tear or draw’ (Old High German rîȥan)[3]. The use of the term palimptext thus has two implications: first, it frees me from limiting the content I produce to alphabetical words, and secondly, it presents the palimpsestic process as a physical product — a material form to represent my palimpsestic translatory reading of the chosen poem, 《航海纪事》.

It also solves a complication the palimpsest presents: that the process is necessarily chronological, where a layer is either above or below another (and where authorship is not always the same). The chronology of my process is simply a result of my physical limitations — that I can produce one thing at a time, with two hands, a brain, and one keypad. However, the engagements with the text happen simultaneously, in an interlinked and dynamic way, and presenting these layers on physical tracing paper to make up a whole, i.e., in a booklet form, is my solution and attempt to embody the dynamic process.

The state of being creative has been, as Clark details in The Theory of Inspiration, called ‘trite, mystifying and even embarrassing… a spurious and exploded theory of the sources of literary power.[4]’ Other descriptions range from ‘transcendent’ to ‘ecstatic intuition’ and ‘naive indulgence’ — terms that lean towards the florid and abstract rather than the rational. Yet there are elements of the creative in writing and translating, creating parallels which have been picked up and apart in what an emerging ‘creative turn’ in translation studies[5]. Loffredo and Perteghella places this arrival of a new ‘critical setting’ in the ‘cultural relativity of translation, as a practice and as a discipline, which allows a further shift, this time towards translational “subjectivity”’[6]. This ‘subjectivity’ is so intertwined with the idea of creativity as the translator inscribes a text from another language with creative input synergised with his or her past experiences and histories.

Yet to put the concept of creativity, already abstract in itself, into the obliqueness of subjectivity only further obscures specifics of the translational process. My experiment thus tries to demystify these terms for myself, and to explore the boundaries that these terms encompasses and cross, even challenging Clark’s supposition of the ability of the ‘creative’ to ‘achiev[e] feats unattainable by any merely rational or procedural method[7].’ This is not to say that I seek a theory or a formula that proves otherwise, but more accurately to find the boundaries that become creative limitations that would work for myself, whether in the form of routines or consciously sought stimuli. I also acknowledge the degree of intuition present in the translational process, here only insofar as a form of translator subjectivity — a subconscious realm where experiences and history tangle and colour the way we read and write.

The freedom to explore brought clarity to the parallels between the creative and literary translation. Imagination is where the two meet, tapping on the ‘power or capacity to form internal images or ideas of objects and situations not actually present to the senses, including remembered objects and situations, and those constructed by mentally combining or projecting images of previously experienced qualities, objects, and situations’. In the case of the latter, it would be a translation from a language to another. And yet my project, as a clear experiment of/in process, is not a presentation of translations in their fully-formed state. Instead, the experiment has been one of value in its documentation the process as a metaphorical composition — a musical one that collects the reverberations of the text in me, amplifies the strains that resonance, and arrange a new melody with new linguistic instruments and the internal rhythms of both text and my own musical background. It adjourns here in the form of a palimptext, but the reading of the text and the translatory process still continues.

[1] Oxford English Dictionary [online]. < >, [accessed 17 May 2017]

[2] Oxford English Dictionary [online]. < >, [accessed 17 May 2017]

[3] Oxford English Dictionary [online]. < >, [accessed 17 May 2017]

[4] Clark, Timothy, The Theory of Inspiration (UK: Manchester University Press, 1997), p. 1

[5] Nikolaou, Paschalis, ‘Notes On Translating The Self’, in Translation and Creativity, ed. by Loffredo, Eugenia and Perteghella, Manuela (London: Continuum, 2006), p. 19

[6] Loffredo, Eugenia and Perteghella, Manuela, ‘Introduction’, in Translation and Creativity, ed. by Loffredo, Eugenia and Perteghella, Manuela (London: Continuum, 2006), p. 1

[7] Clark, Timothy, The Theory of Inspiration (UK: Manchester University Press, 1997), pp. 2-3

Xiangyun Lim has a particular interest in translating contemporary works from the Chinese diaspora. Having grown up in Singapore, Xiang has lived in Seattle, Barcelona, Taiwan and United Kingdom and finds belonging in the intersection of cultures and languages. She is one of the recipients of the Singapore Apprenticeship in Literary Translation (SALT).

She can be found at


Guest Post: the kafka variations by Colin Campbell Robinson

These variations are based on the writings and life of Franz Kafka and in particular the Blue Octavio Notebooks.

The Blue Notebooks composed by Max Richter featuring Tilda Swinton also provided inspiration.

The process of composing variations involves reading the original text in a public place, a bar or a cafe or on a train etc. whilst making notes of the everyday events occurring in that place. These are mixed with reflections and questions inspired by the reading. These notes are collected and then typed for editing and arranging purposes. Photographs are then added but not as illustrations. They are stills from an unmade film that refers to the text yet the narrative remains uncertain.

The kafka variation are one of six short of variations produced by this method. The others are Wittgenstein, Blanchot, Dogen, Guy Debord and the ghost variations featuring a number of literary figures as well as members of my family.

the kafka variations

part 3

I am an end or a beginning.




Dread of night the dread of not night.


He fights an independent battle. Everyone is fighting amidst betrayal, sniping, stragglers, cavalry and the rest.

Therefore, who is independent in this fracas?

He believes he is fighting alone. For once he is independent, however, he doesn’t realise there are others fighting with him for they are hidden.  Not by necessity, but by chance.


Stumble along the way a little above the ground. Not a high wire trick for mountebanks.


He reports seeing people swarming like ants within a trench. It has been built in the main plaza for educational purposes. No one emerges any wiser.


To envelop –  enclose




cloak and wrap


On his desk is an envelope in which he keeps fragments. The aim, as always, is to collect until he has collected himself.

Another method he considers involves knife fighting and stone throwing but these are activities beyond his pale gift. How will he ever dream and touch totality at this rate? From sheer exhaustion after painting a corner, he explains.


Pulled out of the swamp by your own pig-tale; an ignoble fate or redemption?

Answers to be submitted in a plain brown envelope.


Angels don’t fly, according to the good doctor, because there is no gravity in the spiritual world.

This is beyond our conception, yet, we can know our surroundings. In fact we can know them better than ourselves as the inner world can only be experienced, not described.


Beyond knowing in all this distance, distance.


Quieter and fewer are those who speak whereas those who scream are legion.

Can this world be quiet and true?

Only when lying in a ditch on the side of the road, trembling.


The truth will out, he says, to no one in particular.


Idleness is the beginning of all vice, the crown of all virtues.


Not a thought, anywhere.


Everyday confusion: for example, the train, the time.

To reach B from A and for A to reach B, no matter how many times A calculates the hour needed to traverse what is, or what appears to be a relatively short distance [1], A’s projections never match B’s assumptions.

Of course they fell out over this little misunderstanding  (of no importance) and haven’t spoken since.


He has misunderstood the men with the wide eyes and round lips; the men with the dark hair and flashing teeth?

He who betrays you is the one who professed love.

No sympathy for those he misunderstood as they may mislead him still.

The good march in step. The others dance around them unaware, the dancers of time.


Sometimes it is better to break in rather than break out of the prison. Once inside you become one of us.

[1] ‘Relatively short distance’ refer to A. Einstein and space/time continuum et al, ibid, etc

© (Colin Campbell Robinson) 2017

Colin Campbell Robinson is an Australian writer and photographer currently living and working in the Celtic extremity of the Isle of Bute. Recently his work has appeared in Otoliths, BlazeVox 15, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Futures Trading, E-ratio, and Molly Bloom 11 among others. Knives Forks and Spoons Press will be publishing his collection Blue Solitude – a self-portrait in six scenarios in October 2017.

Colin also collaborates with the Move in Picture project where he has published Ryokan: The Artist Book.

Talking Transformations


For this new project, Manuela Perteghella is collaborating with Ricarda Vidal.

We have devised Talking Transformations as a platform to examine what ‘home’ means to us at a time when notions of ‘home’ in Europe are becoming more fluid, being challenged and reshaped by unprecedented migration. Ideas and constructions of home are intricately connected to language: the mother tongue, the foreign language and, between them, translation.

Our project employs poetry and art translation to examine notions of ‘home’ in relation to migration. We look at the impact of migration on notions of home by commissioning and sending poetry about aspects of one’s own ‘home’ into a linguistic and artistic ‘migration’, where poems are translated into different languages and into film art.

Motivated by Brexit, our first project focuses on the UK and the countries most important to EU migration into and from the UK: respectively Romania & Poland and France & Spain. British poetry will be sent through linguistic and literary translation via France to Spain before returning home; in parallel, an original Polish poem will travel through translation from Poland via Romania to the UK before returning to Poland. The poems will also be translated into film art en route.

The original poems will be commissioned on the basis of public workshops held with local communities in Britain and Poland. The resulting poetry and films will be exhibited physically (in festivals, public workshops) and on our website in 2018:

Translation and other modes

Our exhibition of art, poetry and translation objects transARTation! has physically finished. The feedback from our artists, partners and visitors has been wonderful. In particular our visitors felt inspired to be creative and make their own art-translation! We are going to create a virtual exhibition on our website, so that for the next two years we can still offer an experience of this artistic activity. More to come soon. Beautifully designed catalogues are also available from our shop.


Encyclopedia by Charles Sandison

Now,  here’s another exciting, thought-provoking event complimenting and enhancing the conversations around translation and other modes of expression. A one day event dedicated to the exploration of the relationship between translation and multimodality at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge:

Translation and Multimodality

Date: 26 May 2017,

Time: 11:00 – 16:00

Location: Seminar Room SG1, Alison Richard Building,  Cambridge, UK.

With this event the organizers intend to take a bolder interdisciplinary stance and to engage with recent research that explores intersemiotic translation in its most innovative forms.

Please read here for a programme  and further details.


TransARTation! more events

 6 May 2017  2-4pm The Shoe Factory Social Club, Norwich, UK

Translation as Collaboration: hidden messages and unsolvable jigsaws –  by Dr Anna Milsom (University of Leicester).


Anna Milsom discusses translating Poema Invertido, Verónica Gerber Bicecci’s response to Poema Plástico by Mathias Goeritz. 

Verónica Gerber Bicecci’s Poema invertido begins with a question: could Mathias Goeritz have left a message in his Poema plástico that no-one has noticed? Goeritz once described the piece as “a lament set into the most luminous wall at the Museo Experimental el Eco”, the art museum in Mexico City he conceived as a sculptural manifestation of what he called “emotional architecture”. Becoming obsessed with the idea of trying to decipher the unknown language that Goeritz invented, Gerber Bicecci asked a number of different people to help her interpret his poem. From the four responses received, she extracted words and ideas that ultimately became “the pieces of an unsolvable jigsaw puzzle” in her own Poema. For TransARTation!Poema invertido has entered a new phase: drawing on notions of ‘thick translation’ whereby a text is located within a web of other texts and translation is seen as a positive form of rewriting rather than in terms of loss, literary translator Anna Milsom offers English versions, handwritten into the original document. The Spanish and English texts co-exist alongside one another in Inverted (&Translated) Poem, taking one more step in the chain of responses that started with Mathias Goeritz’s visual poem embedded in a museum wall.  This event is free, but do let us know if you are planning to come. ​

6 May 2017  6 pm The Shoe Factory Social Club, Norwich, UK

Artist Simon Starling’s in conversation with Anna Milsom 

Come and listen over a glass of wine to former Turner  Prize Winner Simon Starling on the importance of translation in artistic practice and the visibility of the artist.

20170413_153815This event is free, but you need to register here: 

Attendees to the talk can also see Simon Starling’s installation, a new “talk work” shown in a cinema-like cubicle, which has been devised specifically for TransARTation!  A Talk takes as its starting point an image of the Scottish actor Stephen Clyde standing at an improvised lecture podium while playing the role of the artist at the Glasgow debut of Starling’s 2016 play about the mistranslation and reinvention of Japanese Noh theatre in avant-garde Europe during World War I, At Twilight: A play for two actors, three musicians, one dancer, eight masks (and a donkey costume). Once again voiced by Clyde and drawing on a number of lectures made by Simon over the past few years, this richly illustrated presentation investigates both the role of the artist’s talk in Simon’s practice and his continued interest in the relationship between translations, transformations and transpositions.

For information on the exhibition and associated events please click here
For directions to The Shoe Factory Social Club click here