Online Workshop for Editors of Translations

Posted on 16/11/2020
By Commonwealth Foundation

COVID-19 has created the need for much of our work to go online and this provides opportunities for engagement and outreach. Our work on literary translation and publishing infrastructure is a good example of such adaptation and change. The initial Translation Symposium in 2019 brought together 18 delegates from seven Commonwealth countries across South and Southeast Asia, to explore why so few creative works are translated ‘from’ their countries (into western or other markets such as China) and ‘between’ them (to and from regional languages).

Some of the needs highlighted at the 2019 Symposium included, on the request of the publishers present, the need for formal training opportunities to be made available to professional editors of translated texts; a special skill-set is needed to work on a translated text, and many of those skills are transferable between languages and traditions being, in a sense, universal.

With this is mind, between November 18-27, we hosted a workshop led by leading editors Bill Swainson and Minakshi Thakur. It was one of the official events during Kuala Lumpur’s tenure as UNESCO World Book Capital 2020. Nineteen editors, writers and translators from Brunei, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia participated, and were joined by three distinguished guest speakers.

The sessions led by the guest speakers will be available on our YouTube channel following the workshop. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to receive them.

Please read more about our work on translation here, and see further details below.


What I got from the workshop was invaluable, and not necessarily the thing I came looking for. I applied for a chance to learn additional skills, and I certainly did pick up useful thoughts; but what the workshop offered more particularly was a set of affirmations, reminders and a feeling of solidarity – so many of us do this work in isolation, following instincts and practice we may even have developed on our own. So, it was wonderful to hear these very thoughts discussed/echoed/deepened in discussion with others. I also felt a tremendous solidarity in meeting experienced and committed practitioners from across the region – I think that may well have been the best thing about the workshop for me. I am so glad I applied to join.     

– Sunila Galappatti, Sri Lanka



Bill Swainson (UK) is a publisher and editor with forty years’ experience in independent and mainstream publishing. He has edited a wide range of writers including Mourid Barghouti, Javier Cercas, Paul Durcan, A. C. Grayling, Dermot Healy, Rachel Holmes, Jaan Kaplinski, David Kynaston, Edward Lucas, Amin Maalouf, Laurie Penny, Jacqueline Rose, Boualem Sansal, Judith Schalansky, W.G. Sebald, Will Self, Male Sen, Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Delphine de Vigan. Until 2015 he was Senior Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury and previously worked for the Harvill Press, Fourth Estate, Allison & Busby and John Calder. He is currently Consultant Editor for Fiction and Literature at MacLehose Press, where he has his own list, and Editor-at-Large for Non-Fiction at Oneworld Publications. Bill is also a literary consultant and freelance editor and has worked with And Other Stories, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Gingko, The French Institute, British Centre for Literary Translation and Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation in Dublin.

Minakshi Thakur (India) currently works for Westland Publications as Publisher of its language imprint, EKA, which publishes original content and translations in ten Indian languages including English. Before this, she worked with HarperCollins India, where she was in charge of its imprint for translations into English, Harper Perennial, and its Hindi publishing programme, Harper Hindi. She is also a bi-lingual poet and writer. Her collection of Hindi poems, Neend Ka Akhiri Pul was shortlisted for the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar in 2012. She has been fellow to many international writer residencies. Her first novel, Lovers Like You and I, was shortlisted for the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize 2013.



Jeremy Tiang (Singapore) has translated more than twenty books from Chinese, including novels by Yeng Pway Ngon, You Jin, Yan Ge, Zhang Yueran, Chan Ho-Kei, Li Er, Lo Yi-Chin and Geling Yan. He also writes and translates plays. His novel State of Emergency won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2018. He lives in New York City and is a member of the translation collective Cedilla & Co.

Deborah Smith (UK) was born and grew up in South Yorkshire. She translates from Korean, including Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, and founded Tilted Axis to publish contemporary translations of writing from across Asia. To date, these include translations from Bengali, Tamil, Nepali, and Indonesian. She has taught and lectured internationally, and works with translation also as a mentor, curator, and critic, particularly across the UK, South Korea, and India.

Arunava Sinha (India) translates Bengali literature into English, and English and other literatures into Bengali. His 50th translation will be published in May 2019. His translations have won several awards in India, and have been shortlisted for a number of international awards. He teaches translation and journalism at Ashoka University, and is the Books Editor at