Retreat to the castle: Translator wins Hawthornden Fellowship


Dr Kaarina Hollo

Hawthornden Castle occupies a commanding position high on a crag above the North Esk. It was the home of the poet William Drummond, who counted among his literary friends the playwright Ben Jonson, who spent a fortnight at the castle in 1619.

It is here that Dr Kaarina Hollo of the School of English will spend January 2015, in the company of five other literary translators. The castle, eight miles from Edinburgh, is owned by Drue Heinz DBE, a patron of literature and the arts. Every year her generosity allows 48 creative writers and translators to each spend a month at this 17th century castle as Hawthornden Fellows.
The aim is simple: to provide writers with an opportunity for sustained creative work, free from the usual interruptions and distractions of everyday life. The daily routine is designed to maximise the time available to read, think, and write.

The rule is that the castle is to be quiet between the hours of 9.30am and 6.30pm. After a communal breakfast, writers retire to their study-bedrooms or one of the three libraries to work. Lunch is brought to the room. The communal evening meal is at 7.30pm, after which those craving more company after a solitary day of work can retire to the drawing room for conversation.

One unusual feature of the retreat is that there is no internet available at Hawthornden Castle, although writers have been known to take the walk a few miles to the Rosslyn Chapel café for its wi-fi (and cakes). The isolation is not complete – buses from nearby Bonnyrigg to the centre of Edinburgh run frequently.

“I am immensely pleased to have been chosen for this fellowship,” says Dr Hollo. “It is a wonderful thing to look forward to, and will focus my translation work over the coming year. I have not yet decided which of several projects I will take forward for the fellowship month. It will certainly be from Irish, either modern or medieval, into English.”

Dr Hollo is a Lecturer in Irish, whose position is funded by the Irish government. She won the Stephen Spender prize in 2012 for her translation of Derry O’Sullivan’s ‘Marbhghin 1943: Glaoch ar Liombó’, and has recently submitted further translations for publication, as well as having a poem in Irish published in the most recent issue of the journal Southword.