Thursday, December 27, 2012

From "Onegin in English: Against Nabokov"

Nine years prior to the appearance of Nabokov's Onegin, The Partisan Review [in 1955] published an essay by Nabokov, titled “The Art of Translation: Onegin in English,” which amounted to a manifesto concerning the possibilities of Onegin in translation and the translator’s self-imposed standards for his own version of the novel:
To translate an Onegin stanza does not mean to rig up fourteen lines with alternate beats and affix to them seven jingle rhymes starting with pleasure-love-leisure-dove. Granted that rhymes can be found, they should be raised to the level of Onegin’s harmonies but if the masculine ones may be made to take care of themselves, what shall we do about the feminine rhymes? When Pushkin rhymes devy (maidens) with gde vy (where are you?), the effect is evocative and euphonious, but when Byron rhymes “maidens” with “gay dens,” the result is burlesque … . [p.277]


The tone of resentment that so frequently accompanies discussion of Nabokov as translator and, more broadly, as authority on Russian literature, certainly has something to do with the reader’s reluctance to be bullied into the role of Nabokov’s imaginary oafish, middling student, to be hectored in this patronizing manner, no matter how illustrious the mentor whose covert wish is to torment. [p.288]


By declaring that this is the method he wanted applied to all poetry in translation, Nabokov, it seems to me, attempted to conceal his very special bias with regard to Onegin. What motivated Nabokov to create this translation, instead of producing the kind of graceful stanzas he embedded in The Gift and printed in The New Yorker? One wonders whether he might have been more interested in affirming the impossibility of Onegin in English than in allowing a non-Russian reader the happy illusion of intimacy with Pushkin. [p.291]

_ _

The three excerpts above are taken from the excellent article "Onegin in English: Against Nabokov" by Anna Razumnaya, as appears in Literary Imagination Volume 14 Number 3, pp. 277-291.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Burt on Milosz in translation

Rather than ask what makes Miłosz international, we can ask how to read, how to appreciate, the work in English now. We should credit Miłosz's translators and co-translators, most frequently though not only Robert Hass, whose ear and whose patience have much to do with the fact that Miłosz in English has—as most poets in translation cannot have—a recognizable, consistent, idiomatically plausible style. We say “that sounds like Miłosz” on the basis of cadence and tone, not only of meaning, as we cannot say, to a poem in present-day English, “that sounds like Akhmatova,” or “like Baudelaire.” (We can say “that sounds like Celan,” but there we are talking about a deliberately unidiomatic English derived from a deliberately unidiomatic original; and “that sounds like Brodsky in English” may not be a compliment.) Certain qualities of Miłosz’s verse—and of his poetic prose, as in Road-side Dog, too—seem to create a cadence, as well as a tone, that remains audible across a linguistic boundary.
-- from "Czesław Miłosz: Wisdom and Doubt" by Stephen Burt, in Literary Imagination Volume 14, Issue 3, pp. 261-276.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WLT Notable Translations 2012

The editors of World Literature Today have released their first-ever 75 Notable Translations list. So many of these would make an excellent gift in this season of book-giving... as would a subscription to WLT itself!

The following books are but a third of the full list; to see the rest, visit the WLT website.
  1. Zeina Abirached, A Game for Swallows, trans. Edward Gauvin
  2. Roberto Ampuero, The Neruda Case, trans. Carolina De Robertis
  3. Fabio Bartolomei, Alfa Romeo 1300 and Other Miracles, trans. Antony Shugaar
  4. Marcel Beyer, Kaltenburg, trans. Alan Bance
  5. Bones Will Crow: 15 Contemporary Burmese Poets, trans. ko ko thett, James Byrne et al.
  6. Chico Buarque, Spilt Milk, trans. Alison Entrekin
  7. Jacques Chessex, The Tyrant, trans. Martin Sokolinsky
  8. Mouloud Feraoun, Land and Bloodtrans. Patricia Geesey
  9. Santiago Gamboa, Necropolis, trans. Howard Curtis
  10. Viola Di Grado, 70% Acrylic 30% Wool, trans. Michael Reynolds
  11. Pia Juul, The Murder of Halland, trans. Martin Aitken
  12. Liu Xiaobo, June Fourth Elegies, trans. Jeffrey Yang
  13. Nicolas Mahler, Angelman, trans. Kim Thompson
  14. Diego Marani, The Last of the Vostyachs, trans. Judith Landry
  15. Fuminori Nakamura, The Thief, trans. Satoko Izumo & Stephen Coates
  16. Harri Nykänen, Nights of Awe, trans. Kristian London
  17. Kristín Ómarsdóttir, Children in Reindeer Woods, trans. Lytton Smith
  18. Octavio Paz, The Poems of Octavio Paz, trans. Eliot Weinberger et al.
  19. Adania Shibli, We Are All Equally Far from Love, trans. Paul Starkey
  20. Nichita Stănescu, Wheel with a Single Spoke and Other Poems, trans. Sean Cotter
  21. Benjamin Stein, The Canvas, trans. Brian Zumhagen
  22. Abdellah Taïa, An Arab Melancholia, trans. Frank Stock
  23. Juan Gabriel Vásquez, The Sound of Things Falling, trans. Anne McLean
  24. Richard Weihe, Sea of Ink, trans. Jamie Bulloch
  25. Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire, trans. Max Weiss

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Don Share on Montale, and "squirming through poetry"

In his Oxford lecture on Eugenio Montale's poem, "L'anguilla" ("The Eel"), Paul Muldoon explores this - and Montale's poem - wryly and thoroughly, perhaps definitively. Like everything else he does, it's a tour de force. As you'd expect, Muldoon starts off by quoting Robert Lowell's infamous introduction to Imitations and, having presented his own version, wiggles his way through a number of competing English translations of the poem (there must be at least fifty, but Muldoon takes on a selection of the most formidable of them). My guess is that most American readers read Montale's poems in either Jonathan Galassi's versions or William Arrowsmith's, though Charles Wright's have been a perennial favorite as well. Galassi's are increasingly becoming the go-to versions in this country, revised versions of which have just been reissued in paperback by his company, F.S.G.
-- Over at his Squandermania blog, Don Share reflects on his experience with Montale, on the occasion of the simultaneous reissue of the Galassi and Arrowsmith translations in comprehensive volumes. It is a rich post, highly recommended for persons interested in Montale and in tales of how translations and texts pass from author to translator, from scholar to scholar, from teacher to student.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Call for Papers and Ph.D. Abstracts

The editors of New Voices in Translation Studies are looking for article submissions and abstracts of recently completed and defended doctoral theses for publication in their May 2013 issue.
New Voices is a refereed electronic journal co-sponsored by IATIS and the Centre for Translation and Textual Studies (CTTS) at Dublin City University. The aim of the journal is to disseminate high quality, original work by new researchers in Translation and Interpreting Studies to a wide, international audience. The editors are:
  • Geraldine Brodie - CICS, University College London, UK
  • Elena Davitti - CTIS, University of Manchester, UK
  • Sue-Ann Harding - Translation and Interpreting Institute, Hamad bin Khalifa University, Doha, Qatar
  • Dorothea Martens - San Luis Potosí, México

  • Submissions of articles and/or abstracts may be sent to the editors by email to

Monday, August 20, 2012

Stetkevych on non-literary translations of Arabic

From the beginning of Jaroslav Stetkevych's Arabism and Arabic literature: A Self-View of a Profession; with thanks to Alex Foreman for spotting this excellent articulation of that central question in the translation of non-European languages:
I sincerely admire the romantic generation of Orientalists. They were possessed by the fever of discovery, by a great, soulfilling illusion, by a delightful, redeeming impatience. They were brilliant scholars, too, but their brilliance did not owe everything to professional competence. In literature they were mostly translators -- remarkable, still unsurpassed translators. I am thinking of [Friedrich] Riickert mainly, but also of [William] Jones, [Joseph Dacre] Carlyle, [Alfred] Lyall. The not-necessarily confessed aim of their work was to enrich their own national literatures: a sound, legitimate aim that was amply rewarded by the echo their work found among their contemporaries. From Goethe to Baudelaire and beyond, romantic orientalism received the most enviable homage. If I may add my own grain of praise and indebtedness to the romantics, I should confess that, if it had not been for Riickert's Hamasah translation and for some delightful poetic variations on Arabic themes by the Ukrainian poet Ivan Franko, I would most certainly not be writing this. Actually, my first, still half-adolescent ambition had once been to become a translator of Arabic literature into my native Ukrainian.
After the innocent romantics there came the Orientalists as cultural historians, swept on the last, ebbing waves of German idealism. They did much good and they possessed an enviable certainty about their purpose and intellectual mission: they were integrating the Orient into universal culture -- if only by means of the western catalyst.
Now it is our turn and we are not so sure of ourselves. We have lost the romantic innocence, and our own national literatures do not seem to want us any more. Neither are we idealists, having become skeptical about universal culture. What seems to be left to us is knowledge for knowledge's sake. If I were a mathematician I would be perfectly happy with such a solution. But be< ing a student of literature I hesitate. Of course, there is something to be said for "art for art's sake," but "scholarly work on art for scholarly work on art's sake" is, besides being a tongue-twister, utterly absurd. Enjoyment of art for enjoyment's sake would be a different story, were it not such a private matter and such a public luxury.
In view of this perplexity we should quite earnestly ask ourselves some of the fundamental questions again: Do we still believe that by conveying our experiences with Arabic literature to our own readers we shall be making a contribution to the creative literary processes that are going on in our native literatures? Can we in any way stimulate a nascent poet in the English language, for example, to find some creative affinity with Imru' al-Qays or al-Mutanabbi? And if we feel that this is possible, what approach shall we adopt?
Will translations, simply more translations, be enough? I cannot help but have the uneasy impression that no matter how large an amount of translations from Arabic literature we produce as we are used to produce them, our problem of purpose and self-justification will not be solved. To begin with, our translations are of the scholarly kind. Who needs scholarly translations? Other scholars, maybe. But should they need them? Do Hispanists or Germanists need such translations in their fields? Of course, our students of Arabic can profit from translations of Arabic verse, but this would constitute a limited purpose, entering in the realm of textbooks. Otherwise, translations should either be made with a more ambitious literary aim in mind or else they should not even be mentioned in a discussion of literary problems.
Emphasis added. See also Prof. Stetkeych's brief but illuminating survey of sources of pre-Islamic Arabia, and the relationship between the mythic tales of that culture with other regional literatures, among them Gilgamesh and Homer -- Muhammad and the Golden Bough: Reconstructing Arabian Myth

Friday, August 10, 2012

Nida Symposium: Translation, History, Methodology

Nida Research Symposium: 

The Intersection Among Translation, History, Methodology

Call for participants. Friday, September 14, 2012, 10am - 4 pm, at The College Board, 45 Columbus Circle (at 61st Street), New York City.

The intersection between translation, history, and methodology is a complex and seldom-explored space in the humanities and social sciences. Disciplinary boundaries partly account for this lack of exploration. But so does the failure of translation studies to gain widespread acceptance and interest in academia. This seminar brings together distinguished scholars whose work is important for the advancement of translation studies as well as for its legitimacy within academic institutions.

Anne Coldiron (Florida State University) and Lawrence Venuti (Temple) will lecture on methodology in translation history and the history of translation theory, respectively. Mary-Helen McMurran (Western Ontario) and Michael Forster (Chicago) will respond.

Fee: $75.00; Registration: Sponsored by the Nida School of Translation Studies. Please contact James Maxey for more information at

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Cities Without Voices: The Social Imperative of Translating New World Literature

Reviewed: Cities Without Palms, Tarek Eltayeb trans. Kareem James Palmer-Zed. New York: American University in Cairo, 2009. 90 pages. $18.95.


Sudan, Lebanon, Korea: the stories of these nations appear to the United States in strife on the evening news. While indisputably important, these political macro-narratives tell only part of the tale, favoring concision and a sweeping perspective over the individuated voices of particular residents. By contrast, books by creative writers native to areas of conflict function dually as art and political ambassadors. They bear the nuanced individual stories of their creators to readers in the Western world. Through a careful translation — one which brings both a linguistic and cultural sensitivity to the original text — fiction by lesser-known writers in these regions broadcasts life from the front lines. Thus, poverty, sexism, and war enter American classrooms and homes in a more insightful manner than mass media can provide, and three new books of fiction in translation provide no exception to this deft, necessary insight. Cities Without Palms, Tarek Eltayeb's novel, details a young man's voyage from Sudan to Europe; Iman Humaydan Younes's novel Wild Mulberries focuses on a girl's coming-of-age in pre-World War Two Lebanon; and Diary of a Vagabond, Song Yong's short story collection, depicts life from the Korean underbelly. All invite Western readers to immerse ourselves in lives much different from our own, though, thanks to translation's handy passport, in a language utterly familiar.

Under this umbrella of translated fiction, these three works vary in their approach to storytelling. Diary of a Vagabond, perhaps the most disparate book of the three, features a host of first-and third-person narrators from all walks of life. In contrast, Wild Mulberries and Cities Without Palms both make use of a late-adolescent, first-person confessional narrator, with Younes crafting an epistolary novel. Despite this variety of storytelling mode and perspective, a unified desire becomes clear. All three books highlight characters on the cusp, none at peace with their current situations, all striving for economic or social justice for themselves or those they love. Writing at different moments in the late twentieth century, Younes, Yong, and Eltayeb all set their works in years of political difficulty for their countries — post-Vietnam War, a time of great Korean military loss, for Yong; pre-Lebanese national independence from France for Younes; and late-1980s Sudan for Eltayeb, five years into the Second Sudanese Civil War.

First published in Arabic as Mudun bila nakhil in 1992, Cities Without Palms — Eltayeb's first novel — follows protagonist Hamza, who takes leave of his family in the poverty-stricken Wad al-Nar village to help financially support his mother and two young sisters. Abandoned by his father at a young age, Hamza feels compelled to carry the weight of responsibility for his family, though barely an adult himself: "I do not know," he states at the novel's outset, "how old I am now — there are no birth records in our village. I think that I am about nineteen or twenty" (7). Issues of documentation resurface throughout the novel, as Hamza travels through Sudan to Egypt and later to Europe as an at-times legal, at-times illegal immigrant looking for income through various jobs and menial tasks.
Wad al-Nar, once prosperous, has fallen into despair at the novel's outset, and Hamza feels acutely the entropy of its inhabitants. "The desert keeps growing," he notes, "and sorrow, not rain, is all that comes to us. Drought and disease, agony and death: we are the dying, the living dead" (2). Hunger has afflicted even the town's small children: "Bones protrude from their emaciated bodies; mangy, dust-colored skin covers their ribs and knees" (3). Hamza's two sisters Halima and Karima, four and six, suffer also from hunger and malnutrition; it is their physical state, and that of his weak, ailing mother, which drive Hamza to leave his village seeking money.

As he prepares to leave Wad al-Nar, Hamza reckons his own utility in a poignant passage: "I look at these cracks that crisscross over the earth like a cobweb, and, using my feet, try to cover them up with dirt. But what can two small feet do for an entire village?" (2) Despite his worries of failure, Hamza departs Wad al-Nar first on foot, then by van for the large Sudanese city of Omdurman. In Eltayeb's rendering of Wad-al-Nar, he evidences issues of malnutrition, desertification, and deterioration that have plagued rural African areas despite the efforts of many aid agencies like the UN, the Red Cross, and other governmental groups and NGOs.

The novel — which, at ninety pages, reads more like a novella — moves quickly through his voyage from Sudan to Egypt through Europe, then back towards Sudan. Ready for a reunion with his family, Hamza longs, as he has throughout the novel, for Wad al-Nar: "I feel," he says, "as if I am the one flying, and not the plane; I feel like a bird that has finally escaped its cage" (84) What and whom he finds at the other end, I leave to a curious reader.

The prose in Cities Without Palms moves with simple, lyrical clarity. Translator Kareem James Palmer-Zed leaves scant words — foods, towns, religious terminology — in transliterated Arabic, allowing English readers to participate occasionally in the sounds of the original language. Though at times unrelentingly tragic, moments of joy pace the text, mostly when Hamza's mind returns to memories of home. His constant longing for Wad al-Nar lends Hamza's voyage marked velocity, building momentum as his passage between countries shortens. Italy, France, and Holland pass through the text in mere pages. Perhaps Eltayeb will consider taking his reader on a longer, more expansive journey in future novels. In this story, Eltayeb's brief but laden tale of Hamza's round-trip voyage provides a singular glimpse into life in rural Sudan — hungry and desperate, sorrowful and profound.

* * *

Rachel Mennies is the reviews editor at AGNI and an alumna of Boston University. She has published criticism in Pleiades, the Mid-American Review, and ForeWord Magazine, among other publications.

This review originally appeared in Pusteblume #3, Winter 2009-10. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spectacular "square stories" from Louis Jensen

Children's book illustrator Bob Kolar's take on one of Jensen's stories (more at Kolar's site)

A can’t-miss feature in the Spring 2012 issue of Iowa Review is "Five Square Stories" by Danish author Louis Jensen, translated by Lise Kildegaard. Something like poems and something like very short short stories, these five fairy tale-esque works, typeset in neat square blocks, are merely a taste of the hundreds of square stories (firkantede historier) that Jensen has written. Each of the stories, collected in seven volumes at last count, begins with a play on "once upon a time" to mark its number (e.g., "A one hundred and thirty-second time" or "A three hundred and fourteenth time"), with Jensen’s aim being to write 1,001 in total. The tone of Jensen’s square stories ranges from macabre to whimsical, but every one of them is simple, surreal and entertaining. An example, translated by Kildegaard:


In general, we don’t think very much about Danish literature in translation; it would be difficult for most of us to name a Danish author who has been widely translated into English, other than Hans Christian Andersen. But as a quick glance at a literary journal like Passage (Issue 52 of which included an article on Jensen) can attest, there is a lot of great Danish literature out there. Hopefully, Kildegaard’s excellent translations will draw English publishers’ attention to Jensen’s square stories, and perhaps other Danish works (Jensen’s and others’) as well.


Louis Jensen, originally an architect, has been writing children’s, young adult, and adult literature since the 1980s. His books of square stories currently range from Hundrede historier (One Hundred Stories) to Hallo! flere hundrede historier (Hello! Hundreds of Stories). Lise Kildegaard, an English professor at Luther College, has translated many of Jensen's square stories and will hopefully be translating many more.


Friday, June 15, 2012

New South Africa & Argentinian theater in translation

Proyecto 34ºS’s Theatre in Translation/Teatro en Traducción project, an artistic exchange between African and Latin American theatre, has recently released its first book: Theatre in Translation Vol 1, collecting five plays from South Africa and five from Argentina. The plays selected for the anthology – along with others not in the collection – can be downloaded for free from Proyecto 34ºS’s website in both English and Spanish. The book, according to the Argentina Independent, is available upon request.

South African literature blog Books LIVE, reporting on the book’s release, describes the process involved in translating the plays as challenging but rewarding:
At one point we thought about how to translate the name of a town that had a lot of meaning in Afrikaans, but that might lose its subtlety and humour when translated to Spanish for example,” [Proyecto 34ºS founder and director Nikki] Froneman told Books LIVE. “We had many discussions like that, where we were very careful to try not to lose the nuances of each language. With some plays we were translating from the Afrikaans, to English. And then from English to Spanish. It was quite a task, but we made it through and are so happy with the results.
We imagine readers of the plays are likely to be happy with the results, as well. - KA

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Coetzee on tender passions, Corngold's Werther

In his introduction [to his new translation of The Sorrows of Young Werther] Stanley Corngold spells out some of the procedures he follows. He does each page "cold," then checks it against extant translations (he lists the seven he has principally used). He follows Goethe's German closely, even at the risk of sometimes sounding foreign. He takes pains not to use words that were not part of the English language by 1787. [...] Corngold's scholarly concern about anachronism raises a wider issue: With works from the past, how should the language of the translation relate to the language of the original? Should a twenty-first-century translation into English of a novel from the 1770s read like a twenty-first-century English novel or like an English novel from the era of the original? [...]

I cite one telling instance. In his very first letter Werther mentions a former woman friend, and asks rhetorically: "Was it my fault . . . passion formed in her poor heart?" (Corngold's translation). [Daniel] Malthus [in his version of 1779] renders these words as: "Am I to be blamed for the tenderness which took possession of her heart . . .?"

We are in the sphere of the tender passions, and the word at issue is eine Leidenschaft. Leidenschaft is, in every sense of the word, "passion"; but what is "passion"? Why does Malthus mute "passion" to "tenderness" [...] where we, observing the tender passions at work, see passion predominating, an educated Englishman of the 1770s saw tenderness. A translation of Werther that is true to our twenty-first-century understanding of Goethe, yet in which readers from the 1770s would have felt at home, is an unattainable ideal.

[Nonetheless!] Corngold's new translation is of the very highest quality, punctiliously faithful to Goethe's German and sensitive to gradations of style in this extraordinary, trail-blazing first novel. 
-- J. M. Coetzee in The New York Review of Books (V.LIX, No.7, p.21), reviewing The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, translated from the German by Stanley Corngold (Norton, 2011).

The afterlife of translational error

In the translation of political communications, the bungling of a single idiom can upset state relations, disrupt negotiations, or risk international… incident. In 2005,  news agencies reported that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at a “World Without Zionism” conference, claimed that the nation of Israel should be “wiped off the map” – in fact, on closer scrutiny, this seemed to be an example of inaccurate translation. (See this 2006 article in The Guardian, in which Jonathan Steele succinctly explains the facts and interpretations involved: “So there we have it. Starting with Juan Cole, and going via the New York Times' experts through MEMRI to the BBC's monitors, the consensus is that Ahmadinejad did not talk about any maps. He was, as I insisted in my original piece, offering a vague wish for the future.” See also this WashPo fact-checker analysis.)

The matter of the map-wiping misunderstanding would simply be a cautionary tale, if at the time it hadn’t led to hostile rhetoric on all sides of Iran-Israel (-US) relations… and if it didn’t continue to make the rounds as an unquestioned piece of historical evidence, proving that Iran’s intentions have always been bellicose. Most recently:
  • April 25, 2012: Carlo Strenger in the Huffington Post: "Iran's clerical regime makes sure to promise every other week that Israel will be wiped off the map"
  • May 16, 2012: Myron Kaplan, in a piece concerning disinformation and "C-SPAN's Israel/Jewish Problem": “For example, on Oct. 26, 2005… [Ahmadinejad] vowed that ‘Israel must be wiped off the map’” (published on the website of  CAMERA: the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)
  • May 17, 2012: A wire piece from AFP, hosted on Google News: “Ahmadinejad has repeatedly stated in recent years that Israel will one day be ‘wiped off the map’ and cast doubt on the magnitude or actual occurrence of the Holocaust.”  
Even when a journalist acknowledges that “Iran’s leaders have sometimes been quoted inaccurately or out of context,” it is hard to know to what extent this translational error has poisoned the well – as when the just-quoted author, Shmuel Rosner writing in the NYTimes Latitude blog earlier this month, goes on to note: “[T]hey’ve had plenty of opportunities to set the record straight and haven’t seemed to want to.”


In most literary acts of translation, the stakes of a wonky rendering are aesthetic. As in, for example, this discussion in The New Yorker of L'Etranger; should the first sentence "Aujourd'hui, maman est morte" be brought into English as "Today, Maman died", or, "Momma died today"? It matters, a bit, beyond the simple matter of the meaning, because we are to understand something about cultural and colonial tensions in Algeria at that historical moment, given  the characterization of the protagonist as more or less estranged from feeling. There is, however, a significant difference between "politics of translation" and "the translation of politics", to the end that you don’t often see a book reviewer arguing on the grounds of a translation of Camus that war between (e.g.) France and America is inevitable.

When the words being translated are uttered by the heads of state, the potential outcomes of an error can be frightening. And the possibilities are especially fraught when, an error in translation being noted and corrected, the original mistranslation continues to circulate in the culture, where it continues to insinuate all the wrong things to people who are looking for translated evidence to corroborate their prejudices and pet fears.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Groundbreaking Spanish translations from Salt

Salt Publishing’s recent blog post draws our attention to its many recently published, never-before-translated poetry collections from Latin America, titles which encompass an eclectic crew of late twentieth-century poets:
  • Blue Coyote with Guitar, Juan Bañuelos (Mexican); trans. Katherine M. Hedeen & Víctor Rodríguez Núñez. “ ... creates an alternative poetics that rejects individualism, defies nationalism, and opts for the alterity of the most marginalized social subjects in modern Mexico, the Indigenous population, whose cultures increasingly determine this poetry’s vision of the world.”
  • Journal with No Subject, Juan Calzadilla (Venezuelan); trans. Katherine M. Hedeen & Víctor Rodríguez Núñez. “This poetry denounces the dehumanization of modernity, appropriates surrealistic language, questions identity and poetry itself, and dissolves the coherent, autonomous subject. Uniting political and aesthetic radicalism, Calzadilla ultimately reestablishes faith in poetry.”
  • Friday in Jerusalem and Other Poems, Marco Antonio Campos (Mexican); trans. not listed. “[I]n Campos’s poems ... morality is given priority over politics, feeling over reason, plain style over experimentation. In his case, a displacement from time history and biography toward space city and home is carried out, and poetry becomes chronicle.”
  • Reasons for Writing Poetry, Eduardo Chirinos (Peruvian); trans. G.J. Racz. “Chirinos’s poetry is marked by a wry tone and simple lyric eloquence. Accessible, ironic, and always entertaining, the poems in Reasons for Writing Poetry treat time and again Chirinos’s favourite subjects and themes: the return to childhood, the vagaries of memory, the alternative reality of dream, a fascination with animals, the utility of seeing and hearing, the writer’s place in poetic tradition, and the never-ending search for originality through innovative expression.”
  • The Poems of Sidney West, Juan Gelman (Argentinean); trans. Katherine M. Hedeen & Víctor Rodríguez Núñez. Presented in both Spanish and English. “This translation offers to English readers for the first time the splendid verse of imaginary American author Sidney West, created by Juan Gelman, one of the greatest living poets of the Hispanic world. These laments question Western assumptions surrounding death, erase boundaries between poetry and narrative, privilege the magical as a vital aspect of reality and seek the transformation of the lyric persona.”
  • The Bridges, Fayad Jamís (Cuban); trans. Katherine M. Hedeen & Víctor Rodríguez Núñez. Presented in both Spanish and English. “Jamís constructs a subject excluded from modernity who, once aware of his subordinate condition, becomes an agent of decolonization. His main task is nothing less than a conquest of the power of representation.... It is the result of an appropriation, the poet’s adaptation of the European avant-garde’s achievements to his own expressive needs. ... a poetry that is decolonizing in its content and decolonized in its form, by one of the great Cuban artists of the twentieth century.” 
  • The Trees, Eugenio Montejo (Venezuelan); trans. Peter Boyle. Presented in both Spanish and English. “Covering Montejo’s work from the 1960s to 2004[,] this major selection deals with universal themes of loss, death, family and love as well as reflecting on humanity’s relationship to nature in an ever more materialistic and urbanized world. Montejo’s poetry would be of special interest to all readers of poetry as well as to those interested in understanding a Latin American perspective on modernization and globalization.” 
  • Garden of Silica, Ida Vitale (Uruguayan); trans. Katherine M. Hedeen & Víctor Rodríguez Núñez. “Her work seeks a balance between subjectivity and objectivity, privileges intellectual capacity above that of sentimentality, and requires an active reader. Placing the intellectual subject at the forefront, Vitale's poetry offers one of the most provocative representations of women's subjectivity in the Spanish language.” 
- KA

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tim Parks on fear and translation

Apropos of fear, this still shows Ingrid Bergman and Mathas Wieman in the 1954 Rossellini film, "La Paura"
At the New York Review of Books blog, novelist and translator Tim Parks reaches into the space between fear and literature.  Observing that "in the world of literature there is a predominance of people whose approach to life is structured around issues of fear and courage and who find it difficult to find a stable position in relation to those values," he notes the split between writers who are drawn to the bookish, uncelebrated work of translation:
That certain vocations attract a particular character type is evident enough. At the university where I work in Milan, we have two post-grad courses for language students, one in interpreting and one in translation. With some exceptions the difference in attitude and character between members of the two groups is evident. The students who come to translation are not looking to be out there in the fray of the conference, under the spotlights; they like the withdrawn, intellectual aspect of translation. Often their problem as they begin their careers is not so much the work itself, but the self-marketing required to find the work.
Even when a translator can overcome his or her natural (ostensible) aversion to self-promotion, they are not helped much by standard practices in publishing or book-selling which fail to spotlight, or in some cases even to acknowledge, the translator's role in bringing a book to a new language market.


Parks is Associate Professor of Literature and Translation at IULM University in Milan. Among his many translations is The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso -- a book I own, enjoy, and consider indispensable. Parks's latest novel, The Server, translates the experience of a Vipassana retreat into terms explicable to a Western skeptic (wherein, as well, 'man meets woman'.)" - ZWB

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Victor Golyshev at the BU Castle

On Tuesday, April 17, at 7:00 PM in the BU Castle, 225 Bay State Road, Boston, Victor Golyshev will deliver a lecture titled "Two Forms of Hell: The Utopias of Platonov and Orwell", as the first annual Ha Jin Visiting Lecturer.

Golyshev is one of Russia's best known English-to-Russian translators. His translations include William Faulkner's Light in August, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, Thornton Wilder's Theophilus North, George Orwell's 1984, Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms, William Styron's Set This House on Fire, and others, many of which were completed during the Cold War. He has won the Foreign Literature and Illuminator awards.

This free lecture is open to the public, and sponsored by the Boston University Creative Writing Program. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Art of Translation panel at Emerson

The Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College invites the public to attend an event titled "The Art of Translation" on Wednesday, March 21, at 6:00 p.m., featuring David Ferry, Peter Filkins, Sheila Fisher and Michael Palma, co-hosted by Maria Koundoura and Yu-jin Chang.

This event will be held in Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street, Boston (near the Boylston stop on the Green Line, or the Downtown Crossing stop on the Orange Line).

About the speakers...

DAVID FERRY is a poet and translator. His new selected poems, On This Side of the River, will be published in autumn of 2012. His books of poems and translations include Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations, Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse, and The Odes of Horace: A Translation. He is at work on a translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.

PETER FILKINS is the author of four books of poems, and translator of Ingeborg Bachmann’s collected poems, Darkness Spoken, as well as H.G. Adler’s novels The Journey and Panorama. He is a recipient of a Berlin Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin, and an Outstanding Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association. His poems and translations have appeared in numerous publications.

SHEILA FISHER is the author of Chaucer’s Poetic Alchemy: A Study of Value and Its Transformation in The Canterbury Tales, co-editor of Seeking the Woman in Late Medieval and Renaissance Writings: Essays in Feminist Contextual Criticism, and has written essays on the Gawain-poet and gender roles in medieval romance. Her latest publication is The Selected Canterbury Tales: A New Verse Translation.

MICHAEL PALMA has published two poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, A Fortune in Gold and Begin in Gladness. His twelve translations of Italian poets include prize-winning volumes of Guido Gozzano and Diego Valeri with Princeton University Press.  His fully rhymed translation of Dante’s Inferno was published by Norton in 2002 and reissued as a Norton Critical Edition in 2007.