The mismatch between quality and recognition in the world of translated fiction and nonfiction is surely more extreme than in any category of literature, and while this category has a growing number of great advocates, it deserves to have them at the highest level.
Posts Tagged: translation
It starts with zero. No matter how many times we begin, everything begins again....more
Shakespeare is invading China. The first complete Chinese translation of the works of Shakespeare wasn’t released until 1967, but Britain’s number one dramatist is now starting to catch the attention of Chinese audiences, reports Melville House’s Moby Lives, saying Shakespeare is “having a cultural moment.”...more
Although A Sentimental Novel, the final work from Alain Robbe-Grillet, was published in French in 2008, the English translation didn’t follow for almost another four years. Partially, this was due to the book’s content: a lengthy series of Robbe-Grillet’s sadistic fantasies....more
Forty-one years after his death, JRR Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf has been published by his son Christopher. Tolkien translated Beowulf early in his career, yet never published it. In the New Yorker, Joan Acocella speculates on the reason:
Another possible explanation for Tolkien’s putting “Beowulf” aside—a theory that has been advanced in the case of many unpublished manuscripts—is that the work was so important to him that if he finished it his life, or the life of his mind, would be over.
The first of three parts of a Chinese translation of Finnegans Wake consumed eight years of translator Dai Congrong’s life. The almost unreadable book proves even more difficult to translate because of the many puns and layered meanings, explains MobyLives:
The novel has been deemed “untranslatable” and the translations that are successful tend to be consuming: the Polish version took ten years to finish, the French version thirty years, and the Japanese version took three separate translators after the first disappeared and the second went mad.
Writing over at Brooklyn Quarterly, Will Evans discusses why he founded a publishing house dedicated to translation:
In addition to being a philosophical problem, literary translation is also a contentious business matter. There are thousands of good to all-time-great books published in the world every year in every language imaginable, but only a couple hundred of those ever get published in English, and that’s in a good year.
Polish language speakers are getting a new translation of The Great Gatsby, but a modern translation raises all sorts of linguistic issues. The primary difference, of course, is that the original translator wrote under the iron curtain and without the aid of Google:
It was, therefore, more difficult for her to track down various details, such as those concerning well-known financiers or popular culture starlets of the 1920s.
Once upon a time, folktales contained sex and violence. But as the stories were collected by cultural anthropologists, they were gradually stripped of this adult content in order to make them suitable for children. Moreover, these neutered children’s stories often make no mention of their translator, or even that they’ve been translated, writes M....more
In our interview with Molly Antopol, when discussing readership of Israeli literature in the United States, Antopol says, “I have all these smart friends who love books and love international fiction, and whenever we talk about Israeli literature, it’s Etgar Keret, Amos Oz, and David Grossman—I feel like it’s those three....more
Responsible for introducing American readers to One Hundred Years of Solitude and a large portion of the Latin American literary canon, award-winning translator Gregory Rabassa discusses the state of translation today and much more....more
Amid the flood of J. D. Salinger articles related to the upcoming biography and documentary about him, this New Yorker essay by Reed Johnson stands out.
It has nothing to do with the biography, actually. It’s about Russian translations of The Catcher in the Rye (or Over the Abyss in Rye as the most popular one is titled) and raises all sorts of interesting questions about how to convey American ideas about iconoclasm and conformity—not to mention slang—to Russian readers....more
The digital literary press Ox and Pigeon was created in 2010 by three friends who, on vacation in Peru, recognized the need for high-quality English translations of all the brilliant yet inaccessible foreign authors we don’t realize we’re missing.
Their current project, The Portable Museum, is a collection of stories originally written in Spanish by European and Latin American authors, released twice a year....more
Puerto Rican writer, journalist, editor, and queer activist Luis Negrón talks about his first collection to appear in English, working with translator Suzanne Jill Levine, and writing about people who live on the margins of the margins....more
We think it’s pretty awesome that thanks to InsoSml.ru, our friends in Russia can now enjoy a slice of The Rumpus, too....more
Writer, translator, and interpreter Nataly Kelly talks about the difficulties of translating across cultures, the emotional barriers that interpreters face, and what it really means to be fluent....more
At Words Without Borders, B.J. Epstein expounds upon the culture of crime novels, its covert international influence and the diversity of fear.
She also continues the necessary conversation of why Anglophones are relentlessly intimidated by translated literature.
Why are English-language readers so interested in crime but less likely to want to read other texts?
What begins as an author’s dream of “overhearing” a discussion of his phrase-work quickly becomes something else entirely.
“Though I was impressed by AlexanderIII’s dedication, his numerous message-board queries did not inspire much confidence in his translation abilities....more
The translation of poetry requires justification. Not necessarily for conceptual reasons, but because the experience of reading translated poetry however transcendent and beautiful always feels lacking, incomplete, like living in a body missing some essential organ. Of course, this remains true of prose as well, but poetry, which depends more on the idiosyncratic musicality, imagery, and idioms of a specific language and culture, makes it near impossible to create anything even close to a “faithful” translation....more
Here’s hoping more people read the concise and precise interview about translation up on Guernica between Erica Wright and Marilyn Hacker.
When we talk about someone being a prolific translator, Marilyn Hacker — who is a fantastic poet, let’s not forget that — is the poster child: “In the past five years alone, she’s brought the work of Hedi Kaddour, Guy Goffette, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Marie Etienne,” plus (as Hacker notes), Amina Saïd and Habib Tengour....more
“Sometimes the people who lament that global English has become a ‘grey language’ forget that the greyness predominates in certain social contexts, like business communication, and they forget that while English has been running around the world displacing other languages, it has also been appropriated in all sorts of ways.”
At BOMB Magazine, Will Heyward interviews poet and translator Chris Andrews, touching on the problems of deciphering Roberto Bolaño’s literary influences, controlling the compulsion to re-translate earlier work, and the connection between Oulipo and the Argentinean literary mad scientist César Aira....more