We here in the US are shitty. Also the rest of the world is shitty. Reading books in translation reminds us of this. The rest of the world is as shitty as we are, only it’s a different kind of shit, and the poets have different approaches to documenting and responding to the shit.
Posts Tagged: translation
What’s one English word to sarcastically communicate Russian cosmopolitan refinement? How would you translate a page-long sentence from Tolstoy, or “the cacophonous competing voices of Dostoevsky”?
Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear (who have been married for 33 years) have translated over 30 works from Russian to English, beloved by readers worldwide (including Oprah) and praised for communicating the idiosyncrasies and styles of the original works....more
A god does not intervene. A mortal dies. Things happen repeatedly, then suddenly they differ. That rhythm of action, which combines repetition with asymmetry, is the rhythm of Homeric narrative and of the Homeric style. And it is designed to hold you in its spell as much as the rhythm of a line: the beat of repetition tells you this must happen, then, behold a wonder, it does not.
I think of the four elder statesmen of Norwegian letters as a bit like the Beatles: Per Petterson is the solid, always dependable Ringo; Dag Solstad is John, the experimentalist, the ideas man; Karl Ove Knausgaard is Paul, the cute one; and Fosse is George, the quiet one, mystical, spiritual, probably the best craftsman of them all.
On Monday, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction was awarded to Jack Livings for The Dog, a collection set in China in the last decades of the 20th century. What makes Livings’s stories remarkable isn’t just the tight prose and impressive research (he told the Wall Street Journal that he spent a year and a half reading oral histories from glassblowers and researching Mao Zedong’s embalming process for just one story), it’s that he managed to write about a foreign culture with nuance and depth and not mess it up....more
The percentage of literature in translation put out by British and American publishing houses is pretty dismal. Hispabooks, a new publishing company in Madrid, wants to bring the richness of Spanish literature to a wider audience through English translations....more
This poetry was a poetry meant to be read loudly, breathlessly, full-throttle, full of sonic energy and internal rhyme. It felt less like a communication from a speaker to a reader and more like sheet music for a reader to perform with their own voice.
China represents a huge marketplace for any product, and book publishers have finally caught on. More than 10,000 Chinese books were available at the Book Expo America. But as publishers race to embrace the Chinese market and bring Chinese authors to the West, censorship by the world’s largest authoritarian state represents a real challenge....more
Longreads gifts us newly translated fiction from Antonio Tabucci:
He must be almost ninety, he spends his afternoons gazing out the window at New York’s skyscrapers, a Puerto Rican girl comes each morning to tidy up his apartment, she brings him a dish from Tony’s Café that he reheats in the microwave, and after he listens religiously to the old Béla Bartók records that he knows by heart, he ventures out for a short walk to the entrance of Central Park, in his armoire, in a plastic garment bag, he preserves his general’s uniform, and when he returns from the park, he opens its door and pats the uniform twice on the shoulder, like he would an old friend, then he goes to bed, he’s told me he doesn’t dream, but if he does, it’s only of the sky over the Hungarian plains, he thinks that must be the effect of the sleeping pill an American doctor prescribed.
Tú, que asímismo
en la copa de tu verbo
desbordas el líquido.
Yo, que despeño tu grito...more
Asymptote Journal takes a look at some of the concerns translators have when confronting a politically problematic text. The choice of text is of course the first decision a translator faces—but the challenges translators confront aren’t necessarily limited to pushing a political agenda or avoiding it, but also with the nuances of language itself:
For a translator, not all words are created equal.
To read Alejandro Zambra is to engage with someone who writes as though the burden of history were upon him and no one else — the history of his country of Chile, of literature, and of humanity’s shared experience. You get it from his pages, a sense that a story must be told, intimately and without reservation.
Three Percent, a resource for international literature at the University of Rochester, derives its name from the fact that about 3 percent of all the books published in the U.S. every year are translations. But the bulk of these are technical writings or reprints of literary classics; only 0.7 percent are first-time translations of fiction and poetry.
While the firemen were carrying me on a wheeled office chair out of the conference room, I found myself floating over the bodies of my dead colleagues, Bernard, Tignous, Cabu, Georges, bodies that my rescuers were stepping over or around, and suddenly, my God, they were no longer laughing.
A profile on Arthur Goldhammer, who has translated over 100 books from French to English.
As a translator, Goldhammer tries to find a pragmatic middle-ground between literalism and freestyle. The goal is to be faithful to the contents of a book but also find a style for it that works in English.
Anyone who simplifies a nation’s discourse misreads that nation. When you’re reading the texts of a recently created nation like India, which was only founded in 1947, you must know the political, historical, and linguistic backdrop, or you will miswrite what you read.
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.