Archive for February 2011

Bridge Series Launches in NYC

Given the proliferation and diversity of literary offerings in the Big Apple, you’d think it would go without saying that NYC would be home to an excellent series devoted to the art of literary translation, but, strange to say, there hasn’t been one. Fortunately, just such a series is launching next week, and if the opening line-up is any indication, it’s going to bring us some stellar programming. The Bridge Series, curated by Bill Martin and Sal Robinson, will kick off with an Edith Grossman and Steve Dolph double-header at McNally Jackson Books (Wednesday, March 2, 7:00 p.m.). According to the series website, The Bridge “aims to promote public awareness of the art of translation by serving as a regular venue for readings, by both well-established and emerging translators and authors, and discussions on a range of issues related to the art and practice of translation.” When I asked Robinson to tell me more about the organizers’ plans for the series, she said they wanted to “give translators, editors, and readers a regular venue to hear and discuss translations, something that wasn’t tied to a particular book or promotion.” “The focus,” she added, will be “on the translator and the craft of translation.” I was happy to see their bridge logo, which looks a lot like the picture of the “arcades” I drew on the whiteboard yesterday while discussing the key image from Walter Benjamin’s “The Task of the Translator” with members of my graduate translation workshop at Columbia University.
To stay apprised of future Bridge events, “like” them on Facebook or join their mailing list by e-mailing the word “subscribe” to:

Big Fellowships to Attend ALTA

Every year the American Literary Translators Association helps several (four to six) beginning translators attend the national conference by providing travel fellowships. This year’s awards will be $1000 each, which should amply cover the cost of attending. ALTA is the main professional organization for literary translators in this country, and attending the conference is a great way to learn about getting established as a translator and network with potential mentors. I wrote about ALTA recently – the organization was a huge help to me when I was starting out as a translator and is still an important part of my professional life.

Here’s the formal announcement of the award:

2011 ALTA Travel Fellowship Awards

The American Literary Translators Association is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the 2011 ALTA Travel Fellowship Awards. Each year, four to six fellowships in the amount of $1,000 are awarded to beginning (unpublished or minimally published) translators to help them pay for travel expenses to the annual ALTA conference. This year’s conference will be held November 16–19 in Kansas City, Missouri.

At the conference, ALTA Fellows will give readings of their translated work at a keynote event, thus providing them with an opportunity to present their translations to a large audience of other translators, as well as to publishers and authors from around the world. ALTA Fellows will also have the opportunity to meet experienced translators and to find mentors.

If you would like to apply for a 2011 ALTA Travel Fellowship, please e-mail if possible a cover letter explaining your interest in attending the conference; your CV; and no more than ten double-spaced pages of translated text (prose or poetry) accompanied by the original text to

If you have difficulties with e-mail, please mail the above documents to:

2011 ALTA Travel Fellowship Awards
c/o The University of Texas at Dallas
School of Arts & Humanities, JO51
800 West Campbell Road
Richardson, TX 75080-3021

Applications must be received by May 15, 2011 in order to be considered for this year’s fellowships. Winners will be notified at the end of August. Please keep in mind that you may not apply more than 2 times consecutively or more than 3 times total.

We look forward to receiving and reviewing your translations, and we hope to see you at this year’s conference. For more information, please visit ALTA’s website ( or contact Maria Rosa Suarez (, 972-883-2093).


Barbara Harshav,
President, ALTA

Featured on NPR!

Apropos of the QUILL event in Queens last Thursday, WNYC reporter Janaya Williams interviewed my Queens College colleague Roger Sedarat and me about the importance of literary translation and what can be done to encourage younger generations of translators. The four-minute segment aired during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on Monday Feb. 21. Since WNYC’s link to the segment will expire at the end of today, I have posted the interview as an mp3 for your listening pleasure, but note that because of a pesky bug in Apple’s Safari web browser, the link may not work in Safari unless you manually drag the timeline slider to the end of the segment before hitting the play button. Strange but true. Or else just listen in Firefox.

Announcing the QUILL Translation Award

At the packed QUILL/QAX reading/mixer this week, the Queens Council on the Arts announced a new translation prize: the QUILL Translation Award. The award will be given annually for a work-in-progress (a full-length book of poems or novella-length work of fiction), translated from any language into English, to be completed within one year of receipt of the award. Eligible applicants must live in the borough of Queens, must be 18 or older, and may not currently be enrolled in a degree-granting program. Preference will be given to works that have not previously been translated, though retranslations are eligible – the application should include an explanation of why a new translation is needed.) The winner will receive $500 to support the completion of the translated work, and the Queens Council on the Arts will provide assistance in locating an appropriate publisher. The QUILL Translation Award is funded by the New York State Council on the Arts.
Application forms and instructions will be posted on the QCA website by Feb. 28, 2011. I’ll post a direct link here as well. The deadline for submissions is April 18, 2011. The award will be presented at a celebratory reading featuring the winning translation on June 18, 2011.
WNYC sent a reporter to the QCA reading, and is scheduled to run a feature on translation in Queens this coming Monday, Feb. 21 during Morning Edition and/or All Things Considered. Tune in at 93.9 FM, AM 820 or online.

P.S. The direct link with application instructions is now online, as is the story WNYC aired about the event and prize.

Queens in Love with Literature (QUILL)

That would be Queens, the borough of New York City. On last year’s census forms the residents of Queens reported speaking 138 different languages, and experts say the number of languages spoken there is actually much higher. Apropos of this statistic, Queens in Love with Literature (QUILL, a literary initiative of the Queens Council on the Arts) will be concentrating this year on literature written in languages other than English and on the art of translation. QUILL was founded to create a greater sense of literary community among writers and translators based in Queens, and to this end, QUILL will be hosting a series of readings/mixers and other events all year, as well as (drum roll) offering a new translation prize, the QUILL Translation Award. Details of the award will be made public tomorrow at the first event in the series: Love Queens Style, a Poetry Fair & Mixer, co-hosted in Long Island City by QUILL and Queens Art Express (QAX). The event will feature Queens Poet Laureate Paolo Javier as MC, along with love-themed readings by Richard Jeffrey Newman, Roger Sedarat and myself. There’ll be raffle prizes, too, including a signed copy of my translation of Jenny Erpenbeck’s BTBA-nominated novel Visitation. To check it out, come to Bread Box Cafe, located near the first Queens stops on either the 7 or E trains. The address: 47-11-11th St., Long Island City, Queens. The time: 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
I’ll be reading both from Visitation and from my novel-in-progress The Year We Drowned.
Queens in Love with Literature (QUILL) is funded by the New York State Council on the Arts.
Hope to see you there!

Queens College MFA Deadline Now March 1

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that I have close ties to the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College of the City University of New York. I taught there this past fall and am hoping to return in the 2011-2012 academic year. One of the things that make this program so special is the fact that the translation MFA is seamlessly incorporated into the creative writing program. Only two MFA programs in the entire country are structured in this way, the other being at the University of Arkansas. You can read about my adventures at Queens in the two guest blog reports I wrote for Words Without Borders last September and December. I’m away from Queens this spring, teaching instead in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, but I just heard from my Queens colleagues that they have been receiving so many queries from students who learned about the program at the AWP conference last week that they have decided to extend the deadline for applications until March 1, 2011 (even though the MFA website still lists the Feb. 15 deadline). If you find yourself in the market for a good MFA program in literary translation, check it out!

Festival Neue Literatur This Weekend!

I am delighted to announce that the Festival Neue Literatur launched last night with an industry-only reception introducing our just-off-the-plane Austrian, Swiss and German writers, who were selected because my co-curator Paul North and I decided that they represent the most exciting work being produced by younger German-language writers at the moment. These writers, it turns out, are a convivial bunch. If you live in the New Haven or Greater New York areas, you will be able to see them present their work live over the next three days, reading English translations and chatting with moderators, and then standing around at wine receptions chatting with you.
So who are these writers?
•Swiss author Dorothee Elmiger, the youngest of the bunch at 25, was just honored with the Kelag Prize at the Ingeborg Bachmann competition in Klagenfurt, Austria (this is a very big deal in German-language literary circles). Her debut novel, Invitation to the Bold of Heart, is the story of two sisters scoping out a post-apocalyptic landscape and trying to learn something about the history of their village that was destroyed by subterranean fires that continue to burn.
Peter Weber is one of the most important voices in Swiss literature. We’re featuring his fourth novel, The Years without Melody, which is both a travel story (his protagonist hits the road after the death of his father) and a beautifully written declaration of love to the electronic music of the 1990s. Gorgeous descriptions of everything, and one of the chapters is entitled “Electrosaurus Rex.”
Andrea Winkler of Austria has written four books to date as well, and the one we’ve selected for the festival, Hanna and I, is a lyrical meditation on storytelling with characters and themes drifting in and out of this elegant portrait of a lady.
Andrea Grill, also of Austria, has written the funniest book on our list, The Beautiful and the Necessary (her third novel), about two down-on-their-luck Austrian dudes who hit on the brilliant idea of making their fortune by kidnapping a civet cat from the zoo – because coffee beans that have traveled through the digestive tracts of civet cats produce the most expensive coffee in the world. Smart, hilarious writing, at times mildly surrealistic. The author also happens to be a biologist and wrote her dissertation on butterflies.
•German writer Julia Schoch, a past holder of the Kelag Prize (back when it was called the Jury Prize of the Ingeborg Bachmann competition, in 2005), will be presenting her fourth book, With the Speed of Summer, the haunting story of a sister trying to reconstruct the last months in the life of her sister (dead by suicide in the book’s first sentence), an attempt that brings her back to the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the GDR in 1989.
Antje Rávic Strubel’s book also has to do with GDR history – she loosely based her novel Tupolew 134 (one of her seven books to date) on a real-life incident from 1977 in which two East Germans haphazardly, almost accidentally wind up hijacking a Polish airplane in Gdansk, forcing it to land in West Berlin. Strubel, holder of the Ernst Willner Prize from the Ingeborg Bachmann competition, writes a sharp, clear, beautifully perceived style that reminds me of Uwe Johnson, one of my favorite German authors of all time.
These six wonderful writers will be joined by the inimitable Rivka Galchen and the wise and brilliant Francine Prose on panels all weekend. Please come check out their work! They will be on the Yale University campus all day Friday, as well as at PowerHouse Arena in DUMBO Saturday night and Idlewild Books in Manhattan Sunday night. For a full schedule and biographical information, along with links to English-language samples from each of their books, see the festival website. All events are free.
The Festival Neue Literatur is a co-production of the Austrian Cultural Forum, the Swiss Consulate and Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, the Goethe Institut, the German Book Office, the German Consulate and Deutsches Haus at NYU. In short, a class operation, and I am proud to be associated with it.


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