Meanwhile in the World of Translation

It’s been difficult to concentrate on work these days with all the developments surrounding Occupy Wall Street and the issues connected with the NYPD’s destruction of the original encampment on Nov. 15. Now that the dust is clearing, the issues of free speech and public space are appearing in greater focus, as are the infringements of civil rights on the part of various public officials. Even the New York Times finally got around to deploring in print Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s violations of press freedoms in connection with the raid on Zuccotti Park, though they attribute them only to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (who is answerable to Bloomberg), as though Kelly had been acting independently. The press have been bullied and intimidated, and unfortunately most news organs have knuckled under and reported only the City’s official version of events. The National Lawyers Guild is working on this and related issues.

Having an encampment was important to OWS because the town square at Zuccotti Park was where protesters shared ideas and made plans, and it is also where others came to check out the movement and learn about the issues. I met a lot of out-of-town tourists wandering around down there. Now Zuccotti Park is fenced off and heavily policed, with private security guards performing illegal bag checks and refusing entry to a large number of people – including many who were regular participants in the movement from the start. All those who carry backpacks containing their possessions are denied entry to the park, and so occupiers who have been spending the night in the sleeping spaces generously provided by several local churches are now shut out of the regular planning meetings held at the park. It is also difficult for occupiers to locate the (now itinerant) stations where the Kitchen Working Group serves donated food to protesters. And so questions of logistics and bureaucracy take up energies once reserved only for the occupation’s real work of speaking truth to power. Bloomberg has been quite canny in attacking OWS’s infrastructure while pretending not to take issue with its principal tenets (ha). In fact he is fighting a war against the Occupy movement. He clearly thinks he can win via attrition warfare; I am hoping to see him proven wrong. There is a great deal of popular support for the movement, and as long as this support continues, OWS will be able to go on bringing its message to the people.

Meanwhile this has also been an eventful fall in the world of literary translation. I would like to draw your attention to three events in particular that will be taking place over the next week here in New York:

1. Tonight, the wonderful translation publishing house Archipelago Books will be hosting a party and benefit auction at Gasser Grunert Gallery, 524 West 19th Street. Archipelago has, quite incredibly, survived as a not-for-profit publisher for eight years now, during which time they have published over seventy translations from more than twenty languages. It’s a classy and simpatico operation. So why not attend their party and show some love? Food, wine and music, plus the chance to bid on an assortment of interesting donated items like rare books and art. Tix are $25 at the door, starting at 6:30 p.m. And when you’re done bidding on art, you can head up to Lincoln Center, where star composer Philip Glass will be joining Occupy Museums for a protest at 10:30 p.m. in solidarity with OWS. (In fact, I just got word in that Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed will be in attendance as well.)

2. Friday, Dec. 2: The amazing translation journal Telephone (which specializes in commissioning translations by many interesting hands of poems by a single author) will team up with the gallery EFA Project Space to host a launch event for their collaborative show: Telefone Sem Fio: Word-Things of Augusto de Campos Revisited. There will be a walk-through with artists speaking about their contributions to this unique project, and about the experience of approaching the works of Augusto de Campos. With Bibi Calderaro, Macgregor Card, Deric Carner, Brendan Fernandes, Rossana Martinez, Jennifer Schmidt, Dannielle Tegeder. EFA Project Space, 323 W. 39 St., 2nd Floor, 6:30pm.

3. Friday, Dec. 9: The Bridge Series is back, in one of its most stunning incarnations to date. Lydia Davis and Anna Moschovakis – both incredible writers as well as accomplished translators – will team up to read and speak about their translations from the French. This Bridge will be held at The Center for Fiction at the Mercantile Library. The space is sure to fill up fast, so I recommend you get there early to stake out a seat. The Center for Fiction, 17 East 47th Street (between Fifth & Madison), 6:00 p.m.

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