Archive for November 2012

Fuentes’s Translators Take the Stage

Tomorrow and the day after, the Americas Society will be running programs paying tribute to the late Mexican author Carlos Fuentes, who passed away on May 15, 2012 at the age of 83. The first of these two evenings (on Thursday, Nov. 29) will feature other important Latin American writers: Antonio López Ortega (Venezuela), moderator Julio Ortega (Peru), Pedro Angel Palou (Mexico), and Jorge Volpi (Mexico). The second evening (Friday, Nov. 30) will be devoted to Fuentes’s translators. Having spent six years of his childhood in Washington, D.C. (his father was a diplomat), Fuentes was fluent in English, so translating his novels into this language must have posed particular challenges. Did he have strong opinions about what his translators made of his work? I’m sure there will be excellent stories, particularly since it will be Edith Grossman and Suzanne Jill Levine joining forces to remember this author they shared. Moderated by Alfred Mac Adam. The event will be followed by a reception. Friday, Nov. 30, 7:00 p.m. at the Americas Society, located at 680 Park Avenue at E. 68th St.

English PEN Announces 2012 Translation Awards

The PEN American Center and PEN USA (see this blog post on the relationship between them) are both part of an international network of PEN programs which also, not surprisingly, includes one based in the U.K. Like both its U.S. counterparts, English PEN gives prizes for literary works in English translation, though English PEN’s prizes are designed to provide financial support for the publishers of the selected translators rather than the translators themselves – though of course being chosen is a considerable honor, and the prize money is intended to help with the marketing and promotion of the book in question, so let’s hope all these translators have contracts including a provision for royalties so they’ll benefit directly. This year’s prizes have just been announced. According to the press release, this award “uniquely recognises translated works of fiction, non-fiction or poetry which contribute to inter-cultural understanding and promote freedom of expression.” And with no further ado, here are this year’s prize winners:

The Silence and the Roar by Nihad Sirees, translated from the Arabic by Max Weiss, Pushkin Press

Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, Granta Books

F: Hu Feng and Our Prison Years by Mei Zhi, translated from the Chinese by Gregor Benton, Verso

Horses of God by Mahi Binebine, translated from the French by Lulu Norman, Granta Books

Writing Revolution: The Voices from Tunis to Damascus ed. Leyla Al-Zubaidi, Matthew Cassel and Nemonie Craven Roderick, translated from the Arabic and French by Robin Moger, I B Tauris

The Devil’s Workshop by Jachym Topol, translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker, Portobello Books

Big congratulations to all the translators whose work was honored!

Submit to Asymptote

The online literary journal Asymptote, which started up in 2010 and specializes in works in translation, is devoted to exploring “encounters between languages and the consequences of these encounters” (I quote the journal’s website).  And in fact Asymptote has been publishing an impressive range of literary works in all genres and criticisms – definitely worth checking out. I was proud to publish a Robert Walser story in their pages last year. And now they’re inviting submissions for the upcoming issue: essays of up to 5,000 words by translators “about their fraught/felicitous working relationships with the authors they translate.” Do you have stories you are willing or possibly even eager to share? For more details and instructions on submitting, visit the Asymptote website. The Dec. 15 deadline is coming right up.

Got International Flash Fiction? Submit Here!

Flash fiction is great. For those of you of recent vintage, it’s not connected to the flash mob phenomenon, it’s flashness comes from the fact that it’s so short it comes and goes in an instant, with any luck electrifying the reader in the process. I remember reading stories from the anthology Sudden Fiction when it came out in the 80s, soon followed by Sudden Fiction International and then (since the idea appealed to so many readers) to a handful of additional sequels, all edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas, sometimes with a third editor thrown in. And now the Shapard and Thomas team (joined by Christopher Merrill of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa) are preparing a brand-new anthology of very short fiction by writers from all over the world. And they want to consider work you have been translating of late. Why don’t you send them some? Here are the details:

Call for submissions––writers, translators

For anthology Flash Fiction International forthcoming from distinguished publisher W.W. Norton, NY. The editors are looking for:

1.Recent very short stories from any country, in English translation, word limit 750 (1-3 pages). We usually reprint works that have already been published (send us a copy) but will also consider original, unpublished manuscripts.

2. We would be grateful if you would help us find very short fiction–send us the names of authors, translators, stories, or collections. We are also looking for brief quotes, or commentaries, relevant to very short fiction. (These could be from any field–aesthetics, philosophy, physics, music or visual arts, popular culture, etc.) We’ll send you a free copy of the book.

3. Deadline: March 15, 2013.

Contact: Robert Shapard, 3405 Mt. Bonnell Drive, Austin, TX, USA, 78731, or by e-mail.

Now with Moderated Comments

Dear Translationista readers,

I’m really sorry, but I’m going to have to start moderating all comments for this blog, because the spammers’ webcrawling robots have learned how to outsmart Blogger’s captcha and have started inundating the blog with dozens of spammy comments every day. I’m tired of wasting time searching out and deleting them. And alas, the only way to keep these infinitely optimistic petitioners from constantly annoying all of us with all their great offers on waterproof mattress covers and the like is to moderate everyone, including you.  I hope you’ll keep posting comments all the same, and promise to check and approve them regularly and with dispatch.

With warm regards,


Mario Vargas Llosa and Edith Grossman tonight!

Somehow I missed the announcement that Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa will be speaking tonight at the Americas Society along with star translator Edith Grossman, who even on her own would be enough to pack the house. The event is sold out – no surprises there – but Americas Society members who’d like to join a virtual waiting list can do so by emailing Valeria Catan.

Readers of this blog already know Edith Grossman, who’s one of our very best translators and also teaches and writes about translation. She’s just published a new translation of Vargas Llosa’s new novel, The Dream of the Celt, which the Americas Society press release describes thus:

A fictionalized biography of Roger Casement(1864-1916), a British hero knighted by the king and an international celebrity for his grueling and unsparing investigations of atrocities committed against the native rubber workers in the Belgian Congo and the Putumayo jungles of Peru. An ardent Irish nationalist, Casement was hanged by the British government for his part in the Easter 1916 uprising. In Grossman’s elegant, precise translation, Vargas Llosa further explores “the cartographies of structures of power” and “the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat,” to quote the Nobel Committee’s assessment of his creative body of work.

This one might be worth standing in line and begging for.

Remembering Nancy Festinger

I was shocked when I heard last week that my translator colleague Nancy Festinger had died – she was young (only 57), and I didn’t realize she had been battling breast cancer and its recurrences. I didn’t know her well. We met when (in what now seems a typical act of generosity for her) she wrote to the general American Literary Translators Association mailing list, offering a ride from New York to Philadelphia to fellow translators attending the 2010 ALTA Conference. I enjoyed a delightful couple of hours of shop talk with her and Mark Weiss on the trip down. And now this. Our last communications concerned the PEN/Edward and Lily Tuck Award for Paraguayan Literature. I’d asked her to serve as a judge, not knowing she was ill; and she accepted, not mentioning it. It seems that helping out was such a reflex for her that she didn’t know how to stop.

Besides being a literary translator, Nancy was the chief interpreter at the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and editor of Proteus, the newsletter of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. The New York Times published a brief obituary a few days ago. I wanted to mark Nancy’s passing and the loss to the translation community with more than my own sparse memories, so I asked Esther Allen and Jim Kates, both of whom knew Nancy much better than I did, to write a few words about her.  You will find their remembrances here and here.


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