Archive for March 2013

Tonight: Spain’s Great Untranslated / Rabassa Alert

It’s not so often one has the chance to see and hear translation great Gregory Rabassa speaking in public, even in his hometown, NYC – but tonight you’ll have the chance as he joins an impressive line-up at McNally Jackson to celebrate the new Words Without Borders’s special issue for March 2013, Spain’s Great Untranslated. The issue includes work by a number of authors who aren’t yet know in English but should be: Fernando Aramburu, Cristina Fernández Cubas, Miquel de Palol, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, Antonio Gamoneda, Pere Gimferrer, Berta Vias Mahou, César Antonio Molina, Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas, Olvido Garcia Valdés, Pedro Zarraluki, and Juan Eduardo Zúñiga.

The evening will feature authors Antonio Masoliver and Berta Vias Mahou, co-guest-editor Aurelio Major, Joshua Mandelbaum of WWoB, and translator Anne McLean keeping Rabassa company on stage.

McNally Jackson, 52 Prince Street, 7:00 p.m.

In Remembrance of Fred Stark

Translators generally work behind the scenes, and their comings and goings – and eventually passings – do not always attract as much public attention as those of artists engaged in other sorts of endeavors. Here’s a guest post by National Translation Award winner Aron Aji written in tribute to and remembrance of one of the great translators of Turkish literature, Fred Stark:

Fred Stark, the excellent and generous translator who let me use his translation alongside mine in Bilge Karasu’s  A Long Day’s Evening, died yesterday, March 19, 2013. Finding his translation was among the miracles that accompanied the making of this translation project. Here is the story: in 2006, when I received an NEA fellowship to translate Karasu’s book, I called the author’s Turkish editor, Muge Gursoy Sokmen, asking her to send me a copy of Fred Stark’s translation of “The Mulberry Trees,” (the brief coda that closes A Long Day’s Evening), for some reason recalling that she had previously shown the piece to me. Puzzled, Muge indicated that she knew only of Stark’s translation of “A Medieval Monk,” a different Karasu narrative. A year later, and almost every year thereafter, I kept calling Muge, asking if she could send me a copy of Stark’s translation of “The Mulberry Trees,” strangely forgetting our previous exchanges. Growing bit by bit more exasperated with my bizarre insistence, Muge said, “Dearest Aron, when will you stop your wishful thinking! Just sit down and finish the work already.” Then in 2010, at the Bilkent Symposium in Ankara, I met Fred Stark’s daughter, Linda Stark, who had delivered her father’s talk because he was not well enough to attend the event himself. On the way out of the auditorium, I approached her and told her about my repeated queries about her father’s apparently non-existent translation, and how much I had hoped I would be able to include it in the book, as a token of his deep friendship with Karasu. Linda and I laughed, “Oh, my dad will enjoy hearing this story,” she said. And, just weeks later, I received an email from Muge—subject line, “Guess What”—that included Fred Stark’s translation of “The Mulberry Trees,” completed over 30 years ago! Fred Stark was graceful when we established contact and overjoyed that I thought his translation of the brief coda at the end of the book would be a fitting closure to this significant project. Because works from less translated languages make to the world stage in large part due to the enthusiasm and uncommon curiosity of individuals—an editor here, a publisher there, a personal friend, and, of course, countless translators—I thought celebrating the friendship between an author and his translator was a fitting tribute to everything human that goes into making these translation miracles possible.

Fred Stark had been living in Turkey for the better part of his life. Karasu and Stark were close friends as well as associates as translators; they thought deeply about translation, and went over each other’s manuscripts. Karasu also credits him with helping conceive the human chess game featured in The Garden of Departed Cats. Stark has translated from Turkish to English works of literature as well as those on contemporary art, photography, art history and history. Yet there is very little that’s of public record about him. His life of quiet industry, his generous affection for his adopted country, and his care to lend voice to others rather than to be spoken of, sum up beautifully the life of a translator. I never got to meet Karasu, I never got to meet Stark, but somehow managed to gather around their absence a beautiful circle of friendships that has sustained my translation life.

Paul Celan Speaks Japanese

Back in 2009 the Stanford University based journal Mantis asked me to translate one of my very favorite essays by Yoko Tawada, “Celan Reads Japanese,” for their special feature “Remembering Celan.” Tawada, author of The Naked Eye, Where Europe Begins and other wonderful books, has always been interested in the intersections of different cultures, and this is perfect material for her. In her essay, she reads the Japanese translations done by Mitsuo Iiyoshi of Paul Celan’s book of poems Von Schwelle zu Schwelle (From threshold to threshold) and discusses the particular constellation of subtexts specific to the Japanese  translation that Iiyoshi establishes over the course of the book. These poems place heavy emphasis on ideograms based on the radical 門 (meaning ‘gate’ or ‘gateway’), including ideograms that would translate into English as “to hear” (聞) “to gleam” (閃), “darkness” (闇) and, yes, “threshold” (閾) – all concepts fundamental to Celan’s poetic universe. I won’t repeat Tawada’s entire argument here – her essay is short and very much worth reading – but suffice it to say that I think her analysis of these Japanese-language poems is not only exceptionally insightful as an instance of close reading but illuminates something crucial to remember about literary translation: It invariably creates a new text of its own in the target language, and that gives the translator opportunity to play with linguistic constructions that build on and enrich the text. I’ve done some of this quite consciously in the past, e.g. by adding English-language intertextuality that helps to situate a work in its new linguistic context. And now Tawada’s essay has appeared in a new linguistic context as well: The London-based journal The White Journal has just reprinted the essay on its website, and you can read it there in its entirety. I hope you will, and do let me know what you think.

Translate Chinese Poetry in Vermont (Or Write It)

The Vermont Studio Center (VSC) invites applications for its Chinese Poetry & Translation Fellowships Program supported by the Henry Luce Foundation. In the inaugural year of this wonderful-sounding program, VSC will award ten outstanding Chinese poets and literary translators with four-week joint residencies in 2013 to create new work individually and in collaboration.

This means that there are five awards that will go to poets whose primary language is Chinese (including roundtrip travel and a discretionary stipend), and five awards for English-language translators working with Chinese poetry. I assume that Mandarin, Cantonese, etc. will all be accepted.

So if you’re a translator who already has a working relationship with a poet, you can apply together. But as in all the best dance classes, you need not bring a partner to join in; individual applications will be accepted as well.

Applications can be submitted online or printed out here.  This year’s deadline is April 1, 2013.

For more information, visit the Vermont Studio Center website or inquire by e-mail.


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