Archive for March 2014

John Ashbery, Translator

I know you think of him as a poet, and of course that’s what he is, and pretty much the best of the best at that. But I’ve also been reading his translations from the French for years with great pleasure, e.g. to give one of many examples, his translation of the late 17th century fairy tale The White Cat by Madame d’Aulnoy that I sometimes assign to my students. And now that Ashbery’s collected translations are forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in two plump volumes (one each for poetry and prose, pub. date for both April 8, 2014), I am astonished to see quite how much he has in fact translated, with prose by over a dozen authors – above all Raymond Roussel and Giorgio de Chirico, along with some Jarry, Michaux, Leiris, Artraud etc. – and poems by some two dozen poets from the 16th century on, including Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Max Jacob, Supervielle, Reverdy, Eluard, René Char, Pierre Martory, Serge Fauchereau and many more. A very impressive compendium, and what a treat to see Ashbery’s always sure-footed voice applied to the work of so many different writers. I can’t wait to dive in. And if you share that sentiment and would like a sneak preview, you’re in luck, because Ashbery will be appearing this week at the 92nd St. Y along with poet Mark Ford (to whom Ashbery’s volume of French poems is dedicated), and the forthcoming translations are sure to figure in the program along with Ashbery’s new book of poems, Quick Question, and Ford’s Selected Poems. With any luck, there’ll even be advance copies available for sale. Helen Vendler and Eugene Richie (co-editor of the Ashbery translations along with Rosanne Wasserman) will moderate. Thursday, April 3 at 8:00 p.m., Lexington Ave. at 92nd St.

The 92nd Street Y has a nice big auditorium and doesn’t often sell out, but this is one event for which securing a ticket in advance (the cheap seats start at $7.50) isn’t the worst idea. Wish I could be there myself, but I’ll be off in Boston spending the evening with Jenny Erpenbeck.

Who Wants To Be on an MLA Panel in 2015?

The PEN Translation Committee has been talking for a while now about sponsoring yearly panels at the Modern Language Association Convention, and 2015 is going to be the first year of it. Who wants to be on the panel? Call for papers below. You have only three days to respond, so don’t delay!

Translation and Memory 
We are currently accepting proposals for a panel on translation and memory organized by the Translation Committee of the PEN American Center. The 2015 Presidential theme, “Negotiating Sites of Memory,” invites us to posit translation as both a repository of and a vehicle for the transmission of memory across cultures. Possible approaches include: translation as a means of preserving cultural artifacts, translation and the construction/deconstruction of cultural myths, and translation and the development of alternative canons. Please send proposals of up to 250 words to Heather Cleary by Tuesday, March 25.

Women in Translation Sale at Powell’s Books

Translationista isn’t really in the advertising business, but Powell’s Books just got my attention by offering 30% off twenty works in translation written by women. And it’s a great list: Elena Ferrante, Sigrid Undset, Yoko Ogawa, Isabel Allende, Clarice Lispector, Camilla Lackberg, Kyung-Sook Shin, Tove Jansson, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Alina Bronsky, Olga Grjasnowa, Marie Hermanson, Herta Müller, Sidonie-Gabriel Colette, Banana Yoshimoto, Françoise Sagan, Albene Stambolova, Elfriede Jelinek, Laura Restrepo and Dubravka Ugresic. I noticed Olga Grjasnowa’s book in particular because she just appeared in NYC as part of this year’s Festival neue Literatur, but this list is full of books I love (e.g. Petrushevskaya!) and want to read (e.g. Ferrante!).

The Powell’s sale was inspired by several bids at the beginning of this year to declare 2014 the Year of Reading Women, including Joanna Walsh’s #readwomen2014 project, which I recommend you follow on Twitter. I guess Powell’s threw in the translation part as lagniappe. I’m just so glad to see a bookstore highlighting translated literature like this. Thank you, Powell’s!

And if you want to thank them properly, why not hop over to their website and buy a translated book at an excellent price?

P.S. I just noticed that Powell’s doesn’t always credit the translator in its individual book listings, or does so only in the tiny print at the bottom as part of the bibliographical information; this is a great moment to ask them to feature the translator’s name prominently as part of a book’s listing.

2014 Rossica Prize to Angela Livingston

The 2014 Rossica Prize has gone to Angela Livingston for her translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s verse drama Phaedra (1927). The judges praised Livingston’s translation for being “rhythmically complex and propulsive, verbally accurate and dramatically voiced,” “not just an extraordinary and sustained translation, but poetry in its own right.” The Angel Classics volume contains not only the play but three long poems that Tsvetaeva composed around the same time – one an elegy to Rilke, with whom Tsvetaeva had corresponded. Livingston is no stranger to the Russian poet; this is her third book-length translation of Tsvetaeva’s work. Congratulations to her and to all the runners-up on the 2014 shortlist.

BTBA Nominated for New LBF Prize

This title is a sort of quiz – did you know the acronyms stand for Best Translated Book Award and London Book Fair? Well, the LBF – an excellent party, I went last year – has just launched a new set of what they’re calling International Book Industry Excellence Awards, and I’m so pleased that the BTBA has been nominated for one of them: the International Literary Translation Initiative Award. The other two nominees for this prize are Penguin India and Shanghai 99. And of course I’m rooting for the BTBA because it has been so effective at creating a buzz around translated books with its endless long- and shortlists, its endless social media blasts and readings and parties and awards ceremonies and displays in bookstores. It has definitely succeeded in getting a ton of attention for translated literature in the United States, a country notorious for its monolithically monolingual tastes. So go, BTBA! Knock out the competition! Bring home the gold! Meanwhile, why not hop over to the Three Percent blog to see how BTBA founder Chad Post feels about being nominated. And then visit the London Book Fair’s website for the full roster of new awards being introduced this year. Winners in all categories will be announced on April 8. Watch this space.

Translation on Tap in NYC Mar. 25 – April 2

Here’s what’s coming your way in NYC’s translation world for the next week and a half:
• Tuesday, March 25
The wonderful Bridge Series is celebrating its third anniversary with a trio of translators from the Catalan: Peter Bush,  Mary Ann Newman and Rowan Ricardo Phillips. The program sounds fantastic. Peter Bush, former director of the British Centre for Literary Translation, will be visiting from London; Mary Ann Newman directs the Farragut Fund for Catalan and just published the sweetest book of animal poems based on Barcelona landmarks; and Rowan Ricardo Phillips has been reaping substantial accolades for his first book of poems and recently also published a translation of the classic Catalan collection Ariadne in the Grotesque Labyrinth. More information here. This Bridge will be held at its usual location: McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St., 7:00 p.m. Free.

• Wednesday, March 26
Word for Word! Young writer/translators from the MFA writing programs at Columbia University and the University of Leipzig have paired up to translate each others’ work collaboratively, and now they’re presenting the fruits of their labors to the public in a reading and reception. With Nika Knight translating/being translated by Lilian Peter, and Arthur Seefahrt t/btb Daniel Schmidt. With an introduction by Translationista and some stories about the travails of translating and being translated for the very first time. More information here. 501 Dodge Hall on the Columbia campus (enter campus at Broadway and W. 116th St., see map), 7:00 p.m.

• Thursday, March 27
If you missed Rowan Ricardo Phillips on Tuesday, you can catch him two days later: The Americas Society is hosting a reading at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute by writers and translators published by Dalkey Archive Press: Mexican author Alvaro Enrigue, author of Hypothermia; Spanish writer Eduardo Lago, author of Call Me Brooklyn; and translators Alejandro Branger and Rowan Ricardo Phillips. All readings in English. Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, 684 Park Ave at 68th St., 7:00 p.m. Non-members will be charged $10.00 admission.

Johann Fischart (c. 1545 – 1591)
• Wednesday, April 2
For those who speak French well enough to follow a lecture in that language, the Barnard Center for Translation Studies is hosting a talk by Elsa Kammerer of Université Lille III about one of the most fascinating translations I’ve ever encountered, Johann Fischart’s 16th century German translation (Geschichtsklitterung) of Rabelais’ monumental and hilariously scatological Gargantua. I learned the hard way how much original writing Fischart added to Rabelais’s tale when I was translating Ludwig Harig’s novel The Trip to Bordeaux, which borrows generously from Fischart’s work. How pleased I was when I recognized the source of the quotes, reasoning that it would be simple enough to locate the quotations in Fischart and then find the corresponding passages in Thomas Urquhart’s 17th century translation of Rabelais, which is itself plenty colorful. How disappointed I was when it turned out that every last line Harig quoted was original to Fischart, with no corresponding text in Rabelais’s French. It’ll be really interesting to learn more about Fischart and his antics. More information here. Ella Weed Room on the 2nd floor of Milbank Hall, Barnard College, 6:30 p.m. Free.

Best Translated Book Award 2014 Fiction Longlist

Long awaited, here it is: the longlist of 25 contenders for this year’s Best Translated Book Award.

Over the next few weeks, the Three Percent website will continue its tradition of publishing “why this book should win” blog posts for each of the longlist choices, a great chance to get introduced to these books. And here they are.

Best Translated Book Award 2014 Fiction Longlist:

Horses of God by Mahi Binebine, translated from the French by Lulu Norman (Morocco; Tin House)

Blinding by Mircea Cărtărescu, translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter (Romania; Archipelago Books)

Textile by Orly Castel-Bloom, translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu (Israel; Feminist Press)

Sleet by Stig Dagerman, translated from the Swedish by Steven Hartman (Sweden; David R. Godine)

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy; Europa Editions)

Tirza by Arnon Grunberg, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett (Netherlands; Open Letter Books)

Her Not All Her by Elfriede Jelinek, translated from the German by Damion Searls (Austria; Sylph Editions)

My Struggle: Book Two by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Norway; Archipelago Books)

Seiobo There Below by László Krasznahorkai, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Hungary; New Directions)

Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull (Ukraine; NYRB)

The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor (Argentina; New Vessel Press)

The Infatuations by Javier Marías, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Spain; Knopf)

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters (Japan; Other Press)

In the Night of Time by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman (Spain; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, translated from the Spanish by Jeffrey Gray (Guatemala; Yale University Press)

Through the Night by Stig Sæterbakken, translated from the Norwegian by Seán Kinsella (Norway; Dalkey Archive)

Commentary by Marcelle Sauvageot, translated from the French by Christine Schwartz Hartley & Anna Moschovakis (France; Ugly Duckling Presse)

Leg Over Leg Vol. 1 by Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, translated from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies (Lebanon; New York University Press)

The Whispering Muse by Sjón, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (Iceland; FSG)

The Forbidden Kingdom by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, translated from the Dutch by Paul Vincent (Netherlands; Pushkin Press)

The Devil’s Workshop by Jáchym Topol, translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker (Czech Republic; Portobello Books)

The End of Love by Marcos Giralt Torrente, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (Spain; McSweeney’s)

Red Grass by Boris Vian, translated from the French by Paul Knobloch (France; Tam Tam Books)

City of Angels, or, The Overcoat of Dr. Freud by Christa Wolf, translated from the German by Damion Searls (Germany; FSG)

Sandalwood Death by Mo Yan, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt (China; University of Oklahoma Press)


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