Readers of this blog are used to hearing me grouse about the Nida School because every year in recent history it’s put on a really interesting one-day symposium and charged such high admission that students and working translators probably wouldn’t have been able to go. But this year, mirabile dictu, the symposium comes with a very reasonable price tag ($25 regular admission, free for graduate students) and a really interesting program. The first of the two main speakers will be literature and Bible scholar and translator Robert Alter, whose work I find truly fascinating. Listen to how the Bible begins when he’s the one writing it: “When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath was hovering over the waters, God said, ‘Let there be light.'” Isn’t that gorgeous? “Welter and waste and darkness over the deep.” It turns out the Bible was beautifully written all along, we just never knew it. So Alter will be giving a talk entitled “Translating Biblical Poetry: Ancient Hebrew Verse and the Constraints of English,” followed by a discussion with respondent Bible scholar Adriane Leveen. And then David Damrosch, a well known Comparative Literature and Translation Studies scholar, will speak on “World Literature, National Markets,” with respondent Lydia Liu, a [translation] scholar who teaches at Columbia.”World Literature” is code (= English) for Weltliteratur, a term that comes to us from Goethe, and which I’ll explain as follows: When I told German author Jenny Erpenbeck that an excerpt from her new novel The End of Days was going to be pre-published this fall in the magazine World Literature Today, she replied: “Wait a minute, does that mean I’m world literature now?” She asked this because the equivalent German expression implies “literature of world-historical import.” Which I think her work is. For Goethe, in any case, the term signified literature created out of a cosmopolitan spirit that transcends national boundaries, making it grander than just plain “literature.” And now the Nida School is transcending financial boundaries, putting this really interesting half-day-long program (lunch and socializing with the other participants included in the price of admission) in the reach of virtually everyone who might want to attend. I’ll be sorry to miss it (because of this though.) Highly recommended. Thank you, Nida School! Your generosity is at least cosmopolitan if not Biblical. But note that if you wish to attend you must register, and the deadline for that is rapidly approaching: September 10. The symposium itself will be held on September 19, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information and registration instructions, see the Nida School’s website.