Archive for October 2014

Translation on Tap in NYC, Nov. 1 – 15, 2014


Owl à la Mizrahi

Here’s what’s coming up in Translationland NYC for early November:

Saturday, Nov. 1:

A Thousand Forests in One Acorn: Valerie Miles, Eliot Weinberger and Juan José Herrera de la Muela, all translators as well as writers, editors and (in the latter case) diplomat, join to celebrate the publication of this anthology of Spanish-language writing just out from Open Letter. McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St., 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 5:

Translator-author Assaf Gavron appears with fellow authors Etgar Keret, Gina Nahai and Salar Abdoh to celebrate the publication by Akashic Books of a pair of moody short-fiction anthologies, Tehran Noir and Tel Aviv Noir. Moderated by Rick Moody. The event would have been even cooler if it had involved the translators of the anthologies as well, but at least one of them (Yardenne Greenspan, translator of Tel Aviv Noir) has written an essay about it. Live from the NYPL (yes, you have to buy a ticket to attend), 42nd St. Library (42nd St. entrance), 7:00 p.m.

Also Wednesday, Nov. 5 (yes, you have to choose):

Translationista will take the stage with Isaac Mizrahi to discuss their recent backstage collaboration on a new production of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. There’ll be show and tell, stories of rehearsal mishaps and translation tidbits, moderated by Anne Bogart. Buell Hall (Maison Française), Columbia University, free, but advance reservations strongly recommended, more information here. 6:30 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 10:

Tahrir Plays and Performance Texts: Politics, Aesthetics, Translation: A staged reading of “They Say Dancing is a Sin” (about women in Egypt and their role in the Arab Spring) from the forthcoming anthology Tahrir Plays and Performance Texts from the Egyptian Revolution (Seagull Books), followed by a discussion with series editor Carol Martin and the co-editors and translators of the volume, Mohammed Albakry and Rebekah Maggor. This is a co-presentation by Barnard’s Theater Department and Center for Translation Studies. More information here. Glicker-Milstein Theatre, The Diana Center, Room LL200 on the Barnard campus (enter at Broadway and 117th St.), 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 13:

The great poet-translator Richard Howard (who’s translated so many important books from the French you could build a tiny house out of them) will be appearing for an evening billed as “A Retrospective Reading” apropos of his new book of poems, A Progressive Education, but I’m hopeful that he’ll read some translations as well as his own poems written originally in English. Columbia University, Italian Academy, 1161 Amsterdam Ave (between 116 and 118th St.), RSVP requested, more information here. 7:00 p.m.

Also Thursday, Nov. 13 (yes, you have to choose):

The Drowned Blackbird: Paul Muldoon on Translating Gaelic Poetry. The Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet and translator will be talking, no doubt, about this lovely little book of his in this 10th biennial Stanley Burnshaw Lecture (more information here), held in the William P. Kelly Skylight Room (Rm. 9100) at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Ave., 7:00 p.m.

Transgender Translation Studies

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 9.24.44 PMTranslationista is a blog about literary translation, not translation studies per se, which is why you don’t find as many announcements of academic events here as of readings etc., but this call for papers by the Transgender Studies Quarterly caught my attention, so I’m passing it along. I’ve been hearing more and more lately about projects to “queer” both translation studies and translations themselves. For example there was a great panel at this year’s AWP conference on the subject of Queer Translation, featuring Joyelle McSweeney, Johannes Goransson, Don Mee Choi, Lucas DeLima and Jeffrey Angles (the first two of whom had previously collaborated on a book project that explored new ways of imagining/writing about translation). This was their AWP panel description:

As translators, artists, scholars, and performers, we’ll consider how ‘queer translation’ might host a queer interaction or strange meeting; how it might undermine nationalist demarcations of the body, including binaries separating male and female, able and disabled, human and inhuman, whole and partial bodies; the force of translation as a ‘political uncanny’; and whether translation itself might figure a queer or middle body, an activist body, a political resource.

And now TSQ is upping the ante with a translation themed issue entitled Translating Transgender, edited by David Gramling and Aniruddha Dutta, and I’m glad to see it in the works. It was only a matter of time before these two trans fields crossed paths, particularly as both of them place so much emphasis on transitional states and forms of crossing over. Even just the call for papers contains information I didn’t have before, like this: “transgender, gender variant, and gender non-conforming people have often been exiles, translators, language mediators, and multilinguals in greater numbers and intensities historically than their cisgender counterparts have.” Didn’t realize that’s what the statistics were. I definitely want to read more about this, and there’s a very strong list of suggested topic categories, so I’m looking forward to Issue 3.3 (great number!) of the TSQ. If you work in this field, or want to, check out the call for papers here. Naturally, papers will be accepted in whatever language you write in, not just English. Submission deadline March 1, 2015.


Goodmorning Menagerie Translation Chapbook Contest

MenagerieWho likes a challenge? Who’s translating a chapbook? For a modest submission fee ($5), you can enter your 10-20 page translated chapbook in Goodmorning Menagerie’s inaugural Chapbook-in-Translation Contest. If you win the gold, your work will appear in a limited-edition handmade chapbook with a woodblock-printed cover that will come out in time for AWP 2015. Any questions? Check out submission details on the GM website. If you’re interested, you’d better act fast – the deadline for submissions is Halloween, Oct. 31, 2014.

Translationista notes that the Menagerie guidelines request that the translator submit a “copyright page stating that you have the author’s (or their estate’s) permission to translate and publish this work.” FYI, legal permission to publish copyrighted work in translation can only ever be granted to a publisher (book or magazine publisher), not to a person (translator) – that’s how the law works. So I recommend that you, the translator, contact the holder of the rights (check the copyright notice in the original book or journal – the poet often holds the copyright but not always) to confirm that the rights are available, and communicate this information to the Goodmorning folks. Then when you win the competition you can assist them in negotiating with the rights holder to secure the final permission to print the work.

Speed-Date an Editor at the ALTA Conference

ALTA_logoThis year’s ALTA (American Literary Translators Association) conference in Milwaukee is coming right up (Nov. 12-15, 2014), and if you’re planning to attend, why not sign up for ALTA’s new speed-dating service for editors and translators? No, this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed romance, but translators who are accepted into this program will be paired with an editor from a respectable publication (such as Words Without Borders, Open Letter, The Literary Review, or the Notre Dame Review) who will give  feedback and advice on up to two pages of work. What could beat that? You can even submit specific questions along with the work sample if you’d like. Oh, and it’s free, or almost. Participants don’t have to pay anything, but if you can afford to, ALTA requests that you donate $10 to support future programming of this and other wonderful sorts.

So you’re interested in signing up? Great! The deadline for submissions was originally this Friday, Oct. 24, but I just heard it’s being extended to Tuesday, Oct. 28.

Oh, and here’s one bit of Translationista advice for you: To get the most out of an opportunity like this, make sure the excerpt you submit has been polished and revised to within an inch of its life. If you submit a translation with obvious clunkers in it, that’s all the editor will see. Show the editor your work at its absolute best so she won’t spend your session pointing out problems you already knew were problematic.

More information and complete instructions on how to apply and submit your work can be found here. Happy dating!Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 5.57.05 PM

Magazines That Publish Translations

stonecutter4I often get asked by younger translators where they should try sending their work. It’s a good question. My answer often winds up sounding a bit schoolmarmish, since I believe that translators – like writers of other sorts – should actually read the journals they want to send their work to. If you have no idea where to send your work, it might mean you never read any journals that publish translations. So a good list of magazines that publish translations ideally serves two functions: first (and most importantly) it lets you know what journals you might enjoy reading if you like reading literature from around the world. Second (if you’re a translator) it lets you know where you might try submitting your work if you’ve just translated something great that you think others would enjoy as well. And the new and improved PEN Translation Committee has just updated the list of “Journals Seeking Work in Translation” on the PEN website, and I recommend you check it out. Mind you, this isn’t a complete list of all the magazines that publish translated work, just the ones that are actively seeking submissions. Every good literary magazine worth its salt publishes translations alongside writing in English. But a work in translation that you cold-submit to Harpers or The New Yorker is pretty likely to wind up on the slush pile in pretty short order, whereas the magazines actively looking for great translations to publish are more likely to greet your submission with little cries of delight. And that, after all, is what you’re after. So do have a look at the list of translation-loving journals on the PEN website, and while you’re there, how about subscribing to one or two of them?

Translators Fighting Ebola

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 7.19.58 PMThe Ebola virus is spreading rapidly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Republic of Guinea, with a handful of deaths now in Nigeria as well. Hysteria about Ebola is spreading rapidly in the United States, although to date only a single person in the U.S. has died of the disease. In Nigeria, rapid management of the virus appears to have successfully limited its spread (may it stay that way!), and the same should be true in the U.S. as well, despite initial blunders on the part of hospital administrators and workers. It’s clear that if the disease is to be kept from spreading further in the countries where it is already established as well as neighboring ones, management techniques are crucial, and in part that means making information about the virus readily available and circulated in communities that are particularly at risk. The disease spreads fastest in areas blighted by poverty and military conflict, both of which impede the circulation of information and treatment. Getting treatment to those who need it is a work in progress (with Doctors Without Borders, as so often, playing a crucial role), and the spread of information is a work-in-progress as well. Much of the information about the disease is circulating primarily in English – a language spoken only by a small minority of people in Sierre Leone and Liberia. This language barrier can be deadly. As Lori Thicke, the founder of Translators Without Borders, reports:

The Ebola communication failure was recently highlighted by UNICEF, Focus 1000 and Catholic Relief Services. In September the organisations reported that in Sierra Leone – one of three West African nations at the epicentre of the outbreak – nearly a third of the people believe Ebola comes from mosquitoes, or the air. Almost two-thirds could not identify the ways to prevent the disease.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 7.20.32 PMShe also notes that cultural traditions in some affected areas (such as bathing the bodies of deceased family members) currently encourage the spread of the disease, which is easily transmitted via physical contact with those infected, even after death. Without clear information about the risks of contact and ways of preventing infection, many remain at risk. So Translators Without Borders has launched a new project in conjunction with International SOS to get information about Ebola translated into the languages of the countries where the virus is currently spreading, with an emphasis on the languages most widely spoken. “For example,” Thicke explains, “there are 522 languages spoken in Nigeria, but only three – Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo – will reach over 65 per cent of the population.”

I spoke directly with Rebecca Petras of Translators Without Borders, who said that the small TWB team is currently working overtime to raise funds to get information about Ebola translated into the languages spoken in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Much of TWB’s previous work has been volunteer-driven, and this time too they are grateful for any volunteer translators who can help: information on how to volunteer is posted on the organization’s website. But since it’s difficult to recruit enough professional translators who specialize in West African languages, TWB is taking a different tack. As Petras explains, “We need to take our rapid response translator training that we have created in Nairobi, Kenya, package it, and train bilinguals in Krio, Mende and maybe Fula. With that, we will create Rapid Response Translator teams for these languages.”

TWB, she says, is concentrating on creating “simple posters and audio public service announcements, because radio and community meetings are the most important means of communication in the most affected areas. In these areas, only 10 percent say they get info from mobile [Internet] (this is different from other cities in Africa, such as Nairobi or Accra).” I hope TWB can succeed in saving lives by getting information about the disease into the hands of those who most need it.

If you’d like to Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.28.25 AMhelp but don’t speak one of the languages in question, please consider a donation to TWB to contribute to the costs of producing and disseminating materials in the region. Petras says a new page for the TWB website explaining the Ebola project and requesting donations will go live in a day or two, but until it does you can contribute via the TWB’s regular funding page. [Update: the TWB Ebola project page is now live.]

Meanwhile, have a look at TWB’s Ebola info sheet in the Hausa language. This is a translation of International SOS’s English-language info sheet. TWB is hoping to have the same material translated soon into Krio and Mende to distribute in the areas of Sierra Leone worst affected by the outbreak. If you’re able to help out with translations, visit TWB’s volunteers page or contact the organization directly here.

Translation on Tap in NYC, October 16 – 31, 2014

Not sure yet if there’ll be any Halloween-themed translation events this year. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Thursday, Oct. 16:

Argentine poet (and NYC resident) María Negroni and her translator, Michelle Gil-Montero, will be reading in English and Spanish from Negroni’s new collection, Cartas Extraordinarias at the Argentine Consulate, 12 W. 56th St. (near 5th Ave.), RSVP required, 6:00 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 17:

For those interested in the theater, Re-Imagining Dramaturgy: A Mini-Conference on the Future of Dramaturgy will include a presentation by translator/dramaturg Cobina Gillitt in the 10:45 a.m. session on “using translation studies as paradigm for the dramaturgical process from new play development through production.” Full schedule here, registration required. Snapple Theatre Center, 1627 Broadway (at 50th St), 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 20:

Panel discussion, Dictionary of Untranslatables, with Barbara Cassin (editor of the Dictionary in its original French), translator and translation scholar David Bellos, philosopher Simon Critchley and author Antonin Baudry, moderated by Rebecca L. Walkowitz, RSVP requested, more information here. Institute for Public Knowledge, 20 Cooper Square, 5th Fl., 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 21:

Translators Alfred Mac Adam and Jonathan Cohen join Amadeo Petitbó and Felipe Fernández-Armesto to discuss Fernández-Armesto’s new book Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States, Instituto Cervantes, 211-215 East 49th St., 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 22:

Excavation of Homer: A Poetry Reading by Alice Oswald featuring her selective translation of  Homer’s Iliad that leaves out the central narrative and focuses instead on the epic’s many ordinary lives and deaths. Introduced by Mary Gordon. RSVP required, more information here. Columbia University, Judith Lee Stronach Center, Schermerhorn Hall, 1190 Amsterdam Ave, 8th Fl., 5:00 p.m.


Tuesday, Oct. 28

The fabulous, fantastic Edith Grossman will be presenting her new translation of the strange, fantastic 17th century poetry of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz at the Instituto Cervantes, in conversation with Electra Arenal. You won’t want to miss this one. Get there early. More info here. Instituto Cervantes, 211-215 E. 49th St., 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 29

The Bridge Series presents Samantha Schnee and Carmen Boullosa speaking about translation, “Texas,” and Latin American literature. In a departure from the usual Bridge format, Mexican novelist, public intellectual and TV host Carmen Boullosa will be joining her long-time translator Samantha Schnee. (An earlier version of this post announced that Gregory Rabassa would be a participant as well, but he has had to cancel this appearance.) More information here. Should be a great evening. McNally Jackson, 52 Prince Street, 8:00 p.m.



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