Archive for November 2014

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

rlw_chekhov_web__250Thanksgiving is almost here, which means the holiday season is now officially upon us. Translationista wishes everyone a sane and, let’s hope, not too overly commercial holiday season. Fortunately there are a few translation events coming up in early December to sweeten the deal, including three that are part of Read Russia’s Russian Literature Week. Here’s what’s on tap:

Monday, Dec. 1:

An evening with Pierre Joris and Paul Auster to celebrate the publication of Joris’s new volume of Paul Celan translations, Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry, moderated by Ulrich Baer. New York University, Silver Center – Hemmerdinger Hall, 100 Washington Square East. Reservations recommended, more information here. 7:00 p.m.

Also Monday, Dec. 1:

“New Old Classics: Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov,” a panel discussion celebrating new translations of Alexander Pushkin’s The Captain’s Daughter  from New York Review Books and Lev Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, translated by Marian Schwartz, from Yale University Press. With Marian Schwartz and editor Edwin Frank, moderated by Esther Allen, The Grolier Club, 47 East 60th St., free admission, RSVP recommended. 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 2 at noon:

“Then and Now: Classics v. Contemporary Literature,” a panel discussion with translators Marian Schwartz, Ross Ufberg (also the publisher of New Vessel Press) and Ronald Meyer, featuring new translations of works by Anton Chekhov from W. W. Norton, Andrei Gelasimov from Amazon Crossing, Sergei Lebedev and Vladimir Lorchenkov from New Vessel Press, Leo Tolstoy from Yale University Press, and Leonid Yuzefovich from Glagoslav. Columbia University, Harriman Institute, School of International and Public Affairs, RSVP here. 420 West 118th St., 12:00 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 3:

“Publishing and Politics”: Is there a relationship between world events and the choices that publishers make?  Why do some literary works get published in translation before they appear in their native language?  Publisher and translator Jeff Parker of Dzanc and translators Marian Schwartz and Antonina W. Bouis in conversation about the way the bigger picture (international affairs, state policies) can influence what gets translated, what gets published – and when. Moderated by author, translator, and critic Liesl Schillinger. Followed by a reception. Featuring new translations of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Definitely Maybe from Melville House and Zakhar Prilepin’s Sankya from Dzanc Books. RSVP here. Book Culture, 536 West 112th St., 7:00 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 5 and Saturday, Dec. 6:

The 2014 edition of the New Literature from Europe festival bears the title “Crossing Borders: Europe Through the Lens of Time.” Along with readings by a good dozen European writers (complete list here), the festival will feature a keynote address by New Directions publisher Barbara Epler, who has shepherded many a translation into print (including several of my own), at 8:00 p.m. on Dec. 5, and the prize ceremony for the Found in Translation Award, which is being given to Philip Boehm, at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 6. Boehm will also appear on a 2:00 p.m. panel on Dec. 6 entitled “Love in a Time of War.” These and the rest of the festival events will be held at the Austrian Cultural Forum, 11 E 52nd St., with the exception of the conversation with French author Julia Deck, who will appear with her translator, Linda Coverdale, at 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 5 at Albertine Books in French & English, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, 972 Fifth Ave. You’ll find the full schedule for the festival here.

Also Saturday, Dec. 6:

French Surrealism: A Revolution of the Mind, with translators Mary Ann Caws, Mark Polizzotti and Bill Zavatsky along with poet/visual artist Anne-Marie Levine speaking about André Breton, Robert Desnos, Benjamin Péret, Louis Aragon, René Char, and others. More information here. A Helix Center event at the Marianne & Nicholas Young Auditorium of The New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute, 247 East 82nd St., 2:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 8:

Launch event for H.G. Adler’s The Wall: Peter Filkins, the translator of Adler’s novel, will converse about the book with George Prochnik and Eric Banks. NYU Deutsches Haus, 42 Washington Mews. More information here. 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 13 – Monday, Dec. 15:

The 9th annual México / U.S. Playwright Exchange hosted by The Lark will present four new plays by Mexican playwrights in translation – each program includes a staged reading of one play, followed by a discussion with the translator, playwright and director. All programs will be held at the Lark’s Barebones Studio, 311 west 43rd St., 5th Fl. More information (including descriptions of each play and bios of each playwright and translator) here. Note that you can usually get in even if the show is officially “sold out” (tickets are free) by showing up at the door a bit early.

Mara o de la noche sin sueño (Mara or the Night without Dreams) by Antonio Zúñiga Chaparro, translated by Tatiana Suarez-Pico, Dec. 13, 4:00 p.m.

La extinción de los dinosaurios (The Dinosaurs’ Extinction) by Luis Ayhllón, translated by Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, Dec. 13, 7:00 p.m.

Sueños 22 (22 Dreams … Far from the Sea) by by Aída Andrade Varas, translated by Virginia Grise, Dec. 14, 4:00 p.m.

Obra negra (A Work of Art in Black) by Flavio Gonzalez Mello, translated by Carmen Rivera, Dec. 14, 7:00 p.m.

Celebración: Excerpts from all four plays introduced by playwright and translator, followed by a party. This one will be held at the 52nd Street Project (789 10th Ave.), 7:30 p.m.

Translation on Tap in NYC, Nov. 16 – 30, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 10.46.16 PMWouldn’t you know it, I was away at the ALTA conference (I’ll post about that soon), and the events I most neglected to post about are my own. Let it be known that my brilliant, funny, wise, goofy author Jenny Erpenbeck is in town, and she and I will be participating in an event to celebrate the appearance of her latest – and IMHO also greatest to date, though I love them all – novel The End of Days. Voila:

Monday, Nov. 17:

Book Launch for The End of Days with Jenny Erpenbeck (recently interviewed on NPR), her translator (=Translationista) and moderator Jenny Hendrix, who wrote about the novel for Bookforum. More information here. McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St., 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 18:

The German Book Office is hosting a panel entitled Editing Translations/Editing Susan: How to Edit Works in Translation that will feature three editors I’ve worked with in the past (Edwin Frank, Declan Spring and Stephen Twilley) talking about editing translations in general and editing me in particular. Please show up to defend my honor as needed. Moderated by Edward Nawotka (moderator) and special guest Jenny Erpenbeck (!). More information here. Also note that the Goethe-Institut will be moving soon, so this may be one of your last chances to peer out their 11th floor windows over the rooftops of Soho. Goethe-Institut New York, 72 Spring St., 11th Fl., 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 20:

Ari Larissa Heinrich, translator of Last Words from Montmartre, will discuss Taiwanese novelist Qiu Miaojin’s final work. Note that the author has been blurbed by Eileen Myles (so yes, you should be interested). More information here. Bluestockings Bookstore, 172 Allen Street, 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, Nov 22:

Translationista and filmmaker Guy Maddin will be appearing together at Anthology Film Archives to discuss the visionary early-20th-century writer and dreamer Paul Scheerbart and a selection of short films curated by Maddin around the idea “Perpetual Motion,” the title of a Scheerbart novella I translated for the volume Glas! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!! edited (and with art by) Josiah McElheny and Christine Burgin. This is a ticketed event. More information here. Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Ave. (at 2nd St.), 8:00 p.m.

2014 ALTA Conference

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 11.18.30 PMThis is the week – translators everywhere are packing their bags and preparing to head to Milwaukee for the 2014 conference of the American Literary Translators Association. It looks to be a splendid iteration of the conference, with a keynote on Saturday morning by poet/essayist/translator Christopher Merrill and, as part of the opening reception on Wednesday evening, the launch event for a very special anthology: The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim & A Life in Translation, to which many ALTA members contributed. As always there’ll be a reading of work by the six ALTA Fellows, and this year there’ll also be a reading from the works that have been named finalists for the National Translation Award. There’ll be some offsite readings too, and, for the first time ever, the chance to “speed-date” an editor at the conference. The full conference program is now online, have a look! I’ll be there, so if you see me, say hello.

Jenny Erpenbeck on the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989Twenty-five years ago today the Berlin Wall that had divided East and West Berlin since 1961 was opened. This happened precipitously and with extreme euphoria, though the East German government had been preparing to allow its citizens to travel far more freely in response to ongoing massive peaceful demonstrations and in light of the fact that it had become increasingly easy for East Germans to escape to the West via other Eastern Bloc countries (particularly Hungary), and more and more of them were doing so. Politburo member Günter Schabowski, who had been handed a document concerning a new decision to ease travel restrictions for East German citizens on his way to an early-evening press conference about other matters, wound up reading aloud from this paper in response to questions from an Italian journalist, inadvertently announcing the new travel policy, which no one had told him was not to be made public until the official press release came out the following day. The news spread like wildfire over West Berlin radio stations, which many East Berliners listened to, and the American radio station RIAS [Radio in the American Sector] soon reported (erroneously): “The GDR has announced that its borders have now been opened for everyone. The gates in the Wall are standing wide open.” Soon thousands of East Berliners had gathered at all the checkpoints, demanding passage to West Berlin. And while East German authorities had never intended to just open the wall – the new travel policy would still have involved regulation, formal applications, and the possibility of denying requests to travel – the officials in charge realized that they would have to either open the Wall or risk massive bloodshed in confrontations with border guards, and they took the leap and gave orders to open the border. It was a truly incredible moment. I remember finding out about it the next morning while walking down Skinker Blvd. in St. Louis on the way to the Washington University campus and passing a newspaper box; I did a double take when I glimpsed the front page of the New York Times and its headline announcing that the Wall was open, along with a big photograph of people standing on top of the wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate, a surreal image.

For East Germans, the fall of the Wall represented an enormous change to life as they knew it. For East Germans my age, it meant in many cases, among other things, learning that the university degrees they had just completed were invalid and that they would have to start over. For East Germans their parents’ age, it  meant in many cases immediate unemployment that would sometimes prove permanent. And for all the triumphalism surrounding “unification” or “reunification” (the choice of word was political), many East German voices continued to point out all the things that had been functional and good in East German society: public health and child care, no unemployment, almost no poverty. For many, joining the capitalist West was a mixed bag, though of course the freedom to travel, the (relative) freedom of the press and the end of constant surveillance were warmly received.

end_of_days_cover_300_463This week with its anniversary also marks the publication (on Nov. 11) of my translation of the novel The End of Days by East German author Jenny Erpenbeck – she was 22 years old when the Wall fell and is highly conscious in her work of having grown up in the East. This novel features characters whose political convictions (they are Communists in Nazi Germany and Austria) prompt them to emigrate to the Soviet Union, though things do not go well for them there, and the novel’s protagonist is happy and relieved to find a home in East Berlin, where her work as a writer can finally serve the cause she believes in. This is the fourth book by Jenny I’ve translated, and I think it’s her best to date. You can hear her speaking about it in English in a brief interview broadcast on NPR’s Weekend Edition today.

Earlier this year, Jenny also wrote a long essay about her memories of her childhood in East Berlin (she went to school half a block from the Wall) and how she experienced the events of November 1989. An excerpt from this essay has just been published on the website of The Paris Review.


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