Archive for August 2015

Translation on Tap in NYC, Sept. 1 – 15, 2015


Alastair Reid ©Luis Poirot, photo courtesy of Leslie Clark

Welcome back from the summer. Here’s what’s going on this early September:

Thursday Sept. 10:

“A Literary Tribute to Alastair Reid”: This program will feature the renowned translators Edith Grossman and Gregory Rabassa along with other friends and colleagues of Reid, the Scottish poet, essayist, and translator (Borges, Neruda, etc.) who passed away last year. It should be a high-powered conversation with lots of excellent translation lore. Admission charge of $10; free for Americas Society members. More information here. Americas Society, 680 Park Ave., 7:00 p.m.


Read Kafka with Translationista at the 92nd St. Y

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 11.35.08 AMIn case any readers of this blog might be interested, I thought I’d let you know that I’ll be ringleading a four-session literary seminar at the 92nd St. Y this fall. The class will be translationcentric as well as Kafkacentric: readings will include mainly lots of Kafka’s short fiction, translated by several hands. Naturally we’ll be comparing the different translations as we discuss the stories. Screen-Shot-2014-01-18-at-2.40.20-PMWe’ll also read Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis (in my own translation, with sections read in other translations as well) and his novel The Trial – in short, as much as can be comfortably crammed into four weeks. Here’s the official description:

What’s so riveting about a giant bug filled with all-too-human thoughts, a nameless rodent manically guarding the many branches of his underground lair, or a man who, finding himself arrested, spends the rest of his life trying to discover the charge? We’ll delve into the question of what makes Kafka “Kafkaesque” by reading many of his classic stories and one of his novels, and comparing different translations of his work.

The seminar will be held over four Thursday evenings (Sept. 24 – Oct. 15) at the 92nd St. Y, on Lexington Ave. at 92nd St. You can find more details and registration information on the 92nd St. Y website. I also understand that scholarships are also available (info here). If you’re able to sign up, please do – I’d love to see you there!

Remembering Carol Brown Janeway


Carol Brown Janeway in 2014 ©Beowulf Sheehan

When news of the sudden death of publisher, editor and translator Carol Brown Janeway at the age of 71 hit the airwaves just over two weeks ago, I was shocked. I’d moderated a panel on Thomas Bernhard with Carol on it just a few years before, and more recently watched her accept the Ulfers Prize (2013) and Ottaway Award (2014) for her contributions to the advancement of foreign literature in the U.S. She was “around,” an active member of the New York literary community, brimming with energy and projects. The cancer that unexpectedly overtook her must have been moving at a pretty fast clip to catch her.

Since I didn’t know her well, though, I wanted to invite someone who did to write something more substantial about her life and work, and was very happy that my translator colleague Frank Wynne agreed to do so. Frank is a London-based author and translator from French and Spanish with a highly distinguished record (IMPAC Prize, Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, Scott Moncrieff Prize, Premio Valle Inclán) and publications list. He also counted Carol among his friends. Here’s what he had to say about her:

On August 3, the world lost one of the great champions of world literature in Anglo-American publishing. In the space of forty-five years Carol Brown Janeway rose to become a publishing executive, senior editor and vice president of international rights at Knopf. If that was not enough, in her spare time – “for fun and love” as she put it – she translated novels principally from German, but on occasion from Yiddish, Dutch and French.

Though she spent much of her life in New York, she was proudly, fiercely Scottish. Born in Edinburgh in 1944, she studied modern and medieval languages at Girton College, Cambridge and it was here that she first met Sonny Mehta, who would be her colleague for much of her working life. She worked briefly with the London literary agency John Farquharson before moving with her husband William Janeway to the United States in 1970 where she joined Knopf, a company to which she remained steadfastly loyal for the rest of her life. Her first marriage ended in divorce, and she later married the editor Erwin Gilkes, who died in 1994. These scant facts do little justice to her life.

I had the good fortune to be introduced to Carol some seven years ago by a close mutual friend. I was a lowly translator, she was a publishing luminary with a formidable reputation; I feared the worst. I could not have been more wrong. If Carol was a legend of her own making, her neatly pinned hair and straitlaced demeanour masked someone who was wildly, riotously entertaining. Over the years, whenever I found myself in New York or she in London we would meet up to gossip, drink and set the world to rights. She was passionate about books, fearsome in negotiation, intensely loyal to her friends, devoted to ‘her children’ – a generation of younger editors and publishers she encouraged and supported. An evening’s conversation with Carol was always a rollercoaster, there were few subjects on which she did not have an opinion and it sometimes felt as though she kept a high horse saddled for every occasion. But what I will most remember about Carol is how much we laughed, and how outrageously, laugh-till-wine-comes-out-your-nose funny she was. She could be caustic and scathingly witty – being a perfectionist, to say she did not suffer fools gladly is a gross understatement; she gladly made fools suffer – and her sense of humour encompassed the infantile and the cerebral. If she sometimes seemed to cultivate her standing as a grande dame in the publishing world, she was also the first to puncture her own balloon.

Her contribution to international literature is a fitting testament to her tenacity and her enthusiasm. As a publisher, she introduced English-language readers to Imre Kertesz, Elsa Morante and Patrick Süskind and commissioned John E. Woods’s striking new translations of Thomas Mann. As a translator, her first book for Knopf was Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s Das Boot; thereafter, every year, she would spend her ‘holidays’ immersed in a translation. She had an unerring instinct for international fiction, and her many authors include Ferdinand von Schirach, Thomas Bernhard, Bernhard Schlink, and – somewhat controversially – the Hungarian novelist Sándor Márai, whose novel Embers she translated from the German.

At the 2013 ceremony when she was awarded the inaugural Friedrich Ulfers Prize for her contribution to German literature, Daniel Kehlmann, her author and friend, said: “the truth is, in publishing she is a legend.” Carol Brown Janeway was and is a legend: larger than life, feisty, fiery and ornery, she will be long remembered by her sister Ann, her many friends, and the host of readers who continue to be touched by her work. It is a fitting legacy.

Translators: Join the Author’s Guild by Aug. 31 for a Discount

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 6.04.45 PMIf you’re a literary translator, you may not know so much about the Author’s Guild, an organization that advocates for the interests of writers. But you ought to know about the Guild because 1. It’s a great organization; and 2. Translators are among the varieties of writers it advocates for.

The American Literary Translators Association has just announced a new partnership with the Author’s Guild, which came about thanks to some expert matchmaking by PEN Translation Committee co-chair Alex Zucker. As a result of these negotiations, ALTA members are being invited to join the Author’s Guild at a discounted rate of $100/year (instead of the usual $125), provided they sign up by the end of August.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 6.12.55 PMAnd the Author’s Guild is an organization you’ll be proud to be associated with; their history of advocacy is impressive. This year they’re working on a “Fair Contract Initiative,” and President Roxana Robinson recently issued a call to investigate Amazon’s business practices and their impact on the book industry. In general, the Guild works on projects connected with free speech, fair contracts and copyright protection. Here are some of the benefits of membership:

  • Free legal help on writing and publishing matters – including written book contract reviews;
  • Author website building with our exclusive Sitebuilder software and low-cost hosting ($6/mo in most cases);
  • Free seminars covering topics such as marketing and publicity, movie deals, estate planning, and more;
  • Access to members-only content on the Guild’s website, including an interactive forum where you can talk about a number of topics impacting the writing life.

Other benefits listed on the website include, among other things, access to an e-publishing service for out-of-print books and…dental insurance! But even if the contract vetting service were the only benefit available, that in itself would still be reason enough to sign up; $100 for access to contract vetting is a fraction of what you’d pay to hire a lawyer privately to look over your next contract. So if you’re in the business of translating and publishing works of literature, I think you should seriously consider joining. I’m a member. And if enough translators sign on, we’ll be able to ask for more offerings specifically geared to the needs of literary translators.

To receive the discounted membership, click here. And note that this discount offer expires after Aug. 31, 2015. Translators will still be welcome to join the Author’s Guild after that, but the regular membership fee of $125 will apply.

UPDATE: The link for the discount appears to still be live after the Aug. 31 deadline, so you can still join for $100. And if at some point the link stops working, try this one instead (also for a $100 membership but linked through my own personal referral rather than ALTA).

Translation on Tap in NYC, Aug. 16 – 31, 2015

LispectorWhew, we must be pulling out of the dog days of summer, because there’s now once more something to look forward to in Translationland NYC: several events around the long-awaited Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson. In fact, I just heard that Dodson will be in town for all these events (visiting from California), even though she’s not included in any of the official events listings – I hope we hear from her!) UPDATE: The Aug. 19 and Aug. 20 events will each conclude with a Q&A session featuring Dodson.

Wednesday, Aug. 19:

Clarice Lispector editor and biographer (and sometimes translator) Benjamin Moser will present The Complete Stories together with Vanity Fair‘s Anderson Tepper at Book Culture, 450 Columbus Ave., more information here. 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 20:

The Glamour and Grammar of Clarice Lispector, a presentation by Benjamin Moser with writer Benjamin Anastas at 192 Books, 192 Tenth Ave., more information here. 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 27:

Benjamin Moser will be joined by writer Porochista Kakpour. Word Books, 126 Franklin St., Brooklyn, more information here. 7:00 p.m.

NEA Announces 2016 Translation Fellowships

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 12.12.34 PMAs I wrote last year, the NEA’s budget for translation grants has fluctuated a bit over the past few years. The amount of money available for fellowships dipped to $275,000 this year (down from last year’s $300,000), but that’s still much better than the $200,000 the NEA was able to spend on these grants three years ago. This year, 20 awards were made (same as last year), but only two of them were at the $25,000 level – last year there were twice as many – with the rest set at $12,500. This year’s two top-tier grants go to Kit Schluter, to support his translation of a multigenre compilation of works by Marcel Schwob (1867-1905), and to 2014 National Translation Award winner Matvei Yankelevich, for his translation of a multigenre compilation of works by Elena Guro (1877-1913). Both projects propose to rediscover underappreciated artists from the past.

Here’s the complete list of grantees for 2016:

• Aron R. Aji
• Philip Boehm
• Maia Evrona
• Jeffrey Friedman
• María José Gimenez
• Ani Gjika
• Jennifer Grotz
• Kathleen Heil
• Jesse Lee Kercheval
• Michelle Har Kim
• Michael Leong
• Michael F. Moore
• Benjamin Paloff
• Kit Schluter
• William Schutt
• K.E. Semmel
• Donna Stonecipher
• Jeremy Tiang
• Will Vanderhyden
• Matvei Yankelevich

You can find more information about each of these translators and their projects on the NEA website.

And here’s an early heads-up: the application deadline for the 2017 NEA Translation Fellowships is December 8, 2015. Information and guidelines here.


Submit Now for Close Approximations, Asymptote’s Translation Prize

2015caflyerJust over two years after the first Close Approximations contest for translators early in their careers was launched, Asymptote has announced the second edition of its now biennial translation contest. Judges this year will be Michael Hofmann (poetry), Ottilie Mulzet (fiction), and Margaret Jull Costa (nonfiction). The winners of the first Close Approximations prizes, by the way, were Cory Tamler and Željko Maksimović (fiction) and Owen Good (poetry), with several runners-up (Rhonda Dahl Buchanan and Krista Brune in fiction, Alexander Dickow and the team of Taije Silverman and Marina Della Putta Johnston in poetry).

I’m glad to see among this year’s many submission guidelines a request that translators concentrate on undertranslated authors who are appreciated in their home countries but unknown or little known in English. That’s a good standpoint for a journal of translation to be representing. As is making the prize specifically for translators early in their careers (defined as having published no more than one book-length translation). Submissions for the contest will be accepted through Dec. 15, 2015 Feb. 1, 2016.


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