[Audio] Two Voices Salon with Don Mee Choi on Kim Hyesoon


We were very honored to host poet and translator Don Mee Choi in the Two Lines Press offices to discuss her work with Korean poet Kim Hysoon in a conversation with Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito. The conversation centered around Choi’s latest translation of Kim’s work, Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream, which was published in 2014 by Action Books, although it spanned the length of Choi’s involvement with Kim, which goes back to the early 2000s and the many translations they have collaborated on. The conversation included discussions of Action Books’ ideas of translation (epitomized in publisher Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney’s Deformation Zone), the aesthetic of the “gurlesque,” Kim as a feminist writer, and Kim’s overall stance vis a vis K Pop, the history of Korean literature, and international culture. Below you will find audio of this event and a table of contents.


0:00 Introductions

2:25 Where did you first discover Kim Hyesoon’s poetry?

4:35 The chellenges of first finding a publisher for Kim Hyesoon’s writing

6:25 Why was Action Books so interested in Kim Hyesoon based off of just two poems in Circumference?

8:10 The translation philosophy of Action Books, as represented by Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney

11:05 Kim Hyesoon as a poet that crosses national and generic boundaries

13:30 Kim Hyesoon compared to the Korean traditions of poetry, especially compared to the masculine traditions, and how contemporary issues creep in to her work, with reference to “I’m OK, I’m Pig”

16:30 Poems of Kim Hyesoon’s that have personally affected Don Mee Choi

19:25 Kim Hyesoon’s influence on Don Mee Choi’s poetry

21:25 The complexity of Kim Hyesoon’s poetry and the difficulty of interpreting it

24:30 How does Don Mee Choi translate when she doesn’t understand exactly what Kim Hyesoon means?

27:00 Does the poetry mutate as you translate it? (With bilingual example)

35:45 The “gurlesque” as it applies to Kim Hyesoon’s poetry

39:20 Kim Hyesoon as a feminist writer

41:30 Kim Hyesoon as contrasted against Korean culture at large, and the sorts of Korean literature that gets promoted by the government

46:50 audience Q & A

Let’s Hear It for The Boys: Q and A with Toni Sala and Mara Faye Lethem


In this interview, Catalan writer Toni Sala and his translator Mara Faye Lethem discuss the latest book from Two Lines Press: The Boys. Among other things, they explore translation, death and sex, and the divide between generations in modern day Catalonia. If you weren’t able to attend our book release earlier this month, you can listen to the audio on the Two Lines website. This interview was conducted by the Center for the Art of Translation’s Sarah Coolidge.

Sarah Coolidge: Mara, how did you discover The Boys and the work of Toni Sala? What were your first impressions?

Mara Faye Lethem: I first remember being aware of Toni because of a book he wrote in the early naughts about Floquet de neu [Snowflake], the albino gorilla. I was also working on a photo essay about this somewhat tragic Barcelona figure. Later I was asked to translate some of his work, which you can see here.

The Catalan original of The Boys was the debut title of a new publishing house called L’Altra, run by a very talented, brave editor named Eugènia Broggi; we were at the party for the Herralde Prize when she told me—almost in a whisper—that she was leaving the big publishing group and starting her own house. I remember thinking what a bold move that was in the midst of Spain’s worst recession ever, and what good news for Catalan literature.

Both that book and his previous one, Provisionalitat, were chosen by the Institute Ramon Llull to feature in their New Catalan Fiction catalogue, which I write for them, so now that you ask it seems like I was hearing about Toni’s work from all sides.

What I’ve always found most striking about Toni’s prose is how his often turbid meditations—on situations that most likely don’t coincide with yours—still end up feeling like the voice inside your head.

SC: Toni, The Boys takes place within a very narrow timeframe. How long did it take you to write the book and what was going on during that time?

Toni Sala: The writing of The Boys was strange. I was stuck for about year in the first chapter, which was initially a short story, thinking that it was over. Then, in the summer of 2013, in three months I wrote the three other chapters. It was very intense. I don’t know if I would have endured many more months at that rhythm. I remember thinking about the book while underwater, while I snorkeled and watched the fishes.

SC: What was it like having your novel translated? Have you read the English translation?

TS: I have not read the whole translation because I get nervous, and I don’t know enough English to draw any conclusion. Just know that if the book works, if a competent reader finds it acceptable, it is thanks to the translation of Mara Faye Lethem. When a book is translated, its benefits are both to the author and the translator. I think it’s interesting that a translation can cross the bridge across languages: literature works like a universal language, a language as accessible to the human condition as music or mathematics.

SC: Mara, you’ve said that you’ve never been to some of the countries of books you’ve translated. You have, however, lived in Catalonia for the past twelve years. Do you think that a deep familiarity with the country of origin produces a better translation?

MFL: I’m of two minds about this question, which is a very interesting one because it addresses both the linguistic and the cultural aspects of working in translation. On one hand, the answer to both aspects is: of course. It certainly can save you a lot of research, and give you a confidence in your interpretation, and more speed, which can help the rhythm of your prose. However, literary language and everyday language do not always have that direct of a relationship. You can be a good translator without having speaking fluency; those are two different skillsets.

I also feel that it is important not to conflate reading literature in translation with some sort of anthropological journey of cultural discovery. A Catalan writer has every right to set his or her book on Jupiter in the 12th century or on Guam in the 25th, thus virtually negating any possible benefits of one’s own personal life experience. Translation always involves research.

SC: In the book, Iona, the fiancée of one of the deceased, is the only main character that knew the dead boys well. Toni, why did you choose to tell this story focusing on those characters on the periphery of the tragedy?

TS: Because the novel is not about the boys, but the traces left by their death. Dying, they shape the personalities of those who remain.

SC: The novel begins with a beautiful image of the highway to Vidreres, where the book is set, littered by prostitutes awaiting customers. What role does sex have in the novel and what is its relationship to death?

MFL: I see sex in The Boys as being closely tied to power, as a means of exchange of capital. This is evident in the case of the prostitutes and also in the ideas of marriage and inheritance that are so central to the book.

TS: Sex can be understood as the culmination of life—reproduction—but clearly, without life death would not exist . . . I’m more interested in the moral side of sex, in what affects the relationship between two people. This is what interested me about the story between the banker and the truck driver with prostitutes, and also about the pursuit of the girlfriend of one of the dead boys by the last character of the book. Sex turns a relationship into something physical. It’s a converter of the soul, a translator. It allows us to see things that otherwise we could not even suspect.

SC: Some of the characters suggest a division between the older and younger generations. For example, Miqui, the truck driver, is annoyed by the old man who recounts his memories of the war. What does history mean to the various characters? Have the traumas of World War II and the Spanish Civil War been, as Miqui suggests, replaced by the trauma of the recession?

TS: Each generation has its traumas. Even the happiest childhood contains traumas. Sometimes I think there is a quota of suffering that everyone must pay, with or without war. This, from someone who has not experienced a war, may be a frivolous opinion. But how can you know, honestly, if you have never experienced a war? One idea that’s very strong in my country in recent years—I do not know if in America, too—is that today’s young generation will be the first generation in many decades that will live worse than their parents—and without a war between the generations.

MFL: The Boys is so evocative of our particular moment in history: overpopulation, poor management of resources, alienation, all of those long overdue bills we’ve been bequeathed by our parents and grandparents. Frankly, I think Spain is better equipped to confront the trauma of the recession than the trauma of their Civil War, but I feel the same way about America.

SC: What’s next for both of you? What are you working on now?

MFL: I’m revising a translation of Eduard Marquez’s La decisió de Brandes (to be published in 2016 by Hispabooks as Brandes’s Decision), translating an Argentine children’s book for Enchanted Lion, and a non-fiction book about the science of sex.

TS: I’m writing a love story, right now.

Toni Sala is the author of over a dozen novels and words of nonfiction. In 2005 he was awarded the National Literature Prize by the Catalan government, and in 2014 he received the Premis de la Crítica, Catalonia’s most prestigious literary award, for The Boys.

Mara Faye Lethem’s translations have appeared in The Best American Non-Required Reading, Granta, The Paris Review, Words Without Borders, and McSweeney’s. She is the translator of Papers in the Wind by Eduardo Sacheri, Wonderful World by Javier Calvo, and others.

[AUDIO] Launch of The Boys with Toni Sala, Mara Faye Lethem, and CJ Evans


We were very pleased to host Catalan author Toni Sala and his translator Mara Faye Lethem for the launch of his novel The Boys from Two Lines Press, the first of Sala’s books to ever appear in English. Winer of Catalonia’s most prestigious literary award in 2014, and called “altogether brilliant” by Kirkus, The Boys is the dark tale of a small Catalonian village reeling frmo the sudden deaths of two young men. The conversation between Toni and mara was moderated by Two Lines Press Editorial Director CJ Evans.


0:00 Introductions

4:25 Bilingual reading from The Boys

15:40 Why did Toni Sala structure the book as a series of four perspectives

17:35 How are the different characters attached to the book’s central deaths?

20:15 Mara Faye Lethem’s approach to translating the book

24:40 Themes related to death in The Boys, and economic issues in Spain and Catalonia today

30:20 The economic collapse driving a breakdown in morals in Spain

34:00 How Toni chose the town that The Boys takes place in

43:05 Feelings in Catalonia about the independence movement

48:15 How the history and politics of Catalonia emerges in The Boys

52:05 Social media and the Internet in The Boys

56:10 Mara’s process of working with Toni

1:01:07 The philosophical digressions in The Boys

1:04:09 Audience Q & A

Two Lines + Music and Literature SUBSCRIPTION OFFER


It goes without saying that we at Two Lines are huge fans of our peer journal Music & Literature. Not only is Music & Literature extremely international in its focus (covering authors like László Krasznahorkai, Dubravka Ugrešić, Alejandra Pizarnik, and Clarice Lispector, just to name a few), it also offers hugely in-depth critical writing on these authors, as well as original texts from them and interviews with them that cannot be found anywhere else.

Each issue of Music & Literature is dedicated to three artists, each artist getting a critical portfolio of well over 100 pages. It’s like getting three monographs in each issue.

Since Two Lines is also all about international writing, and since we focus more on the source texts than on commentary, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to collaborate with Music & Literature on a subscriber offer. For a limited time you can now subscribe to both Two Lines and Music & Literature at one discounted price. Get one for yourself, or give it to a friend as a fantastic gift!

United States residents can get a full year of Two Lines and Music & Literature for only $40.00. That’s four issues amounting to over 600 pages of international writing you will not get anywhere else. And if you pick up a two-year dual subscription for $65.00, the savings are even more.

Subscribe 1-year for $40
Subscribe 2-year for $65

International customers can also get in on this deal. Due to the costs of shipping worldwide, your prices will be $80.00 for the combined one-year subscription and $155.00 for the two-year.

Subscribe 1-year international for $80
Subscribe 2-year international for $155

At checkout, please be sure to specify if you’d like your subscription of M&L to start with Issue 6 (latest) or 7 (upcoming), and of Two Lines with Issue 23 (latest) or 24 (upcoming).

Music & Literature is truly a remarkable publication that we are very pleased to be working with. Have a look at all of the amazing things to be found in the Alejandra Pizarnik portfolio, just one of three portfolios from Issue 6:

A Few Essential Words / Alberto Manguel

An Introduction to Alejandra Pizarnik’s Diaries / Ana Becciú, trans. Cecilia Rossi

A Selection from Diaries / Alejandra Pizarnik, trans. Cecilia Rossi

A Selection of Prose / Alejandra Pizarnik, trans. Cecilia Rossi

An Introduction to “The Lady Buccaneer of Pernambuco or Hilda the Polygraph” / Ana Becciú, trans. Cecilia Rossi

The Lady Buccaneer of Pernambuco or Hilda the Polygraph / Alejandra Pizarnik, trans. Suzanne Jill Levine

Correspondence with León Ostrov / Alejandra Pizarnik, trans. Emily Cooke

Some Keys to Alejandra Pizarnik: An Interview / Martha Isabel Moia, trans. Emily Cooke

Come Here Alejandra / Julio Cortázar, trans. Stephen Kessler

Pavane for a Dead Princess / Olga Orozco, trans. Stephen Kessler

An Overdose of Seconal / Enrique Vila-Matas, trans. Rosalind Harvey

Alejandra Pizarnik / César Aira, trans. Katherine Silver

Demystifying Pizarnik: On Editing the Complete Works / Isabella Checcaglini, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

“The Shadow of the Typist”: The Perturbed among Lilacs / Étienne Dobenesque, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

The Woman in Red / Jacques Ancet, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

11/20: Two Lines Press at Pegasus Books On Solano


Executive Director Michael Holtmann, Production Editor Jessica Sevey, and Associate Editor Marthine Satris will talk about publishing literature from around the world as a small press, and will read selections from recent Two Lines Press publications.

Join us at Pegasus Books Solano Avenue location in Berkeley!

  • November 20, 2015
  • Pegasus Books
  • 1855 Solano Ave., Berkeley
  • 7:30 pm
  • FREE

11/12: Two Voices Salon with Don Mee Choi


Join us on Thursday, November 12, as we welcome poet and translator Don Mee Choi to the Two Lines Press offices to discuss her PEN Translation Award shortlisted translation of Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream by Korean poet Kim Hyesoon.

Although South Korean pop culture has come to dominate the world, deeper understandings of its art, music, and literature are harder to come by. Kim has been recognized as a poet who cuts deeply to the heart of Korean poetics and literature today. She is also a poet who has been recognized as one-of-a-kind, a true original, even among the literary movements that she has been associated with.

Choi will discuss juat what Kim is up to, and how she both reltaes to and transcends Korean literature. In addition to translating Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream, she has also authored Hardly War (Wave Books, 2016) and The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010). And she is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and the 2012 Lucien Stryk Translation Prize.

  • Thursday, November 12
  • Two Lines Press offices
  • Doors 5:30, event 6:00
  • 582 Market St., Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94104
  • Don Mee Choi in conversation with Scott Esposito on Korean poetry
  • FREE
  • alcoholic beverages and snacks

[AUDIO] A Celebration of Wolfgang Hilbig


photo copyright Gezett

We were very pleased to present translator Isabel Fargo Cole, the award-winning German authors Ingo Schulze and Inka Parei, and translator Katy Derbyshire at the Brecht-Haus in Berlin to celebrate author Wolfgang Hilbig. They were discussing Isabel’s translations of his book The Sleep of the Righteous, just published by Two Lines Press, and “I,” published earlier this year by Seagull Books.

This English/German bilingual conversation ranged widely over Hilbig’s life and circumstances, his influence, and his importance as a German writer. It also covered translation issues surrounding Isabel’s work with him, and Isabel’s own interactions with Hilbig before he died of cancer in 2007.

A full table of contents is below, and the English-language portions have been called out.


0:00 Introductions

8:56 Reading by Isabel Fargo Cole (English)

15:50 First encounters with Hilbig
—(Isabel in English at 23:26)

28:35 Isabel’s experiences with Wolfgang Hilbig in person (English)

30:00 Ingo Schulze reads his personal thoughts in Hilbig

40:25 Reading from Bottles in the Cellar (English)

50:50 Hilbig’s influence on the panel’s writing
—(Katy Derbyshire and Isabel in English at 57:00)

1:11:53 Isabel’s struggles getting Hilbig published in English (English)

1:16:40 Audience Q & A (English)

[AUDIO] CJ Evans in Conversation with Naja Marie Aidt on Rock, Paper, Scissors


In collaboration with Litquake we were pleased to welcome author and poet Naja Marie Aidt to The Lab in San Francisco, CA, to discuss her novel, Rock, Paper, Scissors, recently translated by K.E. Semmel for Open Letter. Naja discussed her book with Two Lines Press’s own CJ Evans. Their conversation delved into the book’s plot, the breakdown suffered by its protagonist, the appearance of a Paul Celan poem in the book, the differences between writing poetry and fiction, and Naja’s relationships with her three English translators. Below you can find the full audio of this event, as well as a table contents of the subjects discussed.


0:00 Introductions

1:20: Reading from Rock, Paper, Scissors by Naja Marie Aidt

9:46 When Naja first decided to become a writer

12:25 How Naja moved into fiction from poetry

16:40 Does Naja take a different approach to writing different genres

19:25 Do you use poetic tools in Rock, Paper, Scissors?

21:54 How Naja controlled information throughout Rock, Paper, Scissors

28:20 The mash-up of literary genres in Rock, Paper, Scissors

42:35 The relationships between characters in Rock, Paper, Scissors

48:04 Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue” in Rock, Paper, Scissors

50:30 Where exactly Rock, Paper, Scissors takes place

54:42 Naja and her translators

58:50 Are translations of Naja’s books still her books

1:04:17 Audience Q & A

A Seemingly Unlikely Place: Q and A with Isabel Fargo Cole


This interview is between the Center’s own Sarah Coolidge and Isabel Fargo Cole, whose translation of The Sleep of the Righteous by Wolfgang Hilbig is available now from Two Lines Press. Among other things, they discuss Isabel’s recent translation of The Sleep of the Righteous East Germany, and the state of translated literature today. In December Isabel will be conducting events in New York City and San Francisco to support the publication of The Sleep of the Righteous.

Sarah Coolidge: The stories in The Sleep of the Righteous are set in the uniquely insular world of postwar East Germany. What is it about this world that appealed to you as both a reader and a translator?

Isabel Fargo Cole: I always felt drawn to the East since my first visit to Berlin in 1987, as part of a class trip, when the Wall was still standing – the sense of standing in front of a wall with an inaccessible world of human beings behind it was very powerful. I visited a few more times after the Wall fell, and moved there for good in 1995, studying German and Russian literature at the Humboldt University in the former East. For a long time all my friends were East German, and it was fascinating to hear their stories and try to get a sense of what life had been like. It wasn’t that the world seemed pleasant or appealing, it was just the fact that it was a human reality that we had gotten only a very superficial idea of. In the US you tended to grow up with clichés about people in East Bloc countries being sort of grey, brainwashed robots without any culture aside from crude propaganda. So it was rewarding to discover the richness of human experience in the East (of course including many dark things as well), and the richness of the literature dealing with it. As a translator, I’ve always been drawn to things that need to be unearthed, rediscovered – there’s a special fascination to the process, and a pleasure in rescuing bits of past life and passing them on, even if these bits of life are dark and painful. Perhaps here this echoes Hilbig’s urge to write these stories, to resurrect his childhood and the dark past of this little town, Meuselwitz. And what is resurrected here, or created, is in fact a world unto itself. And as Laszlo Krasznahorkai puts it so beautifully, “Hilbig’s art… is built upon the fact that East Germany is identical to the world.” I think that is what drew me to Hilbig’s writing – the sense of a whole rich world opening up in a seemingly unlikely place.

SC: You’ve said in previous interviews that there are autobiographical elements to these stories. Is there anything you can tell us about Wolfgang Hilbig’s life that might surprise us or add to our understanding of the book?

IFC: To understand “The Memories,” and to a lesser extent the title story, it helps to know that Hilbig’s father had gone missing at Stalingrad, and Hilbig was raised by his mother and her father, Kaszimier Starlek, who had emigrated from the town of Biłgoraj in Eastern Poland before World War I to work in the Meuselwitz coal mines. There’s a point in “The Memories” where the narrator speaks of “the mix of peoples in the chaos of regions Gunsch came from … If you came from there, you were a leftover person, remembered by no one.” This seems to allude to the fact that Biłgoraj was located in a multiethnic region, and one that saw mass population transfers as borders were redrawn following World War II. Hilbig’s Polish grandfather may have contributed to his sense of being an outsider, and to his sensitivity toward the fates of the masses of people who were uprooted during and after World War II. Hilbig was actually known to his close friends as “Kaschi”, taken from his grandfather’s name.

SC: Hilbig wrote primarily about everyday life, though with an underlying force that Lazslo Krasznahorkai, in the introduction to the collection, refers to as “a monster that has not collapsed […] even today it lurks there in the depths, frightening, threatening, dark, just as if it were always there.” In your opinion, what is this “monster” lurking beneath Hilbig’s writing and what was it like to grapple with it as a translator?

IFC: In this passage Krasznahorkai alludes to the specific darkness(es) of Germany’s past – but I am sure that the “monster” is something more universal. I don’t think it makes sense to try to pin it down or put a name to it. Hilbig writes about the horrors of Nazi Germany and the Stasi, but he does so in a way that lifts them out of their historical confines and connects them to other kinds of darkness which he finds in everything from his (ravished) natural surroundings to grotesque, trivial human interactions. This is what makes his writing so disturbing, because the “monster,” whatever it is, isn’t safely confined to some other time or place, or some other person. Readers can also bring their own personal associations to it. Of course it is oppressive to grapple with it over and over when translating, but then there are the flashes of beauty or warmth, and his dark humor, and simply the perseverance of his narrators, that make the experience strangely cathartic.

SC: Several of the narrators appear to be estranged in one way or another from the women in their lives. In “Coming” the narrator is plagued by the suicidal cries of women, and in “The Dark Man” the narrator finds himself in an unloving, strained marriage. What roles do you think women play in this collection?

IFC: The narrators’ relationships with women are typical of Hilbig’s writing as a whole. Either the women are unattainable, or the narrator finds himself embroiled in excruciating conflicts with them. There’s a profound alienation – but then, Hilbig’s narrators are alienated from everyone. Only with the women, though, is this alienation so tormenting, because they are in some ways the fullest human beings in Hilbig’s work, the ones who seem to hold the secret of feeling and decency and vitality. The narrator feels this keenly, but for all his yearning is unable to form a human connection with them, to understand them, avoid disappointing and betraying them; he is not equal to them. He is like an alien confronted with human beings. He is consumed by a love that he can’t express, not even in words, much less in deeds, and this gives him a deep sense of guilt. This begins with his mother, who plays an important role in his writing, but as a rather shadowy, reproachful figure, and extends to his other relationships. Hilbig’s narrators often gaze at women’s bodies, trying vainly to grasp them that way. Described like this, he sounds horribly misogynist, idealizing and objectifying women, subjecting them to the male gaze, etc. – but these scenes, especially the one in “The Dark Man” where he visits his dying ex-lover, are, I find, almost unbearably moving, as he confronts his own inadequacy and a terrible sadness at the gulf that exists between men and women.

SC: Are there any idiosyncrasies in Hilbig’s German prose that were particularly difficult to translate into American English? How did you deal with them in your translation?

IFC: Hilbig tends toward long, swirling sentences broken up, or held together, by ellipses and dashes, a complex stream of consciousness that often stutters or peters out and picks up again. As one blogger very astutely noted, “Like Beckett, Hilbig gets closer than most writers to the actuality of our thought processes, made up as they are not only of a flow of information but with their gaps and misremembering.” Because it is so crucial to the narrative perspective, I have done my best to retain this syntax despite the common wisdom that English-speaking readers don’t like long sentences, but have occasionally broken up the longer sentences if that seemed possible without disturbing the rhythm. It is the obsessive rhythm that carries the reader (and the translator) through the most intense passages.

SC: You also recently translated Wolfgang Hilbig’s novel I for Seagull Books, released this year. What distinguishes Hilbig’s stories from his novels and other writings?

IFC: The blog quote about Hilbig’s syntax above actually refers to “I”, yet applies equally well to the stories. So the fundamental elements of his voice remain the same. But the stories show him much more in his lyrical vein, very dense in atmosphere, with the narrator’s state of mind often conveyed through his vivid impressions of the world around him. Hilbig also wrote poetry, and very short prose pieces that might best be described as prose poems, as well as some outstanding novellas in an equally poetic style. Most of the stories in The Sleep of the Righteous fall toward that end of his spectrum, while “The Dark Man” points toward works like “I”, with a larger cast of characters and a greater focus on plot and dialogue.

SC: What do Germans think of Wolfgang Hilbig today? Is he widely known?

IFC: Hilbig is certainly widely known among German writers, many of whom regard him as one of the most important post-war writers from Germany. As a challenging writer who never made any concessions toward marketability, he never reached a mass audience, but he has a very devoted readership.

SC: You run an online publication called no man’s land featuring first-ever translations of German literature. What inspired you to start the site?

IFC: I started the magazine in 2006 out of frustration at how difficult it was to find publishers or magazines interested in translations. At that point I’d been trying for several years, without results, to find publishers for projects such as Hilbig’s works, and thought I might better put my energy into creating a place to publish German literature in translation. It has been a very rewarding experience, and has helped to pull together a very lively community of literary translators in Berlin (and elsewhere). Actually, this issue will be our last. Thankfully, we are finally seeing a real boom in translation publishing, with new publishers like Two Lines and Seagull, and a proliferation of magazines and blogs. I’m happy to think that no man’s land played some small role in this whole development, but the need for our magazine no longer seems as urgent, I have a lot of translation projects to focus on, and Issue # 10 seemed like a nice place to stop. We may continue it in a slightly different form, though.

SC: What advice do you have for young translators?

IFC: We have some practical tips on no man’s land, under Translators’ Tips. In a nutshell, I would say: 1) Translate what you’re passionate about, not what you think other people want to read. Do a sample and a synopsis and send it around. 2) But clarify the rights situation with the original publisher first! 3) It can’t hurt to reach out to the writer and see if they’d be willing to help you with translation questions. 4) Be very patient.

Isabel Fargo Cole is a US-born, Berlin-based writer and translator. In addition to The Sleep of the Righteous by Wolfgang Hilbig, her translations include Boys & Murderers by Hermann Ungar (Twisted Spoon Press, 2006), All the Roads Are Open by Annemarie Schwarzenbach (Seagull Books, 2011), and The Jew Car by Franz Fühmann (Seagull Books, 2013). She was a recipient of the prestigious PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant in 2013.

Two Voices with Eka Kurniawan in Conversation With Annie Tucker and Olivia Sears [AUDIO]


We were very pleased to have Center for the Art of Translation Founder and Board President Olivia Sears conduct an interview with Eka Kurniawan, author of Beauty Is a Wound and Man Tiger, along with the translator of Beauty, Annie Tucker. The event took place at the wonderful Green Apple Books on the Park before a rapt audience. This wide-ranging conversation included both of Kurniawan’s novels, which were the first works of his to appear in the English language. The discussion delved into Indonesian history, Kurniawan’s first experiences with stories, translation challenges with the Indonesian language and culture, Kurniawan’s studies as a university student, the author’s response to the reception of his books in the West, and Tucker’s experiences discovering Kurniawan and finding a publisher for him. See below for a table of contents and full audio.


0:00 Introductions

5:30 Overview of Beauty Is a Wound by Olivia Sears

8:55 Reading by Kurniawan in Indonesian and by Tucker in English

14:20 Kurniawan’s responses to the reception of his work in the West

16:40 Kurniawan’s formative reading experiences

25:00 The history of Indonesia, and how it entwined with Beauty Is a Wound

30:30 How Tucker discovered Kurniawan

34:30 Why did Kurniawan focus on women and beauty in Beauty is a Wound

40:48 Challenges of translating the Indonesian language and dealing with the nation’s culture

51:25 The figure of the white tiger in Man Tiger

53:45 More challenges from translating from Indonesian

58:15 Q & A from the audience