2013 Susan Sontag Prize for Translation to Two Lines Press Translator

We’re very pleased to report the news that translator Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody has received the 2013 Susan Sontag Prize for Translation for his work with Benjamin Fondane’s long poem Ulysse. Big congratulations to a fine up-and-coming translator.

Ulysse is a work that has long been familiar to us at Two Lines Press, as we published a lengthy excerpt from his translation in Passageways, the 19th edition of our TWO LINES journal. In addition, we published some further portions of the work at TWO LINES Online, and they can be read here and here.

Here’s a little about Fondane and his work from Nathaniel’s introduction to the work in TWO LINES:

Born in 1898 in the old Jewish community of Iaşi, where his father was a storekeeper and his mother came from a well-known intellectual family, Fondane studied law but did not pass the bar, as his professor routinely failed Jewish students. He published poems, translations (from German and French), and criticism in the journals that flourished between the wars in his hometown and Bucharest, where he moved in 1919. In the capital, he was always at the center of a flurry of avant-garde artistic activity, yet in 1923 he moved to Paris like so many other Romanian artists and intellectuals, drawn to the city whose literature and culture was its own second language. Eugene Ionesco was his friend, Constantin Brancusi a witness at his wedding, and in later years the young Emil Cioran would visit him for encouragement. . . .

In French, he published the long poems Ulysse (1932) and Titanic (1937), but the many poems he wrote during the occupation of Paris—including The Sorrows of Ghosts and the collection In the Time of the Poem—were only published posthumously.The three extended poems: The Sorrows of Ghosts, Ulysses, and Titanic, were all inspired by two journeys Fondane made to Argentina, once invited by Victoria Ocampo to give a series of lectures, and once to direct a film that was unfortunately never released. All three poems take as their central image the Atlantic passage. Ulysses identifies its Homeric title character with the storied Wandering Jew, and draws on the mass emigrations that brought many of Fondane’s fellow Romanian Jews to America. Its tone and ideas anticipate the late masterpiece The Sorrows of Ghosts, written in occupied Paris in the shadow of the camps, whose ghosts, waiting on the quay to embark, then crossing the ocean in giant steamers, are fleeing a world falling to pieces. Their estrangement—from that lost world that was never theirs in the first place, from their own past (both the immigrants’ and Fondane’s, who was never sure how to confront his own Jewish heritage), and, as seekers of a hard truth like Shestov, from the crowds around them who accepted the world as they saw it—is ten years distant from the still-young poet. The voice, however, is the same, as are the concerns and the uniquely warm and sympathetic way of seeing a wide and unfriendly world.

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