All My Friends Translator Jordan Stump Interviewed at The Nervous Breakdown

All-star translator Jordan Stump and the man behind the Englishing of Two Lines Press’s forthcoming All My Friends gets interviewed at The Nervous Breakdown on the intricate prose of Marie NDiaye. Here’s a taste.

You’ve worked with some of the most innovative French-language authors to appear in English in recent years, among the Eric Chevillard, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, and Marie Redonnet. How does NDiaye’s prose compare to theirs, either as a reader or as a translator?

Over the years, I’ve decided that, from a translator’s point of view, there are two kinds of writers: some have a very tough and sturdy style that can be messed around with a great deal and still sound like itself, and others have a very delicate, precarious style that is very easily deformed in translation. Chevillard is perhaps the best example of that first type: you can turn his sentences around, break them up into shorter sentences, replace one bit of wordplay with another, range far afield for your word choices, and as long as you’re attentive and imaginative the result will still sound like Chevillard. NDiaye is a writer of the second type. As I said, her language is sort of balanced between poetic and prosaic, and if you go just a little bit too far in either direction it loses all its character. The vagueness of her narrative (by which I mean that she often refuses to give us the context that would make her meaning entirely perceptible) is also hard to reproduce. The translator’s impulse is always to find some way to explain anything that isn’t abundantly clear in the text, and that reflex has to be reined in, even as one has to find a way to make the text clear enough, and to make it clear that it isn’t supposed to be entirely clear. No translation is ever easy, but so much of NDiaye’s writing is a matter of careful, unlikely balance that the text can easily be ruined even by a translator with the best of intentions.

Get more information about the incredible Marie NDiaye here, and order your copy of All My Friends.

THAT OTHER WORD | Episode 10 | April 2013 | Esther Kinsky

“That Other Word,” a collaborative podcast between the Center for Writers and Translators at the American University of Paris and Two Lines Press in San Francisco, offers discussions on classic and contemporary literature in translation, along with engaging interviews with writers, translators, and publishers.

A copy of this podcast can be downloaded here. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, or in RSS.

Prompted by the forthcoming publication of Italo Calvino’s Letters 1941-1985, hosts Daniel Medin and Scott Esposito embark on a discussion of literary lives and letters. They touch upon the marvelous correspondences of Thomas Bernhard and William Gaddis, and look forward to the lectures collected in Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature. Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Years of Insight, technically the final volume in a biographical trilogy, represents a welcome addition to English-language Kafka scholarship. Curzio Malaparte’s The Skin, a grotesque and haunting semi-autobiographical tale of the Second World War, returns after many years out of print. The introduction closes with a plea from the hosts to Anglophone publishers not to ignore biographies produced elsewhere: Michel Winock’s Flaubert and Madame de Staël, among many others, they argue, deserve a broader readership.

Daniel Medin is then joined by Esther Kinsky, a poet and translator from Polish, Russian, and English into German. Her speciality is Polish literature from the First World War to the 1960’s, and she offers wonderful introductions to some of her favorite writers of that period, including Zygmunt Haupt, who lived in the United States and continued to write in Polish even though his own children did not speak the language, Wiesław Myśliwski, whose Stone Upon Stone recently appeared in English, and Joanna Bator, whose poetic works Kinsky is currently translating. During their conversation, Kinsky and Medin discuss the lives and work of these writers, consider what has kept Eastern European (and particularly Hungarian) poetry and fiction so robust, and discuss the revival of reportage as a genre in Poland. Esther Kinsky also shares an enchanting story about what prompted her to become a translator, muses on the relationship between translating and writing, and mentions her own newest book of prose, whose German title (Fremdsprechen) she roughly translates as “talking something into foreignness.”


INTRO: Daniel Medin and Scott Esposito

0:50 Italo Calvino’s Letters 1941-1985 and other literary correspondence
3:45 Professor Borges: A Course in English Literature
4:19 Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Years of Insight
8:20 Curzio Malaparte’s The Skin
10:05 Michel Winock’s Flaubert and Madame de Staël
12:08 Daniel Medin introduces Esther Kinsky

FEATURE: Daniel Medin interviews Esther Kinsky

13:58 Esther Kinsky’s favorite literatures; the Polish writers Miron Białoszewski, Zygmunt Haupt, Wiesław Myśliwski
25:25 The continuing robustness of Eastern European literature
30:35 Esther Kinsky’s life in translation: recent and current work, including Joanna Bator’s Sandberg (Sand Mountain) and its sequel Wolkenfern; original interest in translation
38:13 Travel and translation; Esther Kinsky’s relationship to her languages and presses
42:17 Why translation is good training for becoming a writer and poet; living in Hungary and the resulting ‘foreignness’ of German
50:00 Fremdsprechen; recent favorite reads and underrepresented authors in English: László Darvasi, István Kemény, Ryszard Szociński, Jacek Gutorow, Adam Wiedemann, Julia Fiedorczuk

image of Esther Kinsky © Jeanette Abée