Weekly Links: The Vasconcelos Library, Celebrating Jose Emilio Pacheco, and Virginia Woolf’s Voice

The Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City (see link below)

Not translation, but still awesome: the only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice.

For the first time since 2008 (and probably long, long before) over 500 works of literature-in-translation were published in the U.S.

The Cairo International Bookfair was marred this week by bombs that went off around the city of Cairo.

Is literature worldwide growing gloomier?

In remembrance of the great Mexican author and poet, Jose Emilio Pacheco, who passed away this week, an interview with him in Spanish from 2009 in Letras Libres.

The New York Times conveys the lifelong work of Pacheco, who, in later collections, incorporated translation into his own creative process.

Three poems by Pacheco from PEN’s Write Against Impunity anthology.

If you’ve published translations from Arabic, French, German, Italian or Spanish into English, apply for the Society of Authors Translation Prizes for 2014. Deadline is February 28th.

The 2014 longlist of Arabic literature for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award has been announced.

A reading list featuring small press books from the U.S. and Latin America that offer a critical view of language.

Images of the Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City.

You can now subscribe to the Two Lines journal in 1-year and 2-year increments—and get a great discount when you do it.

Two Lines Journal Now Taking Subscriptions!

We are very pleased to say that you can now subscribe to the revamped, relaunched, rejiggered, newandimproved—most awesome and fantastic—Two Lines journal of international literature!

Here’s the deal: starting this fall, Two Lines will publish twice a year. Each issue will run about 200 pages and will be stuffed with international prose and poetry, as well as original essays and interviews by and with translators, international writers, and all the other people who live to do translations.

You can subscribe in 1-year or 2-year increments. If you get the 1-year, you save 25% off the cover price. If you go in for 2 years, you save nearly 50%! Utter madness!

The journal will publish twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.

That’s it—so simple! So what are you waiting for? Have at it.

Links: The Passing of Poet Juan Gelman, New Audiences for Translated Lit, and Who’s Banning Dan Brown

We lead off this week with a collection of links about Argentine poet Juan Gelman, who recently passed away at age 83 after a distinguished career that saw him publish over 20 volumes of poetry:

The New York Times eulogizes Juan Gelman.

A translation of letters that Gelman wrote to his grandchild, who was born in a concentration camp, reprinted courtesy of the University of California Press.

Translator Lisa Rose Bradford on translating Gelman’s “Cólera buey.”

Author David Gordon’s novels gain moderate success in the USA, but the Japanese translations of them make him famous.

The New York Times eulogizes the influential translator of Chinese literature, C.T. Hsia.

Russian translators discuss common problems when translating from Russian to English.

Books that are banned around the world. Props to Lebanon for banning Dan Brown

The Guardian argues that small presses have increased the audience for translated literature

Next week Belgium inaugurates its first poet laureate, Charles Ducal.

And here’s Argentine author Andrés Neuman discussing his recently translated novel Traveler of the Century.

Now This Is How Translation Reviews Should Be Done

The Los Angeles Review of Books review of Landmarks is a case-study in how to do everything right with translation reviews, and I don’t just say that because reviewer Chip Rossetti give a big, fat rave to the latest volume of Two Lines.

No, I say it because the world of literary reviewing would look different if every reviewer of translations were empowered to give the kind of attention Rossetti does to the unique issues that come up when dealing with a translation. And not to mention—rarely are the translators so visible in a review of a translation.

Let’s just take a look at it piece by piece.

Number 1: Be upfront and clear about the unique challenges that come into play when reviewing a translation. Check.

I SHOULD ACKNOWLEDGE up front that reviewing translated fiction is always a tricky proposition, particularly if the reviewer hasn’t read the original text. Should the review be an assessment of the author’s text? If so, the reviewer has to take the translator’s word (as it were) that the English text she is reviewing has not done too much damage to the original. At best, a reviewer might feel confident discussing the plot, but be more hesitant about assessing a metaphor or commenting on the style. If there’s a startling juxtaposition of words on page 38, was the translator attempting to mimic a similar linguistic surprise in the original, or was he just getting carried away with his own cleverness? Without looking at the original, who can tell?

Number 2: Promote the translator and all the hard (and all-too-often unacknowledged) work he or she does. Check.

Scholars writing about translation often speak about the translator being “invisible” within the text, but all too often the translator is invisible elsewhere as well. I don’t mean simply that a translator doesn’t get credit on the title page or book jacket (although that has frequently been a point of contention for translators), but that the translator’s presence is often elided altogether, including in reviews. So it is heartening to see that Two Lines foregrounds this work by starting each selection with a brief note by its translator. In addition to providing helpful context about the author and the literary tradition in which he is working, the translator also addresses at least one thorny problem that emerged in the course of the translation. It’s a helpful reminder that every English word we are reading is the product of deliberate choices, painful compromises, and inspired workarounds.

Number 3: Discuss how the work of translation impacts the results that a reader gets to read. Check.

Tsvaeteva’s fellow Russian poet and contemporary, Daniil Kharms (1905-1942) is as well known for his short, absurdist prose pieces (or “incidences,” to use the title of a recent translation of them) as for his poetry. Here he is represented by two short poems, deftly rendered in English by Melinda Noack. Despite the difficulty she acknowledges in replicating the rhythm and meter of the original Russian, Noack translates Kharms’s “One Million” in a sing-song style: the image of marchers, their numbers growing unstoppably, takes on subversive dimensions in this seemingly naïve verse. (Unsurprisingly, Stalin’s regime did not look kindly on Kharms’s idiosyncratic poetic style and erratic personality, and he ended up dying in a psychiatric ward in Leningrad during that city’s long siege.) One could easily imagine this poem in the hands of Dr. Seuss: a political allegory for adults disguised as a children’s book.

Number 4: Discuss the unique challenges to working with translations. Check.

The challenges of translating poetry sometimes require unorthodox translation methods: in some of these pieces, the translator didn’t know the language of the original, but instead collaborated closely with the author on the translation. Jeffrey Yang, for example, worked with Uighur poet Ahmatjan Osman, now living in exile in Canada, on a translation of Osman’s long poem “Dwelling in the Warmth of Other Suns.” Osman writes poetry in both Uighur and Arabic, but since Yang knows neither Arabic nor Uighur, their collaboration worked by way of a “skeleton key in English” provided by the poet, which Yang would then forward back to the poet along with questions. As Yang puts it, “Let sympathetic readers judge.”

And it just goes on and on . . . I’ve really only scratched the surface of this review, so definitely go and have a look at the entire thing.

$200,000 Literature Prize, Menippean Satire, and Publishers’ Picks for 2014

Some of the latest news from the world of literary translation, rounded up by your friends at Two Lines Press.

In a review of a translation for The New York Times, Martin Riker gets in “Menippean satire,” Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s Tristram Shandy-esque novel Leg Over Leg, and the 2,600-page Zibaldone all in.

Translator Katy Derbershire writes about (among other things) why she altered the title of the latest book she translated.

A review of the new translation Stalin Is Dead, from the Israeli writer Rachel Shihor (translated by Ornan Rotem).

English PEN rounds up interesting forthcoming translations from UK publishers.

Qatar is launching a very lucrative new literature prize—$200,000 to the winner. But there’s some doubt as to whether the money will be enough to guarantee the award relevance.

A new issue of the translation journal Asymptote has just launched, with translations of or by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, J. M. Coetzee, Atar Hadari, and many more.

And our own Fata Morgana Books has just received a wonderful review at BOMB.