Weekly Links: Name the Translator!, Margaret Atwood on Translation, James Patterson Gives $1 M to Indie Bookstores

Lucas Klein: wants to make the translator more visible.

Margaret Atwood delivers a lecture to a capacity crowd at the British Library and it’s all about translation.

Check out South and Southeast Asian Literature by Alexander Street Press, a collection of pieces that yoke the English language with characteristics from local languages and capture various perspectives of diaspora to the west.

Mediterranya, a new multilingual literary blog, is a platform for short stories by Mediterranean authors.

What elements does Humphrey Davies consider when deciding which book to translate next?

Ukranian poet, Volodymyr Bilyk, discusses his views on the relationship between poetry and politics.

The great Hungarian writer Szilárd Borbély died unexpectedly and tragically today. An account of his final book, and first novel, by his English-language translator Ottilie Mulzet.

Lucas Klein initiates efforts toward naming the translator in book reviews.

The Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominated an Austrian graphic novelist and German crime writer, but failed to mention the translator.

A poem by Equatorial Guinean writer Juan Tomás Avila Laurel who has been forced into hiding, is translated by David Shook.

Belgravia Books is offering two translation workshops led by Ros Schwartz and Rosalind Harvey.

The World Literature Today Pinterest exhibits superb literary taste.

Lebanese poet, Ounsi al-Hajj, who pioneered free verse poetry in Arabic, died on Tuesday.

Author James Patterson has begun giving away $1 million of his own money to independent bookstores.

The latest episode of That Other Word came out this week, and it’s all about Korean lit.

THAT OTHER WORD | Episode 14 | February 2014 | Deborah Smith

This month, hosts Daniel Medin and Scott Esposito are sorry to have to finish Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel, a deeply impressive book that re-imagines Wuthering Heights in postwar Japan. Through the brand new translations of Honoré de Balzac’s The Human Comedy: Selected Stories and Natsume Sōseki’s Light and Dark, they enjoy re-discovering the honored classics of the French and Japanese traditions respectively. Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Definitely Maybe offers a surreal science fiction romp from the Russian writers who inspired Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, while the essays in Dubravka Ugrešić’s Europe in Sepia examine the surreal, the pessimistic, and the hilarious, from the former Yugoslavia into Europe and beyond.

In the second part of the episode, Daniel Medin speaks with Deborah Smith, a translator from Korean to English based in London. Smith gives a fascinating overview of the history of Korean fiction, including its particular formal and generic development in the twentieth century, and describes the major characteristics — and appeal — of contemporary Korean literature, to her mind one of the world’s finest and most consistently robust. The conversation then moves onto Jung Young-moon, one of the oddest but best-respected writers working in Korea today, whose collection of short stories, A Most Ambiguous Sunday, was recently published as part of Dalkey Archive Press’ Library of Korean Literature. Jung Young-moon is followed by Han Kang, whose novel The Vegetarian (forthcoming in Smith’s translation) is a clever, politically sensitive triptych revolving around one woman’s decision to give up eating meat.


INTRO: Daniel Medin and Scott Esposito

0:50 Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel
5:34 Honoré de Balzac’s The Human Comedy: Selected Stories
8:02 Natsume Soseki’s Light and Dark
10:34 Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Definitely Maybe
12:34 Dubravka Ugrešić’s Europe in Sepia

FEATURE: Daniel Medin interviews Deborah Smith

15:24 Introductions; first acquaintance with the Korean language and literature
18:19 Characteristics of contemporary Korean literature
22:13 Jung Young-moonand the Dalkey Archive series
29:56 Han Kang and The Vegetarian

Weekly Links: How Amazon Works, Translating “I Love You,” How to Judge a Translation Prize, and Go the F*ck to Sleep in Patois

Help save this bookstore from being destroyed.

You can sign an online petition to save one of New York City’s oldest and most beautiful bookstores from the wrecking ball.

Human rights groups have reported the execution of Iranian poet Hashem Shaabani.

In the spirit of Valentine’s day, translations of “I love you” into a myriad of languages.

Another entry in that popular translation debate, is any word really “untranslatable”?

A thoughtful essay on collaborative translation.

An excellent discussion of the issues surrounding what gets translated and why.

The shortlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction has been announced

And what did the judges consider when selecting the winners for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction?

How Jamaican culture influences the translation of the picture book Go the F**k to Sleep into Patois.

A profile of New Directions.

A summary of the responses to Penguin India’s choice to pull and pulp Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History.

George Packer’s long article on that bookselling behemoth known as Amazon.

The Society of Authors’ Translation Prizes have just been announced.

A review of Iraqi author Hassan Blasim’s The Corpse Exhibition.

Are translation issues discussed enough in book reviews in the United States? Join the discussion.

Is Rushmore director Wes Anderson really trying to bring inter-war Austrian author Stefan Zweig back into style?

President Obama has chosen the next next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Jordan Stump at Words Without Borders

Our world lit colleagues over at Words Without Borders have published a fantastic interview with translator Jordan Stump, discussing the astonishing things he does with the English language. The focus of this interview is all the acrobatics required to bring Marie NDiaye’s French into English for our own book All My Friends.

And a head’s-up for Stump/NDiaye fans: we will be publishing Jordan’s translation of NDiaye’s completely demented memoir, Self-Portrait in Green, this fall. If you have enjoyed NDiaye in the past, I think it’s safe to say that this book will blow you away. It will be available this fall—keep an eye out, or you can just subscribe to our 2014 offerings right now and watch it float into your awaiting hands, weeks before it reaches store shelves.

But anyway, back to the interview. Here’s a snippet:

KS: Do you find that there are times when the French is unclear, so the English necessarily has to be unclear to preserve some of that oddity or strangeness?

JS: That’s right. The translator’s tendency is always to try to show, “Look, I understand what this means!” and to clarify things. I think that’s a mistake. Confusion, especially with NDiaye, is an important part of the experience of reading. It would be a shame to lose that.

KS: Was NDiaye involved in the translation process?

JS: I always try to get the authors involved because I like talking to them. Particularly with her, I was very eager to get in touch with her. So as I always do, I wrote her some questions about a few things I had uncertainties about. She was helpful—always helpful and interested. Often writers can’t answer my questions because I’m asking questions having to do with things they themselves prefer to leave ambiguous.

KS: You’ve translated a wide range of authors—some very well-known authors like Balzac and Verne as well as some largely unknown authors, at least to English-speaking audiences—so is there a difference for you in the way you approach a very well-known text versus a largely unknown text?

JS: Actually, I don’t think there is. I think it’s possible to simply look at the work and not think about the way the author is seen. Balzac in particular is so dense and so variable that I think it’s entirely safe to say that Americans know him far less well than they imagine. If I choose a text it’s because there is something I would like to show people that I don’t think they’ve seen. Whether it’s by a very famous writer like Verne—whose Mysterious Island was egregiously badly translated before, so people really hadn’t seen it—or by somebody they would never have heard of, in any case there’s something that they haven’t seen that I want to show them and it doesn’t really matter who wrote it.

Weekly Links: The Untranslatable, Fellowships and Grants, and a 100-Year-Old Translation Mystery

Achilles tending the wounded Patroclus

A noted publisher of new Russian literature runs down the literary scene in contemporary Russia.

A great grant opportunity for publishers of works from the EU, deadline March 12.

When reviewing a translation, what obligation does the reviewer have to the translator?

Browse the dictionary Princeton University Press published this year examining untranslatable words from more than a dozen languages.

Why is it that classics need to be retranslated from time to time, yet the originals remain ageless?

The deadline for the Paul Celan Fellowship for Translators is approaching, March 1st.

Some humble plants in Mexico may help crack a translation mystery that’s stumped translators for over a century.

Eun-Gwi Chung insists on the necessity of working-class literature in Korea.

Mary Jo Bang on her contemporary approach to translating Dante’s Inferno.

Insults from the revolution translated: lime squeezers, the couch party, glue sniffers.

The London Review Bookshop is holding a series of Translation Masterclasses through April.

New translations of Mallarmé for younger poets.

Yu Hua on Internet Censorship in China

The New York Times has an interesting article by the Chinese author Yu Hua (perhaps best known in English for the novel Brothers) on the disturbing increase of Internet censorship in China. It seems that while the Chinese government is publicly requesting critiques from its citizens, in practice the story is much different:

Last year began as a relatively permissive period for expression of opinion. Following the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party, in November 2012, officials both in Beijing and in the provinces acknowledged the need to heed criticisms coming from the people.

Such criticism was not to be found in the official media, of course, so one had to go looking for it in the world of Weibo, the microblogging site. But often you wouldn’t find the criticisms there, either, because Weibo was chock-full of the message, “Sorry, the text has been deleted.”

The contrast between official welcoming of criticism and actual resistance to it is both contradictory and completely normal. For many party officials, the more sharply they are criticized, the more embarrassingly their lack of administrative acumen is exposed. So they welcome criticism (if at all) only when delivered in private.

Yu goes on to explain how he’s witnessed several sequences of greater and lesser crackdowns over time, likening them to pendulum swings.

Lately around the Two Lines Press offices we’re fascinated by these sorts of stories because in May we’ll be publishing our first ever novel from the Chinese language, called Running Through Beijing by Xu Zechen. And as this New York Times article makes clear, his brand of fiction is not exactly the kind the Chinese government is comfortable with. Interestingly, when China was the guest of honor at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair, there was some surprise that Running Through Beijing was given government backing:

China invested $15 million and managed nearly every detail of its exhibition. There was much argument over what translations to finance. The 20 new German-published volumes China financed include works by major writers, like Jiang Rong’s “Wolf Totem,” Yu Hua’s “Brothers,” and Xu Zechen’s “Running Through Zhongguancun.”

Mr. Xu’s hit, about a migrant hawking pirated DVDs and fake IDs in the capital, was unexpected. But of some 100 newly translated titles that China promoted, most are banal introductions to China from state publishers.

“The government has not put on such a concentrated, large-scale event before to promote Chinese literature, so I think it’s a good opportunity,” said Mr. Xu, 31. “Because of the government’s involvement, there are inevitably going to be these ideological problems. But we just have to be responsible to ourselves.”