Self-Portrait in Green is Making Waves!

Self-Portrait in Green has only been out since November, yet it’s making top-tier Flavorwire lists and receiving excellent raves by Shakespeare & Co, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and other media! The highly-esteemed author, Marie Ndiaye, was the winner of France’s most prestigious literature award, the Prix Goncourt, and a finalist for the 2013 Man Book International Prize.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Here is a small book that can be read in an evening. It’s a book that, once read, leaves you wondering what to think about it, but knowing at the least that you had a thought-provoking evening…. But the ensuing questions about what’s real and what’s metaphorical actually prove more intriguing than frustrating. Likely, this reaction is due to Ndiaye’s distinctive voice, gently rocking a reader through portraits that are hardly soothing.The result is a strange, strong series of stories.

Reading In Translation

Self-Portrait in Green is a book to be read on the move, in a bus, on a train, etc., where the reader’s own sense of direction and certainty is disrupted. This is because disorientation dominates NDiaye’s book; cases of misidentification, misappropriation, and misremembering abound. The result of this experimental literary technique could have been confusing, almost suffocating. Yet, NDiaye’s narrative unrolls effortlessly. This fluidity is due in part to the translator’s seasoned pen (ahem keyboard)…. Stump translates NDiaye’s weaving, ambiguous phrasing—so prevalent in French—into a clear English, though not one robbed of its strangeness. The book’s many temporal transitions in particular are seamless, the word choices notable. For a book filled to the brim with physical descriptions of the women in green, there is scant repetition; each portrait is vivid without relying on cliché.

Shakespeare & Co

What if you met your friend and didn’t recognise her, then saw her across the street and realised you’d been talking to a stranger? What happens when your sisters, your mother, your children act entirely unexpectedly? How do they become incarnations of the mysterious “women in green”? Man International Booker Prize nominee Marie NDiaye’s Self Portrait in Green is an affecting, novelistic memoir built from short stories that deal with close relations: how much can we ever know of those nearest to us, and can we know ourselves, and our own motives, any better?


This book skirts the line between a collection of short fiction, memoir, and novel, but I think it’s best understood as a set of scenes, variations on the theme of the “green lady”—an invention of NDiaye’s—that wades through feminine fear, power, and insecurity like no other book I’ve encountered.

AUDIO: Two Voices Salon with Sean Cotter on Blinding by Mircea Cartarescu [AUDIO]

blindingMausolems that resemble eyeballs, secret tunnels that become ears—and then vaginas—support groups and hard drinking for Mircea Cărtărescu’s translators, and just how Cărtărescu became such a famous author in Romania that calling him a “rock star” would be an insult . . .

All that and more can be heard in the audio player at the bottom of this webpage in our second Two Voices Salon, where the guest of honor is Sean Cotter, translator of Mircea Carterescu’s Blinding: The Left Wing (Archipelago Books, 2013). The first book in a 1,500-page trilogy, Blinding is an amazing ride through a dazzling, postmodern Romania, starting in Bucharest, somehow pivoting to New Orleans, and then back to Bucharest.

Our live audience agreed that Cotter was a hugely charming and erudite presence. As always, the conversation gets started off as we share what books in translation we’re currently reading. Then, after that, we turn to Cotter for an in-depth discussion of Blinding. Cotter is interviewed by Two Lines Press’s own Scott Esposito.

In addition to Cărtărescu’s Blinding, Cotter’s translations from the Romanian include Nichita Stănescu’s Wheel with a Single Spoke and Other Poems (recipient of the 2012 Best Translated Book Award for Poetry), Liliana Ursu’s Lightwall, and Nichita Danilov’s Secondhand Souls. His essays, articles, and translations have appeared in Conjunctions, Two Lines, and Translation Review. He is an associate professor of literature and literary translation at the University of Texas at Dallas, Center for Translation Studies.


0:20 The Council of Egypt by Leonardo Sciascia (translated by Adrienne Foulke)

1:40 Texas by Carmen Boullosa (translated by Samantha Schnee)

3:00 Report from the Besieged City by Zbigniew Herbert (translated by John Carpenter and Bogdana Carpenter)

3:45 Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano (translated by Mark Polizzotti)

4:40 Music & Literature Issue 5

5:40 Clarice Lispector, especially Água Viva (translated by Stefan Tobler)

6:10 Seiobo There Below by Laszlo Krasznahorkai (translated by Ottilie Mulzet) and Three Light Years by Andrea Canobbio (translated by Anne Milano Appel)


7:10 Introductions

8:50 How the project to translate Blinding came about

10:15 Cărtărescu’s place on the Romanian writing scene and influences

13:30 Cotter’s interactions with Cărtărescu while translating Blinding, and how he dealt with problem words

17:50: Cărtărescu vis a vis Communism and the fall of the regime in 1989

20:55 What Blinding is about

26:10 Concepts of normality and abnormality in Blinding

27:54 What Cotter likes and didn’t like about Blinding

33:35 Why is the book titled Blinding, and was Cotter tempted to leave the title in the Romanian, as Orbitor?

36:20 The meeting of Cărtărescu’s various translators from around the world

41:35 Would Cotter translate Volume 2 of Blinding, and Cotter’s process while translating Volume 1.

46:05 The sounds of the Romanian original

46:55 Cărtărescu’s Romanian publisher, Humanitas

51:10 Cărtărescu’s publishers during the Communist era

52:45 How Cotter came to Romania

54:40 Translation problems Cotter dealt with while translating Blinding

1:05:10 Biblical language in Blinding and how Cotter dealt with it

1:09:00 Making Cărtărescu’s racial language appropriate for an American setting

February 17: Two Voices Salon with Karen Emmerich [EVENT]

emmerichOn February 17 it will be our honor to host the person who just might be the English-language’s pre-eminent Greek translator: Karen Emmerich.

We will undoubtedly talk about some of Karen’s dozen-plus full-length projects (and innumerable stories, articles, and poems), but the main topic that night will be her new title, The Scapegoat. Publishing on February 3 from Melville House Books, it is by the Greek author Sofia Nikolaidou, who has never before been translated into English.

The Scapegoat is a potent novel about journalism, how history is recorded, and the contemporary situation in Greece today. It is based on the real-life story of the famed reporter George Polk (who eventually had a prestigious journalism award named after him).

This Salon will take place at the Two Lines Press offices on Tuesday, February 17, starting at 6:00 pm. As always, we’ll begin the conversation with the latest and greatest in translation, then move on to the main event. Alcoholic beverages and snacks will be provided.

  • Tuesday, February 17
  • Two Lines Press offices
  • 582 Market St., Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94104
  • 6:00 – 7:00 pm
  • Free food and drinks

Here is Melville House’s description of the book:

In 1948, the body of an American journalist is found floating in the bay off Thessaloniki. A Greek journalist is tried and convicted for the murder . . . but when he’s released twelve years later, he claims his confession was the result of torture.

Flash forward to modern day Greece, where a young, disaffected high school student is given an assignment for a school project: find the truth.

Based on the real story of famed CBS reporter George Polk—journalism’s prestigious Polk Awards were named after him—who was investigating embezzlement of U.S. aid by the right-wing Greek government, Nikolaidou’s novel is a sweeping saga that brings together the Greece of the post-war period with the current era, where the country finds itself facing turbulent political times once again.

Told by key players in the story—the dashing journalist’s Greek widow; the mother and sisters of the convicted man; the brutal Thessaloniki Chief of Police; a U.S. Foreign Office investigator—it is the modern-day student who is most affecting of them all, as he questions truth, justice and sacrifice . . . and how the past is always with us.

$45,000 NEA Grant for Two Lines Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—The Center for the Art of Translation is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a $45,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support Two Lines Press. This award makes possible the publication of new books in translation and the biannual journal Two Lines, a flagship of international literature.

“We are incredibly gratified by this award—this is the most generous level of support the Center for the Art of Translation has ever received from the NEA, and it is a measure of how much progress Two Lines Press has made in the three short years since its launch,” says Center Executive Director Michael Holtmann. The grant will support publication in 2015-16 of three full-length translations as well as stories, poems, and essays from dozens of languages in Two Lines.

This award caps off a banner year for Two Lines Press, which hosted its first-ever author tour—Nordic Council Literature Prize-winner Naja Marie Aidt, the author of Baboon, attended events in six major U.S. cities—and received accolades from the Los Angeles Times, Kirkus Reviews, Tin House, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Flavorwire, among many others.

Two Lines Press grew out of the 20-year history of the widely acclaimed translation journal Two Lines. Two Lines Press authors have received the Prix Goncourt, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Prix Femina, the Nordic Council Literature Prize, and the Georg Büchner Prize. Marie NDiaye’s All My Friends (translated by Jordan Stump) was a finalist for the 2014 French-American Foundation Translation Prize. Forthcoming titles include Richard Weiner’s The Game for Real (translated from the Czech by Benjamin Paloff) and Wolfgang Hilbig’s The Sleep of the Righteous & Other Stories (translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole).

The Center for the Art of Translation is a San Francisco-based non-profit that champions the art of translation by publishing the best world writing in Two Lines Press, engaging audiences through Two Voices literary events, and transforming student learning through the Poetry Inside Out education program..