Audio: Donald Nicholson-Smith on Abdellatif Laâbi


We were very pleased to host French translator Donald Nicholson-Smith to discuss his translation of the career-spanning collection of Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laâbi work In Praise of Defeat. Newly released by Archipelago Books, In Praise of Defeat is a massive selection of 40 years of work from the poet many consider the leading voice of his generation in North African poetry. Nicholson-Smith was in conversation with Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito/

Below you will find full audio of this event. Because of a recording error, the introductions do not appear on this audio. It begins with Nicholson-Smith discussing Laâbi’s career.

And here is a bio for Nicholson-Smith. In addition to translating Laâbi, Donald Nicholson-Smith has translated French intellectuals and authors including Gianfranco Sanguinetti, Guy Debord, Antonin Artaud, Henri Lefebvre, and Jean-Patrick Manchette. He has worked with Seagull Books, New York Review Books, City Lights, University of California Press, and many others.


0:00 Donald Nicholson-Smith overviewing Laâbi’s life and career

5:30 Laâbi’s “prison poetry”

8:50 a reading of some of Laâbi’s prison poetry

13:15 The challenges of translating Laâbi’s poetry and Nicholson-Smith’s unique approach

22:50 The reasons for publishing Laâbi’s poerty bilingually in French and English, and the advantages to this presentation

29:00 Why Laâbi to chose to write in French and what this meant for Morocco’s poet tradition

36:05 Audience Q & A

AUDIO: Lidija Dimkovska in Conversation with Michael Holtmann on A Spare Life


Last Thursday we were very happy to welcome a large and enthusiastic crowd to Diesel, a Bookstore to celebrate the release of Lidija Dimkovska’s EU Prize–winning novel A Spare Life (tr. Christine Kramer). This event was the 9th of 10 events Lidija had been in since October 5, when she launched her U.S. tour at Brooklyn’s Community Bookstore.

Below you will find audio of the bilingual reading and conversation between Dimkovksa and Center Executive Director Michael Holtmann. Among other things, they touched on how A Spare Life’s central conceit—the story of conjoined twins growing up in Yugoslavia—metaphorically looks at the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the post-Communist era.


0:00 Introductions

2:54 Bilingual readings in Macedonian and English

13:20 Where the voice of the narrator, one of the conjoined twins, came from?

22:55 The optimism in the twins’ lives

27:05 The relationship of the book to the wars surrounding the disintegration of Yugoslavia

39:55 The “lost generation” of Yugoslavian writers and the writing of the wars

47:10 What does the Macedonian language mean to you?

53:40 Audience Q & A

Audio: Yoshimasu Gozo Performance, and In Conversation with Forrest Gander and Emily Wolahan


We were very pleased to welcome major Japanese poet Yoshimasu Gozo and translator and poet Forrest Gander to the Bay Area to perform and discuss Yoshimasu’s new book of selected poetry, Alice Iris Red Horse, translated by a number of leading Japanese translators. Yoshimasu (assisted by Gander) first gave a performance of his work and then was interviewed by Two Lines Press’s Emily Wolahan.

Below you will find full audio of the performance and conversation.

AUDIO: Bela Shayevich in Conversation with Scott Esposito on Svetlana Alexievich

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We were very proud to host acclaimed Russian translator Bela Shayevich discussing her translation of Second-Hand Time by 2015 Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich for our first Two Voices Salon of fall 2016. In this wide-ranging conversation, Shayevich delved into the challenges of translating from 70 years of different kinds of speech all across the immense geography of Russia, as well as discussing the necessity of footnotes to this project, critiques of Alexievich for fudging her facts, and what it was like to wake up and suddenly find out the author you were translating had just won a Nobel Prize.

Full audio of this event is below for your listening pleasure.


0:00 Introductions

2:00 What it was like the morning Alexievich won the Nobel Prize

6:08 Why translate Alexievich?, and the editing process for the book

7:39 What Second-Hand Time is about

13:03 The critique that Alexievich fudges her details

19:39 Translation challenges in Second-Hand Time and what’s up with the Russians and salami?

26:50 The footnotes in Second-Hand Time

30:50 The question of freedom in Alexievich’s work

35:40 Activism in Russia and the final monologue in Second-Hand Time

40:50 Audience Q & A

Doug Slaymaker and Akiko Takenaka on Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure by Hideo Furukawa


We were very pleased to be joined by Doug Slaymaker and Akiko Takenaka before an enthusiastic crowd to discuss the Japanese, post-Fukushima novel Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure by Hideo Furukawa. Although Furukawa is little-known in the United States, in Japan he is celebrated an a prolific and expansive author, someone who has vaulted onto the Japanese scene with a ferocity and who has quickly taken on a leading position.

Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure deals directly with the disastrous earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, that began on March 11, 2011, and that continues (by some counts) to this day. It is also a response of sorts to September 11, 2001 in the United States and the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Slaymaker and Takenaka discuss these enormous historical events, as well as Furukawa’s unique evocation of his experiences in Fukushima after the meltdown, the challenges of translating his Japanese prose, his other literary works, and what Japanese literature they are looking forward to experiencing.

Audio of this event plus a table of contents if available below.


0:00 Introductions

1:20 Origins of the translation of Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure and background on author Hideo Furukawa

4:45 How uncommon was it for a book to come together and be published as rapidly as Horses, Horses was, just four months after the 3/11 disaster?

6:25 Overview of the 3/11 disaster, and Doug’s and Akiko’s experiences in Japan during and immediately after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown

11:35 Furukawa’s experiences of the earthquake, feelings of guilt and “spirited away” because he was away from Tokyo when the earthquake struck

15:30 Furukawa’s decision to go to Fukushima directly after the disaster

18:00 Furukawa’s integration of his mammoth novel The Holy Family into Horses, Horses, and what exactly Furukawa is doing when he puts a character from that book into Horses, Horses

21:30 Integration of taboo elements of Japanese history into Horses, Horses

29:30 Furukawa’s arrival in New York City right after the assassination of Osama bin Laden and integration of that event into Horses, Horses, as well as 9/11/2001 and the broader history between the U.S. and Japan

34:30 Furukawa’s level of involvement in the translation of Horses, Horses, and translation challenges of the book

47:30 Furukawa’s decision to abandon the writing he does on any day in which an aftershock strikes

48:30 Furukawa’s invocation of Fukushima and Japanese politics and society in books after Horses, Horses

50:45 Doug’s and Akiko’s favorites of Furukawa’s books

54:15 Audience Q & A

AUDIO: Chris Clarke in Conversation with Scott Esposito on Patrick Modiano


Last week we were very pleased to host French translator Chris Clarke before a capacity audience for our Two Voices Salon on French Nobel Prize-winning author Patrick Modiano. Chris was in conversation with Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito on his translation of Modiano’s 2007 novel In the Café of Lost Youth, recently published by NYRB Classics. This wide-ranging conversation included translation challenges Chris faced, Modiano’s roots and influences, the appearance of Guy Debord in this novel, Modiano’s particular use of French grammar, his reputation in France, and much more.

To listen, use the audio player at the bottom of this post. A full table of contents is below.


0:00 Introductions

1:40 Strange 19th-century, madmen French texts that Chris has been reading recently

2:41 How Chris discovered Modiano and came to translate him, including his weird, Modiano-esque dream

10:00 Modiano’s reputation in France before the Nobel Prize

13:10 As Modiano’s first book ever with multiple narrators, how it functions differently from his other books and what challenges it presents to a translator

18:45 What is the texture of Modiano’s particular method of thinking about the past (including Modiano’s own past and family history)?

22:35 Modiano as a writer of postwar France and why he portrays a time of economic success in such a futile, shady way, and how his portrayal of the past has changed over his career

27:11 Modiano’s use of Guy Debord in In the Café of Last Youth, and his relationship to the Situationists

31:45: Futility and eternal return in the work of Modiano, and how he reflects this in his grammar

36:30 The “intentionally vague” sense of place in Modiano’s work, particularly in how he creates Paris

40:00 Modiano on Paris

41:55 Chris’s experiences with NYRB Classics Edwin Frank and the team at NYRB Classics

48:30 Chris’s impressions of the other Modiano translators, and how to craft Modiano’s English voice, his tone and rhythms

53:45 The response to Modiano in New York

55:45 Audicne Q & A

[AUDIO] Valerie Miles and Scott Esposito in Conversation on Enrique Vila-Matas


On February 11, 2016, we were very pleased to be joined by the editor and translator Valerie Miles via Skype to discuss her translation of Enrique Vila-Matas’s Because She Never Asked, as well as Vila-Matas’s work more generally. When Miles worked with Vila-Matas to create her anthology A Thousand Forests In One Acorn, the author told her that Because She Never Asked was his favorite book that he has ever written. Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito discusses with Miles why this is, as well as how this book fits into Vila-Matas’s idiosyncratic, postmodern, ironic approach to literature. Miles also talks about the challenges of translation Vila-Matas and her favorite of his books. Below you will find the complete audio of this event, as well as a table of contents.


0:00 Introductions

4:29 The main idea of Because She Never Asked

10:10 Paul Auster’s book with Sophie Calle, and how it relates to Because She Never Asked

14:30 Valerie’s perceptions of Vila-Matas as a person, and the relationship of Vila-Matas the person to Vila-Matas the author/literary figure

18:35 Vila-Matas’s ridiculous presentation of himself on the page, and how this relates to his literary aesthetic, and the kidney failure that occurs in Because She Never Asked

23:30 Why Because She Never Asked is Vila-Matas’s favorite thing he has ever written; Exploradores del abismo; and Vila-Matas’s near-death experience

30:25 Translation challenges that Valerie faced in Because She Never Asked, including Vila-Matas’s voice and his use of tense in this book

36:50 “Shandys” in Vila-Matas’s literature, the origins of Vila-Matas’s aesthetic

45:10 Vila-Matas’s generosity toward other writers and artists in his books, and writers Valerie and artists has discovered through Vila-Matas

49:54 Vila-Matas’s El País column about Green Apple Books bookseller Stephen Sparks

51:10 Valerie’s favorite work of Vila-Matas’s, The Illogic of Kassel, and a general discussion of Kassel

59:10 Vila-Matas’s relationship to Roberto Bolaño, and disciples of Bolaño compared to disciples of Vila-Matas

1:02:40 Audience Q & A

[AUDIO] Edward Gauvin and Michael Holtmann in Conversation on The Deep Sea Diver's Syndrome by Serge Brussolo


We were very pleased to collaborate with our friends at The Booksmith to offer a night of translation conversation between translator extraordinaire Edward Gauvin and The Center for the Art of Translation’s Executive Director, Michael Holtmann. The occasion of their conversation was the English publication of Edward’s translation of
The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome Hardcover by Serge Brussolo from Melville House Publishing. Praised by NPR as “visually rich and deliciously unsettling . . . a science fiction fever dream that will leave you in no hurry to wake up” this unabashedly sci-fi tale has won comparisons to Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick.

Below you’ll find audio of that conversation, as well as a table of contents of the evening’s main discussion points.


0:00 Introductions

3:23 The world of The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome

8:40 A reading from The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome

13:25 How dreaming functions as a “gift” or a “work of art” in The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome

18:00 What is the deep sea diver’s syndrome

21:00 Translation challenges in The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome

28:20 How Gauvin discovered this book

35:15 Serge Brussolo as he fits in to the speculative fiction genre

40:50 Gauvin’s thoughts on the art of translation, and the idea that machines can translate as well as humans

46:15 Gauvin’s work with translating graphic novels

52:50 Audience Q & A

[AUDIO] Two Voices Salon with Will Vanderhyden and Carlos Labbé


We were very pleased to welcome translator Will Vanderhyden (in person) and author Carlos Labbé (via Skype) into the Two Lines Press offices to discuss Carlos’s novels Loquela and Navidad & Matanza, which Will has translated for Open Letter Books. They were interviewed by Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito.

Loquela, which publishes this month, takes its title from a quote from Roland Barthes, and the novel’s innovative structure ceaselessly re-positions the reader to give a feel of what Barthes speaks of: “a word that designates the flux of language through which the subject tirelessly rehashes the effects of a wound or the consequences of an action: an emphatic form of the lover’s discourse.”

In addition, Will and Carlos discussed how Will first discovered Carlos’s works, the importance of the political in his novels, the influence of Bolaño and Cortázar on Carlos and his generation of Latin American writers, how is books may mimic serialist music, and many other things. Scroll down for the full audio of the event.


0:00 Introductions

1:50 How Navidad & Matanza and Loquela function as books and the interactions of the various “levels of reality”

7:35 The thickness of the voices in Labbé’s work and the feeling of enclosure and labyrinth created by these voices

13:00 The convergences and overlappings of the voices in Loquela, and why the book is made this way

16:04 The meaning of the word “loquela” and how (and why) Carlos chose to use it as a name for the book

22:45 How Vanderhyden first discovered Labbé’s books and why he wanted to translate him, and his early relationship with Labbé

25:50 Labbé’s feelings on seeing the English translation of Navidad & Matanza, and the importance of understanding Chilean politics to the translation of that book

29:07 Labbé’s feelings on the relationship of his work to Bolaño’s writing, and Bolaño’s influence/importance for the next generation of writers

35:00 The concept of “Neutria” from Loquela and how it relates to the ideological angles in Labbé’s work

39:53 Labbé’s books as “the story of their rules”

41:43 Labbé’s most recent book, Piezas secretas contra el mundo, which uses elements from the Choose Your Own Adventure books

47:25 Labbé’s relationship with Cortázar’s books and influence

53:50 Schizophrenia and Labbé’s work

57:20 Blanchot’s idea of loneliness, contradicted in Loquela

1:00:05 Which book of Labbé’s would Vanderhyden most like to translate next?

1:04:00 Creating a book along the lines of serialist music

[AUDIO] Launch of The Boys with Toni Sala, Mara Faye Lethem, and CJ Evans


We were very pleased to host Catalan author Toni Sala and his translator Mara Faye Lethem for the launch of his novel The Boys from Two Lines Press, the first of Sala’s books to ever appear in English. Winer of Catalonia’s most prestigious literary award in 2014, and called “altogether brilliant” by Kirkus, The Boys is the dark tale of a small Catalonian village reeling frmo the sudden deaths of two young men. The conversation between Toni and mara was moderated by Two Lines Press Editorial Director CJ Evans.


0:00 Introductions

4:25 Bilingual reading from The Boys

15:40 Why did Toni Sala structure the book as a series of four perspectives

17:35 How are the different characters attached to the book’s central deaths?

20:15 Mara Faye Lethem’s approach to translating the book

24:40 Themes related to death in The Boys, and economic issues in Spain and Catalonia today

30:20 The economic collapse driving a breakdown in morals in Spain

34:00 How Toni chose the town that The Boys takes place in

43:05 Feelings in Catalonia about the independence movement

48:15 How the history and politics of Catalonia emerges in The Boys

52:05 Social media and the Internet in The Boys

56:10 Mara’s process of working with Toni

1:01:07 The philosophical digressions in The Boys

1:04:09 Audience Q & A