“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. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, or in RSS.
Episode 14: Deborah Smith
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.
Episode 13: E.J. Van Lanen
Scott Esposito speaks with E.J. Van Lanen, a former editor at Open Letter and now publisher at Frisch & Co., a new translation press based in Berlin. Frisch & Co. is unique in that it publishes exclusively e-books, drawing on the catalogues of some of Europe’s oldest and most respected publishers for its translations. E.J. Van Lanen explains the reasons behind choosing Berlin as a base and e-books as a product, and discusses his own history of reading electronically (and divulging his favorite e-reading software in the process). He then details several aspects of his publishing venture, from his relationships with the European presses, translators, and authors, to pricing and the online market, to the challenges of distribution and attracting readers. Near the end of the conversation, he speaks about some of Frisch & Co.’s first titles.
Episode 12: Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Daniel Medin speaks with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, the renowned Kenyan novelist, essayist, and playwright. Imprisoned by the Kenyan government in 1977 for his Gikuyu-language theatrical projects, Ngũgĩ later argued powerfully for African literature in African (i.e. non-colonial) languages. Since then, he has published numerous works in Gikuyu and Swahili, in addition to a host of scholarly texts in English. Recently, he has turned to memoir, and these two volumes, Dreams in a Time of War and In the House of the Interpreter, form the basis of much of his conversation with Medin.
Episode 11: Will Evans
Scott Esposito speaks to Will Evans, publisher and founder of Deep Vellum Press in Dallas, Texas. Their lively conversation opens with the story of how Deep Vellum got its “cheeky and irreverent” name and a discussion of Texas’ thriving literary and cultural scene. Evans speaks in detail about his decision to found a press, his close collaboration with Chad Post of Open Letter Books, and the historical, financial, and intellectual considerations in becoming a publisher of literature in translation.
Episode 10: Esther Kinsky
Daniel Medin is 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.”
Episode 9: Ethan Nosowsky
Scott Esposito sits down with Ethan Nosowsky, a former Editor-at-Large at Graywolf Press who has recently been named Editorial Director at McSweeney’s. Nosowsky discusses his early career and several of his experiences with editing translations at Graywolf, most notably with regard to Daniel Sada’s Almost Never. He talks not only about seeking out great Mexican writers and getting to know Sada’s work, but also about the working relationship he developed with translator Katherine Silver as she produced the English version. He muses on what makes a manuscript in general attractive to him as an editor and explains McSweeney’s innovative publishing model. In conclusion, Nosowsky enthuses about the latest issue of McSweeney’s Quarterly, which has been described as a long game of “translation telephone,” and resolves to pursue more literature from China.
Episode 8: Nick Barley
Daniel Medin interviews Nick Barley, the director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the largest and perhaps best-known literary festival in the world. He gives a lively account of Edinburgh’s literary heritage and the influence it still exerts on the atmosphere of the festival, and testifies to the continuing importance of such festivals for both authors and readers. He explains the origins of 2012’s International Writers Conference, at which authors from around the world were asked questions about the relationship between art and politics and the future of the novel. He reflects on the surprising appetite last year’s audiences showed for for translation-related events, and shares several of his own favorite works, of both Scottish and foreign origin, from 2012.
Episode 7: Stephen Henighan
Scott Esposito speaks to Stephen Henighan, a novelist, critic, and translator from Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian. Since 2006, Henighan has been general editor for the International Translation Series at the Canadian-based press Biblioasis. He talks about immigrant experiences in Canada and his own “deeply-rooted rootlessness,” the Canadian relationship to English and translation, and the challenges of procuring and producing translations for the Canadian market. He discusses Mia Couto’s “rural modernism,” his literary influences, and why the author travels well, despite being essentially “untranslatable.” Finally, Henighan tells the comical and haphazard story of how he came to learn Romanian, and describes the process of translating and trying to publish Mihail Sebastian’s The Accident.
Episode 6: Géraldine Chognard and Sylvia Whitman
Daniel Medin speaks to two booksellers in Paris about introducing and promoting literature in translation, challenges to bookselling in the age of Amazon, and the idea of the bookshop as community center. Géraldine Chognard manages Le Comptoir des Mots (near the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris’ twentieth arrondissement) and co-runs the small press Cambourakis, which specializes in literature in translation and has published Stanley Elkin and László Krasznahorkai, among others. She speaks about Librest, a cooperative effort among seven bookshops in eastern Paris, and ways to promote new works in translation. She mentions Le Comptoir des Mots’ successful poet-in-residence program, which has already hosted Frédéric Forte, a member of Oulipo, and Benoît Casas, and comments on Cambourakis’ upcoming publishing projects, including the French translation of Krasznahorkai’s War & War. Sylvia Whitman took over Shakespeare and Company, Paris’ best-known anglophone bookshop, from her father, George Whitman, five years ago. She talks about appreciating the shop’s history and her efforts to expand its mission, the joys of reading in multiple languages, and the unique position of anglophone booksellers in France. She reveals Shakespeare and Company’s bestselling titles and recommends some of her staff’s recent favorites.
Episode 5: Margaret Jull Costa
Scott Esposito sits down with Margaret Jull Costa, a distinguished translator from Spanish and Portuguese who has brought Javier Marías, José Saramago, and Eça de Queiroz into English. She is the winner of numerous literary awards for translation, including the IMPAC Dublin award for her version of Marías’ A Heart So White. She speaks about her twenty-five year career, her pragmatic approach to translation, her favorite authors and her love of the nineteenth century, as well her thoughts on the evolution of Javier Marías’ style and his latest novel, which she has translated as The Infatuations.
Episode 4: Antoine Jaccottet
Daniel Medin speaks to Antoine Jaccottet, who founded the Paris-based press Le Bruit du Temps in 2008 and has since brought out an admirable collection of works in translation, collected works, memoirs, poetry, and philosophy. He has stated that the press’ mission is to publish, if possible, “constellations of books rather than books in isolation. A bit like a musical season: we establish projects around an author (Browning), a book (The Tempest), a theme . . .” He speaks about the publishing program of Le Bruit du Temps, the importance of translation, Robert Browning, Isaac Babel, Julius Margolin, Virginia Woolf, Zbigniew Herbert, and Osip Mandelstam. The conversation concludes with a bilingual reading: Medin recites Gabriel Levin’s poem “In Alexandria” in the original English, and Jaccottet reads the beautiful French translation by Emmanuel Moses.
Episode 3: Benjamin Moser
Scott Esposito interviews Benjamin Moser, author of Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector. Moser has recently re-translated Lispector’s last novel, The Hour of the Star, and is currently editing a series of four of her earlier works for New Directions (Near to the Wild Heart, A Breath of Life, Agua Viva, and The Passion According to G.H.). He talks about falling in love with Lispector, his missionary urge to promote her work, The Hour of the Star’s stylistic strangeness and surprising pathos, and why online grammar forums make the work of translation less lonely.
Episode 2: Petra Hardt
Daniel Medin speaks to Petra Hardt, head of the rights department at Suhrkamp Verlag and author of Rights: Buying. Protecting. Selling. Suhrkamp is one of the most prestigious presses in Germany and in Europe, and since its founding in 1950 has published not only many of the greatest German-language writers of the twentieth century — among them Paul Celan, Theodor W. Adorno, and Thomas Bernhard — but foreign authors as well, including Samuel Beckett, Marcel Proust, and Julio Cortázar. In a series of wonderfully engaging anecdotes, Petra describes her work in rights and foreign rights, how that work is changing in the digital age, and why her book is intended for new presses in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
Episode 1: Lorin Stein
Scott Esposito is joined by Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review and former senior editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. They discuss editing the English version of Jean-Christophe Valtat’s 03 (translated by Mitzi Angel), procuring the rights to Roberto Bolaño’s works and editing Natasha Wimmer’s translations, failure and what separates translation from other kinds of writing, “living with books,” and why The Paris Review publishes what it does. The conversation concludes with Edouard Levé, touching on his aphoristic influences, his humor, his suicide, and his book Autoportrait, which Stein has recently translated from the French.