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

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