Archive for September, 2010

No, you could have come to us

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

“I don’t think I would have been able to publish my first two novels, which were around 30,000 words long and had little “plot” in the conventional sense, after the mid-1990s.”

—Amit Chaudhuri, in his review of Whatever Happened to Modernism? by Gabriel Josipovici, in the Independent

Student Translators in Berkeley

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

For those of you in the Bay Area, there’s an exciting translation-related event coming up: On October 10th, you can check out the Poetry Inside Out program as part of Berkeley’s Watershed Poetry Festival. This exciting program allows grade-school students the opportunity to study and translate renowned foreign-language texts, learn about poetic line, and compose their own work. Students will be reading translation-inspired poetry from A Pocketful of Voices / Un Bolsillo de Voces alongside U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, among others. More info here.

Lydia Davis & Madame Bovary

Sunday, September 19th, 2010


Is there anything more exciting than the promise of Lydia Davis blogging about literary translation?

Besides the woman herself reading from her new Madame Bovary at the 92nd Street Y?

Besides Davis “Getting to Know Your Body”? (This is the phrase that lures readers from the Paris Review Daily to FSG’s Work in Progress blog.)

I for one can’t wait to find out how she translates bouffées d’affadissement. (Truly, despite the breezy, bloggy tone: blame the top hat, the bow tie.)

gusts of revulsion
a kind of rancid staleness
stale gusts of dreariness
waves of nausea
fumes of nausea
flavorless, sickening gusts
stagnant dreariness
whiffs of sickliness
waves of nauseous disgust

Thanks to Scott Esposito for pointing out the Paris Review blog; to FSG for publishing Davis; and to Davis for everything else.

PS: Check out Macy Halford’s post at the New Yorker’s blog on buying this issue of Playboy.

But why weren’t we in Brooklyn?

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Up at the Mantle (thanks to Three Percent for the link), notes on the “Reading the World” international literature panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival this past weekend, which included Karen Emmerich (representing Archipelago), as well as folks from Ugly Duckling, Zephyr, and New Directions.  Looks just fantastic—I’ll include the bit on Karen here as a lead-in, with a note to say I’m lucky enough to have read the Vakalo translation she mentions, and indeed it’s wonderful:

Great stuff all around, an excellently curated panel. Every single one of the works presented is worth purchasing (skip the library and give these people some money!). … Karen Emmerich (representing Team Archipelago) read the poetry and prose from the Greek writer Miltos Sachtouris, skipping us across Aegean waters from Greek isles to ancient Greece. And then… Ms. Emmerich read an outstanding piece of poetry on the life of plant, by the poet/author Helenē Vakalo. The Mantle audience pleads for an answer—what is this poem and where can we find it? This vegetative poetic genius!?!?

[Keep reading here—]

Karen also read at Words Without Borders’ “Down and Dirty Round the World” event on Saturday, an evening of “of hard-boiled, pulpy, and erotic international literature” read by a great lineup of translators.  Karen reports she read from our soon-to-be-released The Sleepwalker—which has been one of those books that as you finish sending it to press you think, how did we get so lucky, that this strange and singular creature just came when we called?  Come to think of it, I think The Sleepwalker encompasses,  all of the above—the hard-boiled, the pulpy, the erotic—in one formidable, terrifying, beautiful hybrid.

All of which is to say—what a feast of a weekend!  Even if we weren’t there, how nice to catch something of the energy of it all even up here in this corner of Massachusetts…

Spanish translation from “Blue Has No South”

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

La Comunidad Inconfesable, a Spanish magazine of shorts, is currently featuring a Spanish translation of “The Angel that Brod and Kafka Dreamed Of” from Blue Has No South. Read it in full here.

Words Without Borders features Urdu fiction from India

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

In another moment in which I’m left to panic about finding time to read all the riches on offer: This month’s issue of Words Without Borders features Urdu fiction from India, edited by Muhammad Umar Memon.  Memon is the translator of Naiyer Masud’s Snake Catcher, and includes in the issue a newly translated story by Masud—which Memon introduces thus:

Naiyer Masud, the finest Urdu writer in India and Pakistan today, says it all without saying it, using miraculously suggestive language, shorn of the slightest trace of embellishment or rhetoric, so stark, so cropped, and yet so powerful.

Snake Catcher has been for Interlink/Clockroot one of the books that breaks a publisher’s heart—captivating, distinctive, singular, yet, it seems, barely noticed in the culture.  For instance—pardon this bit of publicity—this is what World Literature Today said of it:

Masud’s highly evocative, sensuous stories, often told as remembrances of a long-ago childhood, are unique in contemporary Urdu short story writing. Exhibiting an open-ended quality and a seeming lack of the resolution found in more conventional fiction, they occupy a singular niche in the rapidly evolving, diverse artistic landscape of modern Urdu letters, which has experienced the development of surrealism, Marxism, experimentalism, postmodernism, and postcolonialism in its annals.

But I shouldn’t be pessimistic: it’s never too late.  Read Masud’s “Destitutes Compound” here, and then of course the whole issue. Enormous thanks as always to the invaluable Words Without Borders.