Archive for February, 2011

On Karapanou

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

This week brings two excellent online features on Margarita Karapanou and the newly released The Sleepwalker. First, a wonderful, in-depth review in the new issue of Words Without Borders:

“Originally published in 1985 after her harrowing fictional debut Kassandra and the Wolf, Karapanou’s second novel The Sleepwalker confirmed her reputation as one of Greece’s most talented postmodern writers and one of her most imaginative chroniclers of human alienation. Part dystopia part satire, this surreal tale of lost souls, and a dethroned deity, is not so much a murder mystery as it is a murderer’s mystery: the reader knows who is killing the islanders, but is left to wonder about the killer’s motives and real identity.”

Read the rest here.

And just up at the Quarterly Conversation: an online roundtable discussing Karapanou and her work. Writers, translators, and scholars Nick Germanacos, Karen Emmerich, Amanda Michalopoulou, Karen Van Dyck, and Angela Dimitrakaki talk about Karapanou’s ouevre in Greek and in English translation, her critical reception and place in Greek literature, her biography, and more, in a fascinating, wide-ranging, profoundly thought-provoking conversation. Some excerpts:

Amanda Michalopoulou: There are writers who make you want to go back into writing. Karapanou makes you want to go back into living your life. She also belongs to this rare community of writers who work beyond influence; they are on their own. When I was in my twenties I tried to imitate my favorite writers, but with Karapanou it never worked. Her voice was so unique and what I wished for was just to listen to her voice. Her atmosphere influenced some of my stories but at that young age I always felt that I failed to create an atmosphere as extraordinary and magical as hers. As she doesn’t belong to a group of writers, her influence within Greek literature is difficult to be measured. I am afraid Greek literature looks always for ethnic characteristics, for more “Greekness” and Karapanou goes beyond Greekness. She is not at all interested in that stuff. Her Hydra is primarily a psychological landscape.
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Karen Van Dyck: I first understood the depth of Karapanou’s knowledge of English when I spent a week in Hydra with both her and her mother going over my translation of her mother’s novel The Straw Hats (which eventually came out under the English title Three Summers in 1995). Karapanou by this point was suffering much more obviously from the manic depression that had plagued her all her life. The drugs she was taking made her bloated and listless. I remember she would lie on the couch reading murder mysteries in the breezy open room overlooking the port while Liberaki and I argued over the meaning of words. But what repeatedly saved my translation were not so much these discussions, but the trenchant one-liners that Karapanou would interject every once and awhile with just the right American translation for the word we were hunting for. I emphasize American because if Karapanou wrote in English she would be an American writer not an English writer. Her short staccato sentences and the visual fireworks they set off are post Hemingway, pre Kurt Cobain.

Read in full here

Love spelled backwards

Monday, February 14th, 2011

The language of the narrator follows its own, internally generated set of rules, which becomes clear with the mention of the game of “evol” in the opening chapter. Readers stumble over this reference, whether in Arabic or English. In Arabic, the game is called “bahla بحلا” a non-existent word, not the name of an actual children’s game. The intended meaning becomes clear much later in the novel when we discover this word is الحب al-hub (love) spelled backwards, a word the narrator has invented to keep the game a secret. In this way, Shibli constructs an idiosyncratic language system that functions outside society and social norms. When the meaning of بحلا “bahla,” which is mentioned a number of times, is finally revealed to the reader, that revelation is gratifying. For the translator, it was fortuitous to be able to cast this frustration-cum-gratification into English by introducing “evol” or “love” spelled backwards, especially since “evol” also does not spell a real word and yet resembles the word “evil,” adding an element of darkness and mystique…

Read all of Paula Haydar’s essay on translating Adania Shibli’s Touch here.

Revenge of the Maximalists

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

Blog-calm restored. Turns out that our lovely Minimalism theme was breached. All is well now. Stay tuned in the next couple days for an essay about Adania Shibli’s Touch from translator Paula Haydar.

Hacked!

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

We’ve been hacked! And interestingly, the poetry about online gambling has now faded from the absurd prominence it took just minutes ago under the blog header, but can still be found buried in the code if you view source—now in French! It’s hacking in translation.

Dans la plupart des forme de credits de la jouissance maximale quils de faire un depot compte existant avec un. La top casinos en ligne avec bonus nombre fixe de tours sont accumulees dans les casinos en ligne peuvent en ligne qui sera acheve dans un delai impossible de continuer a. Bonus Refer a de revenus peut etre qui se passe La reponse est que les code 7995 par levolution constante des banques daffaires un bonus attrayant de sorte que vous agissez le sujet ligne en keno au jouer de automatiquement sans intervention manuelle.

What the hell?

Women & publishing, women & translation, publishing women in translation

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

VIDA has just released a much-discussed report on the ratios of male and female contributors in prominent publications, including, for book reviews, percentages of books by men and women reviewed. At Slate Meghan O’Rourke has a good summary discussion; see also Percival Everett’s thoughts here. I was particularly interested to find that the New York Review of Books, which I read almost cover to cover every issue, publishes male to female contributors at a distressing rate of 5.9 to 1, and only about 20% of the books they review are by women—all this distressing in itself & distressing because, despite my idea of myself as someone deeply attuned to these issues, I never noticed.

At the Literary Saloon, Michael Orthofer has done a quick tally of translations published in 2010, according to Three Percent’s highly useful translation database (for which we should all thank Chad Post, yet again!). Orthofer notes that: “in 2010 slightly less than 20 per cent of the books listed there are by women: i.e. there’s a huge sex-imbalance in terms of what gets translated.” This is something I’ve wondered about, but unfortunately only idly. Belletrista—”a site promoting women-authored literature from around the world”— had once written Clockroot, after reviewing several of our titles, to inquire about the translation rates of women writers vs. men writers, and I was able to say nothing more informative than that I too would be interested to see some figures. A rough scan of the 2009 titles—not scientifically done, I’m sorry—comes out with about the same ratio as Orthofer’s for 2010, somewhere around 20%. This surprises me in that most translations are published by smaller presses—indies and university presses—whom I would have thought particularly attentive to such issues. Perhaps gender often gets relegated to more mainstream publishing discussions (?), and we as small, internationally focused presses can become more concerned about aesthetic and linguistic/cultural diversity, putting gender issues to the side? I’m not sure.

When Clockroot first got going, behind scenes we often joked about how without meaning to we seemed to be only publishing women writers: early on we had signed only works by Ersi Sotiropoulos, Margarita Karapanou, Adania Shibli, Uzma Aslam Khan. I suppose that, all things being equal, we seem to gravitate toward women writers (should I note for the record that both Pam and I are in fact women?). I believe that Interlink has done a fine job publishing women writers through its twenty years—though I don’t have any figures on hand, and it would take some time to gather them (but I think of the involvement of Salma Khadra Jayyusi, and Interlink’s devotion to prominent writers such as Sahar Khalifeh and Sefi Atta). As it is, of the thirteen books on Clockroot’s list, eight are by women, five by men (two of these were originally written in English, both by women). This includes of course multiple works by repeat authors. It’s a small sample, but it is nice to feel ahead of the game.

I’d be interested in hearing from translators and editors of presses that publish translations about this issue. I suspect—without any data—that most of the submissions we receive at Interlink & Clockroot are works by men. But how many more? What role do agencies, grants, and foreign cultural ministries play in promoting men vs. women writers? How do translators interact with this issue? I myself have often wondered if there may be more women translating men than men translating women—I have no basis for thinking this other than again, a vague impression. What have reviewers noticed, both at larger and smaller venues? What role do sales play, or perceptions of which books sell? Note, for instance, this Guardian article (which mentions Uzma Aslam Khan) on “Pakistan’s literary boy’s club,” which wonders why

the media portrayal of Pakistan’s “new crop of literary stars” has disturbingly begun to focus its attention on what western reviewers are calling “the top four”: Daniyal Mueenuddin, Mohsin Hamid, Nadeem Aslam and Mohammed Hanif. Pakistani women have been writing for just as long and just as much as the men, so why is the “new crop” being portrayed by the western media as a boys’ club?

Notes for a future discussion, then? Many thanks to all those who have done the good work of gathering the figures mentioned.

—Hilary

Lunar Savings Time at the Kenyon Review Online

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

The latest issue of the Kenyon Review Online features seven stories from Alex Epstein’s new collection, Lunar Savings Time, which we’ll be publishing this spring, also in Becka McKay’s superb translation. Fans of Blue Has No South, take note. And everyone else—well, just read the stories:

On the Metamorphosis

Once upon a time there was a tree who, of all the trees in the forest, fell in love all the way to his roots with a woman who passed through the forest. The metamorphosis was his only escape: he had to turn into a man and go out into the world to find her. (He was stabbed during a fight in a port city in the east. When he started to bleed he could no longer feel his legs. He didn’t die. He boarded a ship that was lost in the Straits of Gibraltar. When he drowned he found a remedy in the intoxication of the depths. He didn’t die. In one of the versions of this legend, which ends after many years of wandering and hardship, the tree returns to the forest of his birth, where he hangs himself.) He could not forget her, even when the wind blew.

Read the rest here.

And don’t forget to come here Becka read this Friday at the Asylum Bar in DC, with readers from the Kenyon Review, Monsters of Poetry, and the fantastic new Rescue Press.