Two Words: The Blog of the Center for the Art of Translation

Tomorrow Is International Translation Day

Posted on September 29, 2011, 01:47:00 PM by Scott Esposito

Translation has its own special day, and that day is tomorrow. Per Wikipedia, it's celebrated on September 30 because that day coincides with "the feast of St. Jerome, the Bible translator who is considered as the patron saint of translators."

English PEN will be hosting a day of panels and festivities in London. If you can't make it to that, you can at least read the report that came out of last year's events, full of interesting information and ideas for promoting translation generally.

You should also have a look at PEN's Global Translation Initiative, which produced a very informative survey of translators, publishers, and bookstores in English-speaking nations all over the world. Among the findings was this comparison of translator salaries per 1,000 words:

US: $115
UK: $122
CANADA: $132

Your Guide to the Center's Litquake Festivities

Posted on September 26, 2011, 01:18:00 PM by Scott Esposito

Since we're producing three separate events for this year's Litquake festival, I thought I'd put together a little guide for people interested in attending. So here they are—our three Litquake events this year:


Oct 11: Poet and Translator Joshua Beckman

The Center joins with Litquake to present poet, editor, and translator Joshua Beckman! The author of seven books of poetry, an influential editor with Wave Books, and an acclaimed translator of numerous books—including the PEN Translation Award finalist Poker by Tomaž Šalamun—Beckman presents Micrograms by Jorge Carrera Andrade—a postmodern collection that highlights the rich possibilities of tiny poems.

Described by Carrera himself as "the Spanish epigram deprived of its subjective hue," micrograms are a delightfully rich, innovative form of poetry. Hear Beckman discuss the translation challenges they present, and revel in the discreet pleasures  of hearing them read aloud.

  • 111 Minna Gallery
  • 111 Minna Street
  • 12:30 - 1:30 PM
  • FREE

Oct 14: A Night of Mexican Literature

Two Center teams up with the Mexican Consulate and Litquake for an evening with Carmen Boullosa and Pura Lopez Colome, exciting and influential writers who are a testament to the increasing relevance of the feminine viewpoint in Mexican writing.

Come see Carmen Boullosa, a racy and in-your-face writer who counted Roberto Bolano as an admirer. She's joined by leading Mexican poet Pura Lopez Colome, who in 2008 was awarded Mexico's most prestigious poetry prize, the Xavier Villurrutia Prize.

  • Tres
  • 130 Townsend Street
  • 6:00 PM
  • FREE


Oct 15: Poetry Inside Out & Mexican Writers

Five students from Poetry Inside Out will share the stage with renowned Mexican poets Pura López Colomé and Carmen Boullosa at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco at 4 pm. on Saturday, October 15.

Sixth-graders Sophia Casey-Stewart, Stacy Hu and Rosalie Zip, and fifth-graders Oona Fitzpatrick and Mila Sall studied poetry and translation with PIO instructors last spring at Monroe and Sutro elementary schools, and will read their work both in Spanish and English.

  • Mexican Consulate in San Francisco
  • 532 Folsom St
  • 4:00 pm
  • FREE

CUNY Gets Into Basque Literature with Bernardo Atxaga

Posted on September 19, 2011, 11:24:00 AM by Scott Esposito

As noted by the Literary Saloon, The City University of New York recently hosted Basque author and former Two Voices guest Bernado Atxaga to inaguate its new Bernardo Atxaga Chair in Basque Literature and Language.

Newspaper covered the event, mistakenly labeling it the "Bernardo Atxaga department" but otherwise delivering some valuable information:

The Bernardo Atxaga department is designed for postgraduate and research students at CUNY. One or two seminars headed by Basque writers or specialists in the field will take place each year, as well as a variety of conferences.

Atxaga started off the teaching with a seminar entitled "Culture and political change in Euskadi", which ran between 12th and 16th September. In it, the author of Obabakoak reflected upon writing, Basque culture and politics.

On Friday 16th, Basque cinema was also a subject for discussion with a showing of Esos cielos directed by Basque female director Aizpea Goenaga, Director of the Etxepare Institute. The film is based on Atxaga's novel of the same name.

It's nice to see Basque literature getting some more attention in the U.S. Hopefully this will lead to more Basque authors being translated into English. As Atxaga noted in our event with him (you can hear the audio here), it's tough being practically the only living Basque author knownn in English.

TWO VOICES: Michael Henry Heim and the Three Eras of Modern Translation

Posted on September 15, 2011, 02:54:00 PM by Scott Esposito

A copy of this podcast can be downloaded here. You can also subscribe to all of the Center's audio on iTunes, or in RSS.

Translator of Thomas Mann, Milan Kundera, Hugo Claus, and many more, Michael Henry Heim joined the Center for the Art of Translation in its new offices in downtown San Francisco. Heim has worked with translation since the 1960s, and his presentation focused on how he has seen the translator slowly been brought brought out from "under the carpet" since then. Throughout, Heim came across as a passionate advocate of translation, one who has had the pleasure of seeing it emerge more and more, to the point that now, in Heim's opinion, it has developed serious momentum and has a bright future.

Heim characterized the Cold War era of translation as a "reactive" time. He drew on the example of 1958's Dr. Zhivago, a work that clearly was translated in response to the news of the era. Heim related the time when he met the book's translator, Max Harward, who told him that he was "forced" to work in a hotel room, being kept there until he had produced his final translation. This anecdote, said Heim, very literally demonstrates the invisibility of the translator in that era.

Heim's second era in translation, the "active" era, began with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Heim characterized this era with the Latin American Boom, saying that the books were published in English for apolitical reasons. This was also the first time that the translators themselves gained prominence--Heim singled out the biggest of the Latin American translators, Gregory Rabassa, who translated numerous works by the starts of the Boom. (As Heim noted, Gabriel Garcia Marquez even claimed that Rabassa's translation was better than the original.)

Heim's third and final era, one that continues up to the present, is the "proactive" era, characterized by various things: translators being accorded enough status by academia to translate from universities and teach the new generation; the development of major translation presses and organizations like the Dalkey Archive; and translators having enough status to get their own projects green-lighted.

In the audio you can hear Heim enlarge upon all of these points, plus hear about a number of other htings: his take on the Umberto Eco phenomenon (which led William Weaver, Eco's translator" to construct what he called "The Eco Chamber"); his thoughts about Amazon's new translation venture, AmazonCrossing, and things that anyone can do to help foster and promote translation.

Center Open House Tomorrow

Posted on September 12, 2011, 10:06:00 AM by Scott Esposito

Back at the end of April we carefully put everything the Center owned into boxes of various sizes and moved them from our old digs south of Market to our current residence in the Hobart building, right in the heart of downtown San Francisco.

Now we're ready to welcome all of our friends into our new offices with an open house tomorrow--September 13! So if you're in the area, please join us for drinks, lots of translation chatter, and special guest (straight from UCLA) Michael Henry Heim.

The reception starts at 5:30, with Heim going on at 6:30. He'll be talking about the big changes he's seen in translation in the decades that he's been involved. It should be an interesting talk, as Heim has been translation for some time now, and he's translated some big names (Kundera, Thomas Mann, etc) from nine different langauges.

You can find us at 582 Market St., Suite 700, which is right next to the Montgomery BART station. And if you're coming, let us know on Facebook and spread the invite to your friends!

TWO LINES ONLINE: September 2011

Posted on September 6, 2011, 03:46:00 PM by Scott Esposito

We've just published the September 2011 edition of TWO LINES ONLINE. There you'll find a bunch of material serialized from the new print edition of TWO LINES, Counterfeits, which is now available for order. You'll also find Patrick Phillips' translation of Harvest Moon by Danish poet Henrik Nordbrandt, Marilyn Hacker's translation of The cloud hanging over the valley has been there forever . . . by Vénus Khoury-Ghata, and Victor Pambuccian's translation of Keep the Void Open by Vahé Godel, all of which join their translations from Counterfeits.


Submissions Open for TWO LINES XIX

Posted on September 1, 2011, 10:51:00 AM by Scott Esposito

We've just opened submissions for the next volume of TWO LINES, our 19th. The editors of this volume will be edited by author and translator Daniel Hahn and poet Camille Dungy.

Hahn is the recipient of The Independent's Foreign Fiction Prize for his translation of The Book of Chameleons by Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa. He's translated José Luís Peixoto and José Saramago, among others and also currently the chair of the UK Translators Association and interim director of the British Centre for Literary Translation. He even blogs about translation, on occasion.

Dungy is a two-time recipient of the Northern California Book Award, the author of three collections of poetry (most recently Smith Blue), and the editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. She is currently a Professor in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University.

Submissions will remain open through January 1, but don't wait until the last minute! Translators who are new to TWO LINES are encouraged to have a look at our latest volume or to read some of the work we've published online as part of TWO LINES Online.