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

This Is What You're In For

Posted on May 24, 2012, 03:30:00 PM by Scott Esposito

So on June 12 we're closing out the 2011-12 Two Voices events seasons with Kate Bernheimer, Maria Tatar, and Ilya Kaminsky in person, reading dark fairy tales from My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me.

It is happening at "speakeasy" Viracocha in the Mission and will be awesome. Tickets are just $5, and you can get them right here.

To give you some idea of what to expect, here's Ilya reading his poetry. Don't know about everyone else, but I'm really curious to know what it sounds like when he reads a fairy tale.

May 25 - 27: Theater in Translation in the Bay Area

Posted on May 22, 2012, 12:30:00 PM by CJ Evans

We here at the Center are always interested in new events and series that focus on the craft of translation—one particularly fascinating and overlooked area of the craft is translations of plays.

This year the French Consulate of San Francisco is hosting their first annual “Des Voix” Found in Translation Festival from May 25th through the 27th. We’re excited for the plays, but even more interested in checking out some of the secondary programming that focuses on translation—the panels that will discuss how to incorporate such challenges as the actors’ breath and the staging on the translation.

Here they are:

1. Friday, May 25th: BalLitteraire, A New Play Nightclub Supposedly a very popular evening in Paris, this opening event will be a “unique hybrid performance/club event” created the week beforehand by the French and US writers involved. From what we hear, six playwrights are collaborating on an impromptu play based on a mix-tape the week before. It sounds dangerous, but intriguing.

2. Sunday, May 27th 11AM An “interactive conversation between colleagues” including playwrights from the US, France, Australia, Russia, and Serbia, hosted by Amy Meuller the artistic director of the Playwrights Foundation with Robert Avila and Philip Arnoult. This should be a very interesting perspective into contemporary international theater.

3. Sunday, May 27th, 1PM “Translating Expressionistic, Non-Linear Contemporary Work” which sounds like it could be the title of a poetry panel. This panel sounds like a great opportunity to hear some amazing translators talking about the perils and opportunities of translating for the stage. It’s a slightly different animal than translating for the page, but this type of cross-discipline study can do nothing but benefit a translator of any genre. And it’s free, to boot.

Check out all of the offerings at this link.

THAT OTHER WORD: Episode 3 | May 2012 | Benjamin Moser

Posted on May 15, 2012, 03:51:00 AM by Madeleine LaRue

“That Other Word,” a collaborative podcast between the Center for Writers and Translators at the American University of Paris and the Center for the Art of Translation in San Francisco, offers discussions on classic and contemporary literature in translation, along with engaging interviews with writers, translators, and publishers.

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.

In this rather German conversation, Daniel Medin and Scott Esposito discuss the melancholy and pleasure in the most recent collection of W.G. Sebald’s poetry to appear in English, Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems 1964-2001. History is a found object in Sebald, and also in December, a wintry advent calendar of thirty-nine short stories by Alexander Kluge and thirty-nine photographs by Gerhard Richter. Robert Walser’s The Walk may induce laughing out loud at the wilderness, and the thirtieth anniversary of Julio Cortázar and Carol Dunlop’s Autonauts of the Cosmoroute should inspire some very leisurely drives from Paris to Marseilles.


In the second half of the episode, 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.

Table of Contents

INTRO: Daniel Medin and Scott Esposito

1:50 W.G. Sebald’s Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems 1964-2001

3:44 Alexander Kluge and Gerhard Richter’s December, including a reading from “6 December 1989”

9:54 Robert Walser’s The Walk

13:03 Julio Cortázar and Carol Dunlop’s Autonauts of the Cosmoroute, plus Cortázar’s From the Observatory

17:22 Daniel Medin introduces Benjamin Moser

FEATURE: Scott Esposito interviews Benjamin Moser

19:30 How the new translations of Clarice Lispector came to be

25:39 Writing Why This World and generating interest in Lispector’s work

30:52 Translating The Hour of the Star, Lispector’s unusual style, and working with four different translators to create one author’s voice

40:12 The origins and afterlife of The Hour of the Star

48:00 The tools of translation; discovering new authors

June 12: A Night of Fairy Tales

Posted on May 14, 2012, 11:57:00 AM by Scott Esposito

To close out the 2011-12 Two Voices season, join us for a special evening on translating fairy tales!

Kate Bernheimer, Ilya Kaminsky, and Maria Tatar take you deep into the dark woods with readings from classic and contemporary fairytales. And these aren't the fairytales you grew up with—they're the darkest, scariest tales you've ever heard! A reception with cash bar will follow the event.

If you can make it, definitely plan to drop by. This event is super affordable, and promises to be a memorable experience!

June 12
8:30 pm
998 Valencia Street, in the Mission
$5 — order tickets at Brown Paper Tickets

And here are our awesome guests:

Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures and Folklore & Mythology at Harvard University, where she teaches courses in the fields of German Studies, Children’s Literature, and Folklore. She is the author of Classic Fairy Tales, Annotated Peter Pan, Enchanted Hunters, and other volumes.

Ilya Kaminsky is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004) which won the Whiting Writer's Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, and the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by Poetry magazine. His anthology of 20th century poetry in translation, Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, was published by Harper Collins in March, 2010.

Kate Bernheimer is the author of a trilogy of fairy-tale novels and the story collection Horse, Flower, Bird (Coffee House Press 2010) and edited My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales (Penguin 2010), a World Fantasy Award nominee and Shirley Jackson Awards finalist. She also has edited two essay collections about fairy tales and writes children's books. She founded and edits the literary journal Fairy Tale Review and is Associate Professor and Writer in Residence at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette.

TWO VOICES: Novelist Sergio Chejfec

Posted on May 10, 2012, 12:54:00 PM by Scott Esposito

In his Two Voices presentation on May 8, lauded Argentine author Sergio Chejfec started by explaining the biographical roots of his strange, compelling novel The Planets. The book is about an Argentine who goes missing during the military dictatorship of 1976-82, and Chejfec began by explaining that the plot of the book actually has to do with a friend of his who did disappear during the military dictatorship for the 1970s. He was one of an estimated 30,000 Argentines to disappear during that span.

From here, Chejfec moved on to broader questions of biography in literature: he declared his dislike for confessional literature, saying that when he writes about himself, he writes as though he is another person. Calling literature a space between determination and indetermination, Chejfec explained his preference for the latter because he likes to vacillate and avoid certainties in his books.

Chejfec put his books into context, arguing that The Planets fits into a tradition of discussing the Argentine dictatorship from oblique angles. He also discussed The Planets in relationship to the work of the great Argentine novelist Juan Jose Saer, whom Chejfec called perhaps the greatest novelist Argentina produced int he 20th century. Chejfec discussed in particular Saer's Nadie nada nunca (Nobody Nothing Never). That book is about the disappearance of a couple during the dictatorship, and, while the book clearly has a political angle, Chejfec also argued for a more metaphysical interpretation.

Chejfec's work was read in both English and Spanish, followed by a few questions and answers. Here, Chejfec spoke about the particularly Jewish angle to the political repression in Argentina, mentioning that a disproportionate number of individuals disappeared by the dictatorship were Jewish. He also talked about whether he considered himself a Jewish author or an Argentine author and the difference between truth and meaning in his books.

TWO LINES Online Author Wins Best Translated Book Award

Posted on May 7, 2012, 12:47:00 PM by Scott Esposito

On Friday, Open Letter Press announced its winners for the Best Translated Book Awards for 2011. The poetry winner was Kiwao Nomura’s Spectacle & Pigsty, published by Omnidawn and translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander. We excerpted this book back in July 2011 at TWO LINES Online. The part we excerpted is very striking, just on a visual level, and it's no surprise that this book went on to take the award:


Also, big congratulations to Omnidawn, a fine, local press, as well as to Yoshida and Gander for measuring up to what was clearly a very difficult translation challenge. Yoshida is new to us (although she's definitely on our radads now); and, of course, Forrest Gander is very well known to the Center, having translated many fine poems for past volumes of TWO LINES and TWO LINES Online.

TWO VOICES: Pulitzer-Winning Poet and Translator Richard Howard on Out in the Bay

Posted on May 3, 2012, 02:31:00 PM by Scott Esposito

In this audio, Pulitzer-winner poet and legendary translator Richard Howard discusses his career and reads his work. He talks about works he's written in the voice of famous individuals, such as Isadora Duncan—and about how this writing relates to his work with translation. Howard touches on his famous translation of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal, particularly how he chose to deal with Baudelaire's challenging rhyme scheme. (He chose, controversially, to abandon the terminal rhymes.) Howard explain show he translated the poems so as to evoke the feeling of rhymes without actually making the lines rhyme as did Baudelaire. He also reads from his translation of Stéphane Mallarmé's "Afternoon of a Faun." Lastly, Center literary programs manager CJ Evans reminisces about being Howard's student. This conversation originally appeared on Out in the Bay, KALW, 91.7 FM, in conjunction with Howard's appearance for the Center's Two Voices series of literary events.

TWO LINES Online: May 2012

Posted on May 3, 2012, 09:57:00 AM by Scott Esposito

We've just published the May installement of TWO LINES Online. In it we offer two excerpts from the Italian novel Exhausted Space written by Tommaso Pincio, aka the Italian Thomas Pynchon. No joke: here's translator Acacia O'Connor's bio note for Pincio:

Tommaso Pincio is the nome d’arte of Italian author Marco Colapietro. While the pseudonym is clearly an Italianization of Thomas Pynchon, Pincio claims he took it because it is also one of the Seven Hills of Rome, his birthplace. Pincio is the author of five novels, one of which, Love-Shaped Story has been translated into English. Lo Spazio Sfinito, Pincio’s second novel, was published in 2000 by Fanucci and re-issued by minimumfax in Rome in November 2010.

He's also an artist. To the left you see his portrayal of David Foster Wallace. Here are the excerpts: 1, 2.

In poetry we have a translation from the great Anna Rosen Guercio. This is a very fun, well-translated poem: I've got gold fever 120 degrees by José Eugenio Sánchez.

Center People in the News

Posted on May 1, 2012, 10:10:00 AM by Scott Esposito

This week brings some nice news for friends of the Center. First off, we see Katherine Silver (listen to her Lit&Lunch appearance here, or read her in TWO LINES) getting a great New York Times review for her translation of Mexican author Daniel Sada's Almost Never. In said review, we see something that "almost never" happens occur: authentic praise for a translator in a book review:

What is so daring here? It’s not Sada’s depiction of the Madonna-whore complex, nor his take on the delusions of a Mexican macho — although both make for delicious burlesque. What’s new is the voice, and Sada’s glorious style. Katherine Silver pulls off the near-­impossible feat of translating the cacophony of thoughts, interjections and slang rattling around Demetrio’s fevered brain, not to mention the continual asides of an arch narrator. Here is Demetrio attempting to write his first letter to Renata . . .

We couldn't agree more. And the book was even selected as one of the NYT's Editors' Choices. Big congrats to Katie!

In other news, TWO LINES alumus Kurt Beals sees his translation of Anja Utler's engulf — enkindle selected as a finalist for the Best Translated Book Award. (We originally published poems from this book in TWO LINES.) You can read about why this is such a great book at Three Percent, where Erica Mena makes the case for this book being the eventual winner of the award:

engulf — enkindle is a stunning book of poetry. It literally stunned me into absolute submission; it is the book of poetry I’d been wanting to read for years. It’s a small volume, and I read it in one sitting, faster than I normally read poetry, because I couldn’t slow down. The language sunk its hooks into me and pulled me through the book, like rafting down rapids. If some of this sounds violent, that’s no mistake – the book is full of sensual violence, done to the body of language and the body in the poem.