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

Voices Carry Benefit Photos

Posted on April 30, 2013, 01:35:00 PM by Scott Esposito

On April 20, the Center held a star-studded benefit where seven local writers discussed their favorite author from world literature. The capacity audience was treated to Anita Amirrezvani discussing Shahriar Mandanipour, Sylvia Brownrigg on Irene Nemirovsky, Vikram Chandra on Saadat Hassan Manto, Yiyun Li on Peter Stamm, Ann Packer on Leo Tolstoy, K.M. Soehnlein on Reinaldo Arenas, and Ayelet Waldman on Stefan Zweig.

You can now see photos highlighting the occasion on our Facebook page. And while you're there, why not give us a "Like" and get the latest news from the Center and the world of international literature delivered right to your Facebook feed.

All My Friends Translator Jordan Stump Interviewed at The Nervous Breakdown

Posted on April 25, 2013, 02:39:00 PM by Scott Esposito

All-star translator Jordan Stump and the man behind the Englishing of Two Lines Press's forthcoming All My Friends gets interviewed at The Nervous Breakdown on the intricate prose of Marie NDiaye. Here's a taste.

You’ve worked with some of the most innovative French-language authors to appear in English in recent years, among the Eric Chevillard, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, and Marie Redonnet. How does NDiaye’s prose compare to theirs, either as a reader or as a translator? Over the years, I’ve decided that, from a translator’s point of view, there are two kinds of writers: some have a very tough and sturdy style that can be messed around with a great deal and still sound like itself, and others have a very delicate, precarious style that is very easily deformed in translation. Chevillard is perhaps the best example of that first type: you can turn his sentences around, break them up into shorter sentences, replace one bit of wordplay with another, range far afield for your word choices, and as long as you’re attentive and imaginative the result will still sound like Chevillard. NDiaye is a writer of the second type. As I said, her language is sort of balanced between poetic and prosaic, and if you go just a little bit too far in either direction it loses all its character. The vagueness of her narrative (by which I mean that she often refuses to give us the context that would make her meaning entirely perceptible) is also hard to reproduce. The translator’s impulse is always to find some way to explain anything that isn’t abundantly clear in the text, and that reflex has to be reined in, even as one has to find a way to make the text clear enough, and to make it clear that it isn’t supposed to be entirely clear. No translation is ever easy, but so much of NDiaye’s writing is a matter of careful, unlikely balance that the text can easily be ruined even by a translator with the best of intentions.

Get more information about the incredible Marie NDiaye here, and order your copy of All My Friends.

30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month (plus 1 more)

Posted on April 25, 2013, 02:12:00 PM by Erin Branagan

It may be April 25, but National Poetry Month isn't over yet, which means there's still time to check out this American Academy of Poets list of 30 Ways to Celebrate. (Our favorites include Take a poem out to lunch and Put poetry in an unexpected place)

Not on their list, but on ours: Read some great poems from Poetry Inside Out students.

Poetry Inside Out has been working with kids in the Bay Area, New York City, San Diego, and Boston teaching them how to translate and write poetry, which turns out to be a great way to improve their language and thinking skills.

In honor of National Poetry Month, here are a few of their poems:

Waterfall Secrets

Washing a secret down
the drain every day and
writing a new one to put away
far, far in a waterfall
Lies, lies, lies is all I write.
Sometimes it hurts
But every time it hurts
I’m crying every day
reading old waterfall secrets
Every day is a time for me to cry,
reading old secrets.
—Kiara, 4th Grade, Oakland, CA


I’m Punctured

I’m punctured
I breathe nothing but regret
To see you again
Is nothing but sad memory
When you walked with humans
or rode with the horses
Nothing came but sorrow
I regret
Brendan, 7th grade, San Diego, CA


Hurricane Sandy

I am a survivor.
I survived
            The most terrible,

I was in the house
             And made it out!
                          Through a window!

We were terrified, but
               knew what we needed to do:

—Julissa, 6th grade, Brooklyn, New York

THAT OTHER WORD | Episode 10 | Esther Kinsky

Posted on April 15, 2013, 11:47:00 AM by Madeleine LaRue

Prompted by the forthcoming publication of Italo Calvino’s Letters 1941-1985, hosts Daniel Medin and Scott Esposito embark on a discussion of literary lives and letters. They touch upon the marvelous correspondences of Thomas Bernhard and William Gaddis, and look forward to the lectures collected in Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature. Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Years of Insight, technically the final volume in a biographical trilogy, represents a welcome addition to English-language Kafka scholarship. Curzio Malaparte’s The Skin, a grotesque and haunting semi-autobiographical tale of the Second World War, returns after many years out of print. The introduction closes with a plea from the hosts to Anglophone publishers not to ignore biographies produced elsewhere: Michel Winock’s Flaubert and Madame de Staël, among many others, they argue, deserve a broader readership.

Daniel Medin is then joined by Esther Kinsky, a poet and translator from Polish, Russian, and English into German. Her speciality is Polish literature from the First World War to the 1960’s, and she offers wonderful introductions to some of her favorite writers of that period, including Zygmunt Haupt, who lived in the United States and continued to write in Polish even though his own children did not speak the language, Wiesław Myśliwski, whose Stone Upon Stone recently appeared in English, and Joanna Bator, whose poetic works Kinsky is currently translating. During their conversation, Kinsky and Medin discuss the lives and work of these writers, consider what has kept Eastern European (and particularly Hungarian) poetry and fiction so robust, and discuss the revival of reportage as a genre in Poland. Esther Kinsky also shares an enchanting story about what prompted her to become a translator, muses on the relationship between translating and writing, and mentions her own newest book of prose, whose German title (Fremdsprechen) she roughly translates as “talking something into foreignness.”


INTRO: Daniel Medin and Scott Esposito

0:50 Italo Calvino’s Letters 1941-1985 and other literary correspondence

3:45 Professor Borges: A Course in English Literature

4:19 Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Years of Insight

8:20 Curzio Malaparte’s The Skin

10:05 Michel Winock’s Flaubert and Madame de Staël

12:08 Daniel Medin introduces Esther Kinsky

FEATURE: Daniel Medin interviews Esther Kinsky

13:58 Esther Kinsky's favorite literatures; the Polish writers Miron Białoszewski, Zygmunt Haupt, Wiesław Myśliwski

25:25 The continuing robustness of Eastern European literature

30:35 Esther Kinsky’s life in translation: recent and current work, including Joanna Bator’s

Sandberg (Sand Mountain) and its sequel Wolkenfern; original interest in


38:13 Travel and translation; Esther Kinsky’s relationship to her languages and presses

42:17 Why translation is good training for becoming a writer and poet; living in Hungary and the resulting ‘foreignness’ of German

50:00 Fremdsprechen; recent favorite reads and underrepresented authors in English: László Darvasi, István Kemény, Ryszard Szociński, Jacek Gutorow, Adam Wiedemann, Julia Fiedorczuk

image of Esther Kinsky © Jeanette Abée

TWO VOICES: Mikhail Shishkin and Marian Schwartz in Conversation with Scott Esposito

Posted on April 9, 2013, 04:05:00 PM by Scott Esposito

Mikhail Shishkin, the only Russian writer ever to win all three of his country's major book awards, joined Two Voices for his first ever U.S. appearance to discuss his novel Maidenhair. Widely praised from London to Paris to Berlin, Maidenhair finally reached the United States in 2012 by way of Open Letter Books.

In this event Shishkin was joined by his translator, Marian Schwartz, for a wide-ranging conversation with the Center's Scott Esposito. They began by discussing the Russian critical response to Maidenhair (with one critic vowing to eat his underwear in public if the book sold more than 50,000 copies—it did) before talking about Shishkin's relationship with his home country, the benefit of his years living in Switzerland, and why he claims he "hates" the Russian language.

Translator Schwartz delved in to the laborious process of translating Maidenhair. The book's frequent changes of tone (often within a single sentence) as well as its elaborate references (Shishkin gave Schwartz 40 pages of notes to consult) and compelling language made it one of the most difficult translations of Schwartz's long and illustrious career. Her translation included multiple, painstaking passes through the text, including a final pass where her brother read all of the book's 500 pages out loud while she followed along in the Russian original.

April 2013 TWO LINES Online

Posted on April 9, 2013, 01:34:00 PM by Scott Esposito

The April edition of TWO LINES Online kicks off with an excerpt from Ocosingo War Diary by Efraín Bartolomé, translated from the Spanish by Kevin Brown. Bartolomé, recipient of the 1998 Chiapas Arts Prize, the highest honor the Chiapas State Government grants its artists, delivers a very gritty, on-the-ground view of the Mexican army's hot war in Chiapas.


7:41 People look out apprehensively at the street.

The soldiers posted at the school signal that nobody should pass by, and begin rapid mobilizations.

Some women run.

My sister and my wife see them coming.

“Where do we go, for godsakes?”

We open the door for them, and they come in.

People run toward their houses slathered, almost, against the wall.

A man, a boy, two women run passing by.

“So, we better forget about breakfast.”

A plane flies over.

Six Army trucks come up, empty.

The situation calms down a bit.

The women leave.

We then shift gears to contemporary Swiss poetry with two poems from Felix Philipp Ingold, translated by Anatoly Kudryavitsky and Yulia Kudryavitskaya: "Among countless reasons the best" and "In the beginning was."