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

Common Core: A Friend to the Arts

Posted on February 26, 2016, 03:08:00 PM by Sarah Coolidge

What do dance, opera, and poetry have to do with the Common Core? I joined a panel discussion hosted by the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area last week to find out.

The crowd included representatives from arts organizations, teaching artists, and other arts educators. They sat at tables laid out with large sheets of parchment paper, crayons, markers, and pipe cleaners. Alliance program director Todd Berman opened the meeting by encouraging everyone to put the drawing materials to good use. Immediately several people reached for markers and began doodling on the parchment paper in front of them. I was in a room full of artists, and the topic was the Common Core. I was intrigued.

Kristen Jacobson, Dance Center Director from Alonzo King LINES Ballet, talked about integrating dance into schools. The key, she’s found, is communication. It may seem overly simple, but she pointed out that many teachers and administrators don’t know what a dance curriculum even looks like. When that’s the case, it’s easy to simplify and dismiss the importance of a program. The audience took notes and doodled abstract interpretations of what clear communication looked like to them.

Next up was Lisa Edsall-Giglio from the San Francisco Opera Education Department. Channeling all of the passion and excitement that you would expect from a teaching artist, Lisa explained that the Common Core requires that students write, debate, and think deeply across all subject matter, and the arts are extremely helpful for leading students to think and write critically.

Poetry Inside Out program director Mark Hauber rounded out the evening by talking about the Common Core’s role in creating partnerships with school districts. Using Poetry Inside Out as an example, he laid out the ways in which the program links with Common Core standards and encouraged the audience to make similar connections to their own programs. The arts can enrich students’ learning precisely because they develop skills that are transferable to the work students will do both in and outside of school.

You can read more about how arts education connects to the Common Core, and about the new national education Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind and for the first time, includes standards for arts education.

Event Audio: Valerie Miles and Scott Esposito Discuss Spanish Author Enrique Vila-Matas

Posted on February 25, 2016, 09:54:00 AM by Erin Branagan

If you missed our recent Salon with translator Valerie Miles, you can listen to audio of her conversation with Scott Esposito about Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas on the Two Lines Press blog.

Miles and Esposito talked Vila-Matas's writing and about her new translation of his book Because She Never Asked.

Find out why Vila-Matas says that Because She Never Asked is his favorite of all the titles he's written, and hear about some of the challenges Miles encountered while translating the book.

Don't miss our next Salon April 21, with Chris Clarke discussing Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano!

Alvaro Enrigue's "Sudden Death"

Posted on February 17, 2016, 08:10:00 PM by Erin Branagan

Besides planning readings featuring Two Lines Press books and authors, we love introducing new books in translation from other publishers to our readers!  We present events throughout the year to do just that.

We’ve got a busy lineup this week, including two events with The Boys author Toni Sala—back in the U.S.—at Brazos Bookstore in Houston on Thursday and Malvern Books in Austin on Friday.

For our Bay Area readers, we’re presenting a conversation on Friday (February 19) with Mexican author Alvaro Enrigue at Green Apple Books on the Park about his new book Sudden Death. Translated by Natasha Wimmer, the book centers on an unlikely tennis match between the artist Caravaggio and the Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo that reveals itself to be much more.

A February 14 New York Times review says: “On the surface, ‘Sudden Death’ is a glorious grab bag of miscellanea. Rather like a tennis ball during a sustained volley, the reader is batted from one subject to another, and between the New World and the Old. Besides the players, we also meet Galileo and various Italian, French, Spanish and English monarchs, popes and cardinals, philosophers and artists, rogues and explorers…. It may all seem random at first, but by the end of the match, which is also the end of the novel, a design is clear.”

As entertaining as the book is, Enrigue has a serious intent, which the review highlights with an author aside: “‘As I write, I don’t know what this book is about,’ he begins. ‘It’s not exactly about a tennis match. Nor is it about the slow and mysterious integration of America into what we call “the Western World” — an outrageous misapprehension, since from the American perspective, Europe is the East.’ The narrator ruminates for another page or so, and then confides: ‘I know that as I wrote it, I was angry because the bad guys always win. Maybe all books are written simply because in every game the bad guys always have the advantage and that is too much to bear.’”

You can read an excerpt in Vice magazine, where culture editor James Yeh writes “Sudden Death is one of the most engaging, audacious, and flat-out fun works of fiction I've read in a while.”

An interview with Enrigue in The New York Times included his description of the experience of writing the book at the New York Public Library, where “I could be in this town in which no one knew I was a writer, no one knew I spoke English, in which I didn’t have many friends. It produces the bubble that let me work with an enormous freedom.” 

When asked about whether recent interest in Latin American literature might be a fad, he answered, “Different latitudes produce different books, and I like to think there is enough international talent to keep American readers concentrated on what’s coming from all over the world.” You can also read a review of the book in The Los Angeles Times.

Don't miss our event with Enrigue in San Francisco this Friday (February 19).

If you’re in New York City, the author will talk about the book with translator Natasha Wimmer at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn on Thursday (February 18).


photo credit Zony Mara

Event Audio: Edward Gauvin and Michael Holtmann discuss Serge Brussolo's The Deep Sea Diver's Syndrome

Posted on February 11, 2016, 03:08:00 PM by Erin Branagan

Over on the Two Lines Press blog, we've just posted audio of our recent event with translator Edward Gauvin in conversation with the Center's Executive Director Michael Holtmann. They sat down at San Francisco's The Booksmith to talk about Gauvin's translation of Serge Brussolo's The Deep Sea Diver's Syndrome, plus his other work translating graphic novels.

You can read more about the book and listen to the full audio of the conversation.


Poetry Inside Out: A New Year, a New Partner

Posted on February 10, 2016, 09:43:00 AM by Sarah Coolidge and Mark Hauber

At the end of January Poetry Inside Out hosted a daylong introductory workshop with eight English Language Development (ELD) teachers and two administrators here in San Francisco. We started this partnership with San Francisco Unified School District to help teachers build English language skills among their diverse students. Throughout the day teachers spoke passionately about their students, swapped classroom stories, and learned how to use the curriculum to bring out their students’ unique voices.

Teachers split into groups and were guided through translating two poems. By going step-by-step through the translation process, they were able to experience what they would help their students do: debate word choice, find meaning beyond a word for word translation, and work together to create a final translation.

One teacher remarked that through this process her students could learn the value of slowing down–looking at language word by word–a practice that is particularly important for English language learners. Others were eager to give their students the opportunity public speaking and performance. In many Poetry Inside Out classrooms, students have read poems aloud in the original language–piecing together syllables and wrestling with new sounds–and in English, sharing their group’s translation with the rest of the class. Some classes have then decided to present their translations to the rest of the school. We’ve seen students schedule assemblies, organize exhibitions, put together a class book, or invite their parents to come hear them read their translations.

Teaching translation is new for most teachers and can seem less structured than a typical lesson, but it leads students to truly engage with what they are learning and changes how they think about language and about themselves. These San Francisco teachers will be supported with monthly meetings and classroom visits during the semester, where they’ll have chances to ask questions and share their experiences and strategies with one another as they encourage their students to dive into language at its purest. Stay tuned for updates–we’ll be reporting on their experiences in the coming months!

If you'd like to learn more about having Poetry Inside Out in your classroom or school, contact Mark Hauber, Poetry Inside Out Program Director.

Read other recent Poetry Inside Out news here and here.

From the Two Lines Press Blog: The Artist as Stalker

Posted on February 4, 2016, 03:28:00 PM by Sarah Coolidge

Next week, Thursday, February 11th, is our first Two Voices Salon of 2016. Valerie Miles will be joining us via Skype to discuss her career as an editor, writer and translator, as well as her recent translation Because She Never Asked by Enrique Vila-Matas.

While in no way obscure, Vila-Matas has not enjoyed the same degree of fame in the United States as that of his contemporary Roberto Bolaño. And yet Vila-Matas is undoubtedly a towering force in Spanish literature. A Barcelona native, he has written more than twenty novels over the course of his career. He is known for creating strange worlds in his aptly named “auto-fiction,” where fiction and reality are fused into an indistinguishable and singular entity.

Vila-Matas first turned heads with the publication of Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil (A Brief History of Portable Literature came out last June from New Directions, translated by Thomas Bunstead and Anne McLean), a slim novel of less than 100 pages. The story revolves around a secret literary society of so-called “Shandies,” a name contrived from Laurence Sterne’s groundbreaking 1759 novel Tristram Shandy. The Shandies are well-known artists and writers turned fictional characters: Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Georgia O’Keefe, Witold Gombrowicz, Federico García Lorca, and others. The result, as you can imagine, is bordering on absurdity. Vila-Matas continues in this vein with Because She Never Asked, although this time his subject is the French artist Sophie Calle.

Who is Sophie Calle?... (Read the answer to that question and the rest of the post on the Two Lines Press blog)

  • Two Voices Salon with Valerie Miles
  • Thursday, February 11, 2016
  • Center for the Art of Translation office
  • 582 Market S., (at Montgomery), San Francisco
  • Doors open 5:30, event 6:00-7:00
  • FREE food and drinks


Photo from Suite Venitienne, by Sophie Calle