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

From the Two Lines Press Blog: Q & A With The Boys Author Toni Sala and Translator Mara Faye Lethem

Posted on November 18, 2015, 02:49:00 PM by Sarah Coolidge

From the Two Lines Press blog, we're happy to share an interview with Catalan writer Toni Sala and his translator Mara Faye Lethem. They recently spoke with Sarah Coolidge about The Boys, the latest book from Two Lines Press. If you weren’t able to attend our book release earlier this month, you can listen to audio from the event.

Sarah Coolidge: Mara, how did you discover The Boys and the work of Toni Sala? What were your first impressions?

Mara Faye Lethem: I first remember being aware of Toni because of a book he wrote in the early naughts about Floquet de neu [Snowflake], the albino gorilla. I was also working on a photo essay about this somewhat tragic Barcelona figure. Later I was asked to translate some of his work, which you can see here.

The Catalan original of The Boys was the debut title of a new publishing house called L’Altra, run by a very talented, brave editor named Eugènia Broggi; we were at the party for the Herralde Prize when she told me—almost in a whisper—that she was leaving the big publishing group and starting her own house. I remember thinking what a bold move that was in the midst of Spain’s worst recession ever, and what good news for Catalan literature.

Both that book and his previous one, Provisionalitat, were chosen by the Institut Ramon Llull to feature in their New Catalan Fiction catalogue, which I write for them, so now that you ask it seems like I was hearing about Toni’s work from all sides.

What I’ve always found most striking about Toni’s prose is how his often turbid meditations—on situations that most likely don’t coincide with yours—still end up feeling like the voice inside your head.

SC: Toni, The Boys takes place within a very narrow timeframe. How long did it take you to write the book and what was going on during that time?

Toni Sala: The writing of The Boys was strange. I was stuck for about year in the first chapter, which was initially a short story, thinking that it was over. Then, in the summer of 2013, in three months I wrote the three other chapters. It was very intense. I don’t know if I would have endured many more months at that rhythm. I remember thinking about the book while underwater, while I snorkeled and watched the fishes.

SC: What was it like having your novel translated? Have you read the English translation?

TS: I have not read the whole translation because I get nervous, and I don’t know enough English to draw any conclusion. Just know that if the book works, if a competent reader finds it acceptable, it is thanks to the translation of Mara Faye Lethem. When a book is translated, its benefits are both to the author and the translator. I think it’s interesting that a translation can cross the bridge across languages: literature works like a universal language, a language as accessible to the human condition as music or mathematics.

Read the rest of the interview
on the Two Lines Press blog. Order your own copy of the book--or better yet, subscribe to a full year of Two Lines--and read this amazing work for yourself!

A Preview of Toni Sala's The Boys

Posted on November 11, 2015, 09:15:00 PM by Erin Branagan

The new title from Two Lines Press, Toni Sala's The Boys, translated by Mara Faye Lethem, is finally available!

Toni Sala is a leading Catalan author and The Boys won the Premis de la Crítica, the most prestigious award in Catalan writing, after its release in Spain in 2014.

This is the first book of Sala's to appear in English, and we're excited to share with you the book that Kirkus Reviews recently called "altogether brilliant".

The Boys is a profound story of how the deaths of two young men change the lives of four individuals in the small town of Vidreres. With intricate meditations worthy of Javier Marías, Sala masterfully conjures the voices of each of the four characters and entwines their lives and their feelings of guilt, fear, and rage over an unspeakable loss.

We hope you agree that this English-language debut puts him in the company of the best world writers.

Read excerpts from the book at Tin House and Words Without Borders. And order your copy today!

On November 3 we hosted Sala and translator Mara Faye Lethem (center and right in the above photo, with Two Lines Press Editorial Director CJ Evans at left) for a dynamic reading and discussion at the American Bookbinders Museum in San Francisco. We've posted audio on the Two Lines Press website.

If you needed more reasons to read the book, here are a few: Powell's Books called Sala a "stirring, unique new voice in English translation", and Publishers Weekly gave The Boys a starred review and wrote "Sala is a master of meditation, and the excitement and intrigue are never sacrificed despite digressive passages on Internet alienation, art, violence, phrases of grief, the Spanish recession, and love."

Buy the book now for just $10--a 30% discount off the $14.95 cover price!


My Negritude is... What Exactly?

Posted on November 5, 2015, 04:46:00 PM by Sarah Coolidge and Mark Hauber

“My negritude is not a stone / nor a deafness flung against the clamor of the day,” reads one translation of Martinique poet Aimé Césaire’s famous Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (or Return to My Native Land). The 7th graders at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School in North Philadelphia had already translated an excerpt from the poem when Poetry Inside Out’s Mark Hauber and Marty Rutherford visited their classroom last week. The two were in Philadelphia on a follow-up visit with teachers who were part of a Poetry Inside Out workshop during the Philadelphia Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute in July.

Hauber and Rutherford scheduled their trip to be able to spend two days visiting area schools where students were being introduced to Poetry Inside Out. Now, on the second day of classroom visits, the Cook-Wissahickon students were reciting their translations to the class. Like most of the schools where Poetry Inside Out teaches, the student body there is diverse: 50% white, 35% African-American, 11% “Other” or multiracial, 3% Latino, and 1 % Asian. Poetry Inside Out’s poems from more than 25 languages reflect and tap into this cultural and linguistic diversity.

Between readings, however, students seemed unsure of the context or significance of the poem—essential for any translator, who owes fidelity not only to the words themselves but also to the poet’s intent. What did this poem mean? Almost everyone in the class had translated the repeated phrase “ma négritude” as “my negritude,” but what was “negritude”?

While the word itself is somewhat obscure in the United States, it speaks to issues that are especially relevant today. Aimé Césaire himself defined negritude as, “The simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture”. Though Césaire grew up on the French-colonized island in the Caribbean and wrote the poem during the 1930s, his ideas have crossed seas and influenced nearly a century of subsequent movements.

The class circled back to the author bio included on the poem page and focused on a single word: “movement.” Most students didn't know that it could refer to a group of people organizing toward a political, social, or artistic end. Armed with that critical piece of information, the students were ready to revisit the poem.

And then it clicked. Digging deeper into the poet’s biography and the meaning of that one word, students began making connections between negritude and the Black Lives Matter Movement, between negritude and the Civil Rights Movement. Suddenly the poem held more weight and was related to their own lives and experiences. As the students continued to read their translations, one girl belted hers out with preacher-like emphasis. Another revised her translation to read “my blackness.” For these 12 and 13-year olds, it was no longer about Césaire’s negritude, blackness, or identity, but their own.

Here's the poem:
Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (fragment)

ma négritude n’est pas une pierre, sa surdité ruée
    contre la clameur du jour

ma négritude n’est pas une taie d’eau morte sur
    l’oeil mort de la terre

ma négritude n’est ni une tour ni une cathédrale

elle plonge dans la chair rouge du sol

elle plonge dans la chair ardente du ciel

elle troue l’accablement opaque de sa droite


Return to My Native Land (fragment)

My negritude is not a stone, its deafness hurled against
    the clamor of the day

my negritude is not a leukoma of dead liquid over the earth's
    dead eye

my negritude is neither tower nor cathedral

it takes root in the red flesh of the soil

it takes root in the ardent flesh of the sky

it breaks through opaque prostration with its upright patience

(translation by Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith)

Event Audio: Naja Marie Aidt and CJ Evans about Rock, Paper, Scissors and a Celebration of German Author Wolfgang Hilbig

Posted on November 3, 2015, 04:33:00 PM by Center for the Art of Translation staff

In October we welcomed Baboon author and poet Naja Marie Aidt back to the Bay Area for a reading during this year's Litquake literary festival. Aidt discussed her new book Rock, Paper, Scissors, recently translated by K.E. Semmel for Open Letter Books, with Two Lines Press editorial director CJ Evans.

Their conversation delved into the book’s plot, the breakdown suffered by its protagonist, the appearance of a Paul Celan poem in the book, the differences between writing poetry and fiction, and Aidt’s relationships with her three English translators.

On November 18, we presented translator Isabel Fargo Cole, the award-winning German authors Ingo Schulze and Inka Parei, and translator Katy Derbyshire at the Brecht-Haus in Berlin to celebrate author Wolfgang Hilbig.

They talked about Isabel’s translations of Hilbig’s book The Sleep of the Righteous, just published by Two Lines Press, and “I,” published earlier this year by Seagull Books. Hilbig was one of Germany's most important post-war writers, but his books have never appeared in English until now.

The bilingual (English and German) conversation ranged widely over Hilbig’s life, his influence, and his importance as a German writer. It also touched on issues with translating his work, and Isabel’s own interactions with Hilbig before he died of cancer in 2007.

Listen to audio from the Naja Marie Aidt event or the Wolfgang Hilbig event on the Two Lines Press blog.

From the Two Lines Press Blog: Q & A with The Sleep of the Righteous Translator Isabel Fargo Cole

Posted on October 29, 2015, 02:46:00 PM by Sarah Coolidge

The following interview with translator Isabel Fargo Cole is posted on the Two LInes Press blog. Staff member Sarah Coolidge interviewed her about her work translating Wolfgang Hilbig's The Sleep of the RIghteous, out October 13.

Isabel will talk about the book at an event December 1 at the Goethe Institut in New York City, and will be in conversation with editorial director CJ Evans on December 3 at the Goethe Insitut in San Francisco.

Sarah Coolidge: The stories in The Sleep of the Righteous are set in the uniquely insular world of postwar East Germany. What is it about this world that appealed to you as both a reader and a translator?

Isabel Fargo Cole: I always felt drawn to the East since my first visit to Berlin in 1987, as part of a class trip, when the Wall was still standing – the sense of standing in front of a wall with an inaccessible world of human beings behind it was very powerful. I visited a few more times after the Wall fell, and moved there for good in 1995, studying German and Russian literature at the Humboldt University in the former East. For a long time all my friends were East German, and it was fascinating to hear their stories and try to get a sense of what life had been like. It wasn’t that the world seemed pleasant or appealing, it was just the fact that it was a human reality that we had gotten only a very superficial idea of. In the US you tended to grow up with clichés about people in East Bloc countries being sort of grey, brainwashed robots without any culture aside from crude propaganda. So it was rewarding to discover the richness of human experience in the East (of course including many dark things as well), and the richness of the literature dealing with it. As a translator, I’ve always been drawn to things that need to be unearthed, rediscovered – there’s a special fascination to the process, and a pleasure in rescuing bits of past life and passing them on, even if these bits of life are dark and painful. Perhaps here this echoes Hilbig’s urge to write these stories, to resurrect his childhood and the dark past of this little town, Meuselwitz. And what is resurrected here, or created, is in fact a world unto itself. And as Laszlo Krasznahorkai puts it so beautifully, “Hilbig’s art… is built upon the fact that East Germany is identical to the world.” I think that is what drew me to Hilbig’s writing – the sense of a whole rich world opening up in a seemingly unlikely place.

SC: You’ve said in previous interviews that there are autobiographical elements to these stories. Is there anything you can tell us about Wolfgang Hilbig’s life that might surprise us or add to our understanding of the book?

IFC: To understand “The Memories,” and to a lesser extent the title story, it helps to know that Hilbig’s father had gone missing at Stalingrad, and Hilbig was raised by his mother and her father, Kaszimier Starlek, who had emigrated from the town of Bilgoraj in Eastern Poland before World War I to work in the Meuselwitz coal mines. There’s a point in “The Memories” where the narrator speaks of “the mix of peoples in the chaos of regions Gunsch came from … If you came from there, you were a leftover person, remembered by no one.” This seems to allude to the fact that Bilgoraj was located in a multiethnic region, and one that saw mass population transfers as borders were redrawn following World War II. Hilbig’s Polish grandfather may have contributed to his sense of being an outsider, and to his sensitivity toward the fates of the masses of people who were uprooted during and after World War II. Hilbig was actually known to his close friends as “Kaschi”, taken from his grandfather’s name.

SC: Hilbig wrote primarily about everyday life, though with an underlying force that Lazslo Krasznahorkai, in the introduction to the collection, refers to as “a monster that has not collapsed […] even today it lurks there in the depths, frightening, threatening, dark, just as if it were always there.” In your opinion, what is this “monster” lurking beneath Hilbig’s writing and what was it like to grapple with it as a translator?

IFC: In this passage Krasznahorkai alludes to the specific darkness(es) of Germany’s past – but I am sure that the “monster” is something more universal. I don’t think it makes sense to try to pin it down or put a name to it. Hilbig writes about the horrors of Nazi Germany and the Stasi, but he does so in a way that lifts them out of their historical confines and connects them to other kinds of darkness which he finds in everything from his (ravished) natural surroundings to grotesque, trivial human interactions. This is what makes his writing so disturbing, because the “monster,” whatever it is, isn’t safely confined to some other time or place, or some other person. Readers can also bring their own personal associations to it. Of course it is oppressive to grapple with it over and over when translating, but then there are the flashes of beauty or warmth, and his dark humor, and simply the perseverance of his narrators, that make the experience strangely cathartic.

SC: Several of the narrators appear to be estranged in one way or another from the women in their lives. In “Coming” the narrator is plagued by the suicidal cries of women, and in “The Dark Man” the narrator finds himself in an unloving, strained marriage. What roles do you think women play in this collection?

IFC: The narrators’ relationships with women are typical of Hilbig’s writing as a whole. Either the women are unattainable, or the narrator finds himself embroiled in excruciating conflicts with them. There’s a profound alienation – but then, Hilbig’s narrators are alienated from everyone. Only with the women, though, is this alienation so tormenting, because they are in some ways the fullest human beings in Hilbig’s work, the ones who seem to hold the secret of feeling and decency and vitality. The narrator feels this keenly, but for all his yearning is unable to form a human connection with them, to understand them, avoid disappointing and betraying them; he is not equal to them. He is like an alien confronted with human beings. He is consumed by a love that he can’t express, not even in words, much less in deeds, and this gives him a deep sense of guilt. This begins with his mother, who plays an important role in his writing, but as a rather shadowy, reproachful figure, and extends to his other relationships. Hilbig’s narrators often gaze at women’s bodies, trying vainly to grasp them that way. Described like this, he sounds horribly misogynist, idealizing and objectifying women, subjecting them to the male gaze, etc. – but these scenes, especially the one in “The Dark Man” where he visits his dying ex-lover, are, I find, almost unbearably moving, as he confronts his own inadequacy and a terrible sadness at the gulf that exists between men and women.

SC: Are there any idiosyncrasies in Hilbig’s German prose that were particularly difficult to translate into American English? How did you deal with them in your translation?

IFC: Hilbig tends toward long, swirling sentences broken up, or held together, by ellipses and dashes, a complex stream of consciousness that often stutters or peters out and picks up again. As one blogger very astutely noted, “Like Beckett, Hilbig gets closer than most writers to the actuality of our thought processes, made up as they are not only of a flow of information but with their gaps and misremembering.” Because it is so crucial to the narrative perspective, I have done my best to retain this syntax despite the common wisdom that English-speaking readers don’t like long sentences, but have occasionally broken up the longer sentences if that seemed possible without disturbing the rhythm. It is the obsessive rhythm that carries the reader (and the translator) through the most intense passages.

SC: You also recently translated Wolfgang Hilbig’s novel I for Seagull Books, released this year. What distinguishes Hilbig’s stories from his novels and other writings?

IFC: The blog quote about Hilbig’s syntax above actually refers to “I”, yet applies equally well to the stories. So the fundamental elements of his voice remain the same. But the stories show him much more in his lyrical vein, very dense in atmosphere, with the narrator’s state of mind often conveyed through his vivid impressions of the world around him. Hilbig also wrote poetry, and very short prose pieces that might best be described as prose poems, as well as some outstanding novellas in an equally poetic style. Most of the stories in The Sleep of the Righteous fall toward that end of his spectrum, while “The Dark Man” points toward works like “I”, with a larger cast of characters and a greater focus on plot and dialogue.

SC: What do Germans think of Wolfgang Hilbig today? Is he widely known?

IFC: Hilbig is certainly widely known among German writers, many of whom regard him as one of the most important post-war writers from Germany. As a challenging writer who never made any concessions toward marketability, he never reached a mass audience, but he has a very devoted readership.

SC: You run an online publication called no man’s land featuring first-ever translations of German literature. What inspired you to start the site?

IFC: I started the magazine in 2006 out of frustration at how difficult it was to find publishers or magazines interested in translations. At that point I’d been trying for several years, without results, to find publishers for projects such as Hilbig’s works, and thought I might better put my energy into creating a place to publish German literature in translation. It has been a very rewarding experience, and has helped to pull together a very lively community of literary translators in Berlin (and elsewhere). Actually, this issue will be our last. Thankfully, we are finally seeing a real boom in translation publishing, with new publishers like Two Lines and Seagull, and a proliferation of magazines and blogs. I’m happy to think that no man’s land played some small role in this whole development, but the need for our magazine no longer seems as urgent, I have a lot of translation projects to focus on, and Issue # 10 seemed like a nice place to stop. We may continue it in a slightly different form, though.

SC: What advice do you have for young translators?

IFC: We have some practical tips on no man’s land, under Translators’ Tips. In a nutshell, I would say: 1) Translate what you’re passionate about, not what you think other people want to read. Do a sample and a synopsis and send it around. 2) But clarify the rights situation with the original publisher first! 3) It can’t hurt to reach out to the writer and see if they’d be willing to help you with translation questions. 4) Be very patient.


If you want to hear more about the book, don't miss our events December 1 in New York City, and December 3 in San Francisco.

Order your copy now!

photo credit Gezett

Kicking Off the School Year With Poetry Inside Out

Posted on October 23, 2015, 03:43:00 PM by Mark Hauber and Sarah Coolidge

In the beginning most teachers want to know "How?" Looking down at the three lines of Japanese characters that make up Matsuo Basho’s famous frog haiku Furu ike ya, they ask, "How can my students do this? How can I do this?" And with that they begin to experience Poetry Inside Out.

Looking for strategies to build literacy skills in their culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms, teachers from Oakland and San Francisco Unified school districts gathered this month for two full-day Poetry Inside Out workshops. In addition to providing teachers with teaching strategies and the preparation to bring Poetry Inside Out’s unique language arts curriculum to their classrooms, the workshops help build a community of practitioners in the Bay Area.

Each workshop began with the task of translating Basho’s haiku Furu ike ya (usually translated as “Old pond”), and then the group spent time digging into the mechanics of poetry, language, and meaning at work in the poem and revealed during the translation process. The translation work and group discussions helped the teachers see for themselves how Poetry Inside Out creates a collaborative environment in which impassioned discussions and close reading exposes students to the inner workings of language.

One teacher remarked that this was exactly what she had been looking for: a way to deepen her students’ understanding of language and the value of their diverse linguistic heritage. Most Bay Area teachers using Poetry Inside Out in their classroom work with a diverse student population including many English Language Learners. More than 30% of students in Oakland and San Francisco are classified as English Language Learners, but all students can benefit from the lessons of Poetry Inside Out.

After the initial translation, teachers looked at a handful of the nearly one hundred published translations of that particular haiku, and in doing so collapsed the myth of a single, correct translation. It’s the seemingly impossible task of translating something as nuanced and condensed as poetry that gives students the opportunity to think deeply and find meaning in language. This new awareness of language as a tool that they can use to communicate thoughts, emotions, and ideas carries over into other areas of their academic life. Throughout Poetry Inside Out’s rigorous translation and discussion process students use all of their linguistic resources—including one another—to answer the riddle posed by language. They emerge more engaged and excited about learning, and with improved reading and writing skills.

The participating teachers left with strategies to address the literacy and second language acquisition needs in their classrooms and the ability to build collaborative learning environments that support productive dialogue. As they begin teaching Poetry Inside Out to their students, the teachers will join regular group and individual meetings and will get support from their fellow Poetry Inside Out teachers and program staff.

Be sure to look out for updates about student (and teacher) progress throughout the year!

If you are interested in joining our growing community and acquiring this dynamic strategy for addressing literacy and the ELD/ELL State Standards for your students, contact Program Director Mark Hauber.

From the Two Lines Press Blog: Wolfgang Hilbig's "The Sleep of the Righteous"

Posted on October 22, 2015, 02:51:00 PM by Sarah Coolidge

The latest release from Two Lines Press, Wolfgang Hilbig’s The Sleep of the Righteous, is out now!

Hilbig was one of the major German writers to emerge in the postwar era. Though raised in East Germany, he proved so troublesome to authorities that in 1985 he was granted permission to emigrate to the West. The author of over 20 books, he received many of Germany’s major literary prizes, capped by the 2002 Georg Büchner Prize, Germany’s highest literary honor.

Masterfully translated by Isabel Fargo Cole, the book reveals a powerful, apocalyptic, utterly personal account of the century-defining nation’s postwar struggles. The Los Angeles Review of Books wrote “[Hilbig writes as] Edgar Allan Poe could have written if he had been born in Communist East Germany.”

We’re celebrating with events around the world—in Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, and San Francisco—if you’re nearby, we hope to see you. If you can’t be there, we’ll post audio shortly after each event.

To give you a taste of the book, we’re sharing a post from the Two Lines Press blog written by the Center’s own Sarah Coolidge.

What Is This Quintessence of Dust?

If, like me, you were still crawling when the Soviet Union collapsed, the Berlin Wall serves a primarily symbolic function: the ideological division of a city, a nation, Europe, the world. When I traveled to Berlin in the summer of 2008 and saw in person the startlingly physical barrier, though broken into crumbling stretches of wall tagged like the walls of bathroom stalls, I wondered how it would be remembered after tourists had pecked it to the ground and the debris had finally settled.

It is generally accepted that wars destroy. People, even entire villages (Lidice, for example), disappear overnight, cities are flattened by bombs, governments disintegrate, books, art, and music halls go up in flames. However, the emphasis on subtraction overlooks the massive physical outcome, the resulting excesses of war.

In Wolfgang Hilbig’s The Sleep of the Righteous, out today, the remnants of war are palpable, even claustrophobic. Hilbig, who was confined to East Germany until 1985 when he left for the West, depicts the postwar environment through its overwhelming presence. Though made up of seven distinct stories, The Sleep of the Righteous is blanketed in a uniform grayness. Through constant allusions to ash, dust, smoke, and clouds, Hilbig resigns his characters to the homogenized existence of the Soviet-run territory. In this essentially closed system, elements are neither created nor destroyed, merely pushed around, re-sorted, carted here, now there. Whether depicted by the spread of ash along the mines where children play in “The Place of Storms” or by the frantic accumulation of sticky bottles of cider in “The Bottles in the Cellar,” the burden of excess is inescapable.

Despite the grimy landscape, the deception and the paranoia, the strained family dynamics, I found myself strangely at ease within each story. As László Krasznahorkai points out in his wonderfully idiosyncratic introduction to the book, Hilbig wrote about everyday life. To be clear, I’m not claiming to have the same daily habits as a postwar East German family. Rather, the universe he reveals is so comfortingly confined, so perversely cozy, that it is difficult not to curl up within it.

With the succession of each story, the narrators appear to grow older, as if representing stages of life within this universe. While the stories function individually, you the reader seem to be systematically building toward something. By the end you have witnessed a series of fragments that amount to a lifetime in the Eastern bloc, from a childhood of gray afternoons by the mines, to adulthood, reflecting on the shadows of memories that, perhaps, you’re better off forgetting.


Order your copy for just $10, and we hope to see you at an upcoming event!

Listen to Audio of Our Conversation With Indonesian Author Eka Kurniawan

Posted on October 16, 2015, 12:43:00 PM by Erin Branagan

On September 17 we welcomed Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan with his translator Annie Tucker and Center for the Art of Translation founder Olivia Sears to San Francisco’s Green Apple Books on the Park for a discussion about his first books to be translated into English.

The wide-ranging conversation covered both Beauty is a Wound and Man Tiger, which were the author’s first works to appear in English. The discussion delved into Indonesian history, Kurniawan’s first experiences with stories, translation challenges with the Indonesian language and culture, Kurniawan’s studies as a university student, the author’s response to the reception of his books in the West, and Tucker’s experiences discovering Kurniawan and finding a publisher for him.

We’ve just posted audio on the Two Lines Press site.

Coincidentally, Indonesia is the Guest of Honour at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, going on now until October 18. Events highlighting Indonesia are happening throughout the fair, and the country has unveiled a translation grant program to encourage publication of Indonesian works in other languages. They’ve planned culinary workshops and cooking shows at the Book Fair and around Frankfurt—complete with street carts—to make it a truly immersive experience.

Two Voices Salon Audio of Clarice Lispector Translator Katrina Dodson Now Online!

Posted on October 1, 2015, 04:27:00 PM by Erin Branagan

If you missed the first Salon of the season, we've just posted audio on the Two Lines Press website.

Last week translator Katrina Dodson--who dedicated year to translating the 80+ stories featured in The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector--talked with Two Lines Press' Scott Esposito about the project.

Their conversation included a reading from the book in English and Portuguese, a discussion of Lispector as an author and individual, her religious mysticism, and Dodson's favorite stories from the collection.

Listen to the entire conversation, and be sure not to miss any of our upcoming events in the Bay Area and around the world!


From the Two Lines Press Blog: On "White Blight"

Posted on September 24, 2015, 03:18:00 PM by Marthine Satris

Every print issue of Two Lines is accompanied by an online supplement—Two Lines Online—featuring prose and poetry that seems to us to have a character that would thrive in an online space. We asked Associate Editor Marthine Satris to review a piece in the current issue.

Jennifer Hayashida’s translation of “White Blight,” by the Swedish writer Athena Farrokhzad, has a visual presence that pops, so the choice to include an excerpt from the long poem in Two Lines Online this fall came very naturally. The poem also answers the present discussion of how Europe will respond to migrants from the Middle East by foregrounding the voices of those who have broached European borders before.

Two Lines Online’s selection from the long poem, which will be published in full this year by Argos Books, captures the poem’s key concerns. In a long poem, the accretion of reference is always a vital part of the form, and in taking just a sliver it’s impossible to reproduce that effect. Yet, the poem’s vision of family as both accuser and provider of succor, its chorus of voices, and the repeated references to darkness, light, white, milk, and night, are all present in the excerpt we chose to share with Two Lines readers, which hopefully will intrigue and delight those unfamiliar with Farrokhzad’s daring and dashing writing.

As a reader, it is “White Blight”’s insistence on the visual and spatial element of poetry that is most enlivening. While rhyme and meter often must be adjusted or abandoned in translations of poetry, Farrokhzad’s yawning gaps of blank space and her innovative use of white text highlighted in black carry across to the English without change, showing the potential visual and spatial elements of literature have to infuse the text with more than the denotative power of the words can hold.

Farrokhzad’s poem brings the voices of outsiders to the fore, highlighting her family’s origins outside of Sweden in the language of the poem while the form conveys the material fact of their otherness as Middle Easterners in a sea of polar light. In Hayashida’s translation, family members order the writer to tell their story in the right way:

My mother said: Write like this
For my opportunities my mother sacrificed everything
I must be worthy of her
everything I write will be true

Read the full post on the Two Lines Press blog.

Order your own copy or subscribe to the print journal or better yet, subscribe to the press and you'll get a full year--5 books!--of fantastic translated literature.