Thursday, December 28, 2006

Translation journal call for submissions

Call for Submissions
Translating in the 21st Century

TRANSLATION is a new Translation Studies journal at the University of California Santa Barbara published every two years by the Translation Studies Research Focus Group of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at UCSB.

TRANSLATION is now accepting submissions of poetry or short fiction translations into English for its second issue, to be published in Fall 2007. Essays on literary translation are also welcome. Issue two will highlight translations addressing cultures around the world -- East and West. We are
particularly interested in translations from non-Western languages, but are happy to consider all submissions.

Only unpublished translations will be accepted. The journal is collaboratively run by graduate students and faculty, and welcomes translations from both new and established translators. Please email a brief bio of the translating author along with your submission to

All submissions should use current MLA formatting where required.

Poetry submissions should be limited to 3 per entrant. Poetry translations may be to or from English and should be submitted along with the original text for side-by-side publication.

For short fiction submissions, 7-10 pages is the preferred length.

Translators should obtain necessary permissions for translating texts and will be expected to assist in obtaining permission for publication of originals in the case of poetry.

Unfortunately, as a non-profit, scholarly journal, we cannot offer payment for submissions.

Submissions will be accepted through January 10, 2007 at

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Translation Workshop in Umbria, Italy

Here's a translation workshop that might be of interest to ALTA members or other translators and writers.

Writing and Translation Workshop
in Umbria, Italy
directed by Inara Cedrins

Stay in a spacious farmhouse with interior design typical of the region: stone walls, wooden beams, wrought iron beds and hand-crafted Umbrian furniture. Our rooms form a separate apartment with a well-equipped kitchen. Horseback or donkey riding available, hiking in the Sybillini Mountains – swimming pool and an excellent restaurant offering regional cuisine on the premises. Grounds compose ten hectares where organic farming is practiced.

Workshop sessions and seminars will be conducted in English; translate from any language into English, and receive feedback. Come with your translator for a productive week! If you or your partner are artists, bring a field easel and paint plein-air in the medieval villages or this stunning landscape.

Optional excursions to: Assisi, Spoleto, Norcia, Castelluccio, Orvieto, Perugia

Two sessions:

May 27 – June 3
June 17 – 24
500 Euro per person, based on double occupancy

Reserve by February
Special group rate flying from Riga:
request details – Stipends Available

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Center for Art in Translation San Francisco Reading Nov 29th

From the Center for Art in Translation:
The Center for the Art of Translation will be cosponsoring, Enemy Nations, Emerging Voices, a reading at the SF Main Library.

This provocative reading features works from two new Words Without Borders anthologies: Literature from the Axis of Evil and Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora. These works celebrate the literature and humanity from so-called "enemy" nations and cultures. The event includes an appearance by special guest Alice Walker. We are proud to co-sponsor this event with Words Without Borders.

Wednesday November 29, 2006 6-8 pm (free)
San Francisco Main Library Auditorium
100 Larkin Street, San Francisco

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Bandits from Rio Frio: A Naturalistic and Humorous novel of Customs, Crimes and Horrors

Manuel Payno's 19th century classic, The Bandits from Rio Frio: A Naturalistic and Humorous novel of Customs, Crimes and Horrors, has been translated for the first time into English by Alan Flukey (Heliographica Press, 2005). It would be fair to call Payno Mexico's Dickens. The Bandits from Rio Frio is a major work-- and the translation is superb. Read a review over at River Walk Journal Blog, and another at Eco Latino. This translation should have gotten a lot more attention than it has.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Blurring Boundaries: A Conversation on the Art of Translation

Last night, I attended the closing event of the Festival of Contemporary Japanese Women Poets, a series of talks and readings presented by belladonna*, Poets House, and the Bowery Poetry Club. The conversation began as an exchange of ideas and questions between Alcalá, Sekiguchi and Swensen and continued with the audience Q&A. I was introduced to Sekiguchi's work on Wednesday but last night she elaborated further on her experiences in and thoughts on self-translation. Swensen, also a well-regarded poet, translated into English Sekiguchi's Japanese to English self-translations and has translated a number of French works, focusing in particular on cross-genres. She currently teaches at the University of Iowa. Her comments addressed the role and influence of translation on a poet's "original writing." ALTA veteran Rosa Alcalá, who teaches in a bilingual MFA program at the University of Texas, El Paso, opened the conversation with an observation on the creative potential of borders and boundaries: "While some boundaries are an invention, others are real. Placing ourselves on those boundaries can be productive." Ultimately, the poets seemed to agree that in writing and translation, one does not necessarily "blur boundaries" but rather acknowledge, embrace and inhabit them as sites of creativity and meaning.

You can read my notes of the discussion on my website (they were far too long to reproduce here!).

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Kommandant -- A Trilingual Reading of Les Bienveillantes

Right after the ALTA conference, two things happened. A big thick plop on my front porch from Amazon France containing Les Bienveillantes by Jonathan Littel, which has been the most discussed book of the summer in Western Europe it appears, and I, now the former host committee chair, got sick. The fact that I had to spend two weeks more or less resting up made opening Les Bienviellantes possible (894 pages is intimidating in any language), and once I started, I was hooked. The novel is unsettling, and extremely disturbing, but I was also disturbed in a linguistic way.
Now the Trilingual Reading languages: First, Jonathan Littel is an American writing in French. Not only does he write in French, he does it very well, and has won the 2006 Prix Goncourt (the French Pulitzer, so to speak). Second, the book is about a German, albeit with a French mother, which means that the world of the main character is already a "translation" from the German language and thought world into the French. And third, of course, is that the author and I share the same mother tongue, American English. There is a kind of perverse pride that one of "those Americans" has the ability to write a novel that can stand next to Victor Hugo without shame.
Now the story is jarring enough, even if one has read a great deal of Holocaust literature. Most of my reading in the field has been in German, and seeing events through the medium of the French language made the telling almost a Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt, distancing me as the reader from the experiences in which I already have extensive German vocabulary and knowledge. But this Verfremdungseffekt made the story even more ghastly, except for one little, little problem (no pun intended, actually. No really!).
German is a language of case, and English and French, with some exceptions in the pronoun arena, are not. Littel has chosen to use many German words and expressions in this work, der Kommandant being one of many, and I almost would have preferred to have the French. Why? Each time a German word was used with its nominative "the", in a place where the sentence has the word in what would be a direct or an indirect object, I was jerked right out of the story and into German 101 teaching assistent mode. Quite frankly, this is not my favorite persona. Nothing is misspelled nor are the words in the wrong context -- the use of the German vocabulary is flawless in all ways except for the case system problem. If I did not know German, I am sure that I would be captured by Littel's use of German for good effect, but the effect is lost when the case is wrong and the reader knows it. This could have been avoided entirely by using "le Kommandant" for example, which would make the case system discussion irrelevant. But "der" where "den" or "dem" should be used? If I were a cat, my fur is being rubbed the wrong way each and every time it happens. I wonder if this is my emotional way of distancing myself from the Arendtian "banality of evil" in the text itself, by letting myself be distracted by improper use of case. But I am distracted, in a red-pennish sort of way, and that makes me irritated, and then I wonder what the editor knew of German, or if Littel was aware of the case system but decided to ignore it, and then I am off into the kinds of tangents that sociolinguists tend to wander. What does the use of German mean? Why is Littel using this German expression here, but a French translation here? How many doctoral dissertations are going to be written on this?
Well, I did get better, and I am nearing the end of "Les Bienviellantes" (the title proposal for English is "The Kindly Ones" though I think that "Men of Good Will" would make a beautifully ironic title, though the title refers to the Furies in French.) If you know French, do try and read it, but I would put a disclaimer here as well, because at times you will find yourself in a position of voyeur to sadism and murder, and this reader often felt like a minor character found in the first hundred pages, who, when faced with the initial cruelty of the German invasion of the Ukraine, went completely insane. Under the circumstances, of course, perhaps he was the sanest of them all. As the protagonist keeps going through this "docu-roman", the horrors (and perversions) become a bit much, and this reader was glad to have been born far far away from the countries of my maternal ancestors.

Four From Japan: Contemporary Poetry & Essays by Women

As a follow-up to Liz's post on Wednesday's event at Poet's House, I wanted to share my first thoughts on the anthology Four From Japan: Contemporary Poetry & Essays by Women, which I have been rereading since that night. I am cross-posting this entry from my website, Stingy Kids. I also took some notes on the panel discussion but they are nowhere near as comprehensive as Liz's!

My post begins:

Belladonna*, Poets House, and the Bowery Poetry Club have organized a three-day festival on "contemporary and innovative" Japanese womens poetry. The impetus for this event is the recent publication of the anthology Four From Japan: Contemporary Poetry & Essays by Women (Litmus/Belladonna), which features the work of Kiriu Minashita, Kyon-Mi Park, Ryoko Sekiguchi, Takako Arai in English translation (most of the translations are by Sawako Nakayasu, editor of Factorial). I purchased a copy last night, the first night of the festival, and devoured most of it on my subway ride home. The translations are spectacular and I admire the decision to include the Japanese originals, even if doing so meant that fewer poems could be included. An essay by each poet follows the selection of poems and these provide a further glimpse into the different ways in which issues of idenitity, language, and representation have affected and shaped their individual work. These essays do some of the work that readers have come to expect from an introduction, but rather than have the translator and/or editor speak for the poets and "group" their work in collective terms, the anthology insists on a multiplicity of voices moving in and out of private and public positions.

I was interested in the decision to present the poems first in translation and follow these with the original Japanese text. I often prefer original and translation to face each other, but letting the translation "speak" first, as it were, is very provocative. I began my reading of these texts in a language that is known to me, even the language tricks and contortions they perform are familiar, so for a moment they belong to me: I can domesticate them, incorporate them, ingest them. I turn the page and, suddenly, I am facing another language and my grasp on these texts begins to slip away. But what also intrigued me is how the translations continued to shadow these originals so that they too could be "read" in a way but without the illusion of fluidity that facing translations encourage. Though this is a spare work, its reach is expansive and aspires "to seep [the work of these poets] out further into a universal poetic" while keeping their individual contexts in view. The prose texts, I would argue, are a defense against the risk of over generalizing and globalizing these works. They give us a glimpse into the influences and experiences that have shaped these authors and further elaborate their individual poetic interests and concerns.

Full volumes of translations of the individual poets are in order and I hope this collection inspires this future work, but last night's dialogue at Poets House also underscored the importance of gathering different voices together. As the conversation progressed it became clear that there were no easy categories in which to collectively position these writers. Even the category "women" found itself challenged and placed under scrutiny.

End of original post.

Since writing this, I've had the chance to read more attentively the poems and prose, particularly Kyong-Mi Park's essay "My Asian Bones are Ringing," which begins on a winter day in New York. The following passage is just stunning:
There's no such thing as your "own" language. Words that we call words all belong to others. To speak and write, and to learn and comprehend words--it is all a matter of giving yourself over to the process of other people's words as they come and go freely within you, and placing your own self atop the words of someone else. What I discovered through my own personal experience of translating Stein, the mother of modernism, was the spell-like quality of words, that language was in fact a medium--a spiritual medium as well as an intermediary--and that the act of using words is that of being possessed by the words of someone else.

(In this sense, it really makes no sense to speak of a "native" language. There is no language we are born with. Children are possessed, like a medium, by the language of whoever they first meet in their lives, and then copy and repeat this process, placing themselves atop it.)
During the panel discussion, Ryoko Sekiguchi told us that she is often asked, "why are you writing in French, Japan wasn't a colony of France?" Her reply: "The question becomes: what is wrong with engaging in a language to which you have no historical connection?" This brought up for me the issues surrounding the argument that translators should only translate into and out of languages they know intimately or to which they are legitimately bound by history. But history becomes a tricky prescription for writing and translation when you think of all of the unwritten contacts and encounters that have occurred between people and languages over time. Not to mention how much would be left untranslated if we only dealt in recent historical connections or with languages we know. Arguably, the act of translation creates these connections and this knowing.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Four From Japan: discussion and reading at Poets House

Last night I went to an excellent panel and reading at Poets House in New York City: "Crossing Currents, Panel Discussion on Contemporary Poetry in Japan". In this panel, four women from Japan and their translator, Sawako Nakayasu, talked about poetry, gender, innovation, translation, and the history of the Japanese language.

I will be posting a full transcript of the panel on Composite within the next few days, but for now, here's a short version.

Throughout the panel and readings, Sawako provided excellent near-simultaneous translation! It was quite impressive.

Takako Arai talked about her identity as someone with deep ties to a textile manufacturing town near Tokyo. Kiriu Minashita explained the etymology of her pseudonym: "air current" or "jet stream". After the reading she gave me further detail; also, she has many, many pseudonyms and is a very bloggity internetty person with multiple identities. I can relate! Kyong-Mi Park talked about being of Korean/Japanese heritage and living in Tokyo being a 21st century woman poet. Ryoko Sekiguchi gave a brief introduction to her own identity as a Japanese poet writing in French, living in France, and translating French to Japanese and vice versa. The 5th panel participant lives in NYC and unfortunately I didn't catch her name; she was helping with translation and she's also a poet.

The panelists discussed gender, feminism, identity, sexuality, and concepts of women's language. Ryoko maintained that her identity changes and shifts with each new project. Kyong-Mi pointed out the problems with how, from the minute she began to write, other people told her to write from her position as Korean/Japanese. So that condition, that view, was imposed on her from outside. The process of dealing with that breaks down her identity in a way that leads to poetry. Takao described the history of her hometown and its disappearing economic base and how that affects her writing; her "home" in the process of disappearance. Kiriu talked about changing immigration laws in Japan, and Japan's history of attitudes towards "minorities" and the global history of monoculture and minority in a consumer society.

Rachel, the panel moderator, asked if resistance to monoculture drove poetic innovation and if the monoculture attitude made it difficult to be innovative or resistant as a woman?

In a word: Yes...

Kiriu and Takako talked at length about the history of Japan, and the ideal of monocultural, unified Japan and the Japanese language. Linguistic expections to that. Between the 17th century isolationism and around 100 years ago there were regional differences in Japanese. Takako uses those differences and digs up old words. Ryoko continued to describe the parts of her identity that don't change with different projects; that unchanging part is in resistance. One way to resist a monocultural language is to go backwards in time. Another is to focus on regional differences. Another is to be engaged with foreign languages.

Kyong-Mi then brought up the Pillow Book and the Tale of Genji, the Heiian era and women's language, women writers. For men to express particular poetic concepts they had to write in women's language and write as women. Japanese also has the richness of Rykyu (Okinawa) and Ainu heritages.

Ryoko said that breaking down and resisting monoculture was not always directed at a Japanese audience. People wonder why she writes in French when Japan was not a colony of France. She is deliberate in her choice to commit to an ahistorical connection to the language and the country. It is possible to work with a language without a personal or historical context of connection to it.

Kiriu brought up the "Beautiful Japanese Language" boom and the ways it's disturbing. Older poets, especially men, disapprove of poetic innovation and of changes in language. Women's universities are cutting gender studies classes and substituting "Beautiful Language" courses instead to teach "proper" Japaese, which she describes as teaching young women to speak like flight attendants on Japan Air; to cater to and please older men. Young people's use of language is a point of resistance to an attempt to close the doors to globalization. Japan has no military; when the economic situation deteriorates, those in power target the weak inside the country.

Rachel asked about "female language" or women's language and inhabiting different subject positions.

Ryoko and Kyong-Mi brought up Gertrude Stein and then Chika Sagawa and junzaburo Nishiwaki's descriptions of Sagawa. Kyong-Mi is a translator of Stein. All the panelists contributed to further discussion of shifting identities and the breakdown of language in relation to identity. "I am me because my reader knows me." [A re-work of Stein's "I am me because my little dog knows me." ) Taking that suspended state of being and language, often treated as a pretty or optimistic place, yet it is a dangerous, tenuous place. [Then, I think it was Ryoko who said that now their work in English in this context opens that place to a new set of readers, which changes the poetic identity of the authors and influences them. And this is part of being a 21st century poet, open to other poetries. ]

Kiriu made three points: "Instinct" and her experience of 9/11.To people in Japan, New York City is the city always demolished in Hollywood movies, just as in the U.S. people think of Tokyo as the city demolished by Godzilla. So the actual destruction of the WTC was a shock of reality overtaking the imaginary. 2nd: Her identity growing up in a stereotypical affluent suburb. "I feel like I'm a mass produced product, a part made in a Toyota factory. When I see Agent Smith in The Matrix, it reminds me of myself. The fact that I don't have a locality is my identity". 3rd: Further explanations of her pen names. Her identities in other genres, where people have no idea she is also a poet. The pleasure of disguise.

Then each poet read from the book, which has poems in Japanese, translations, and some very interesting essays on poetry. (Though I'm sad that the book doesn't have Kyong-Mi Park's amazing poem "The cat comes with a baby cat in its mouth" with its memorable images of the disturbing brocaded caterpillar, fat-veined leaf, sound of peeing, and muslin nightgowns.) I highly recommend this books, even if you don't know Japanese (as I don't): Four From Japan: Contemporary Poetry & Essays by Women -- available from Small Press Distribution.

I also recommend anyone who's in NYC try to catch the readings and book release party tonight, Thursday Nov. 16, at the Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery, 7pm, or the reading and discussion tomorrow night, Friday Nov. 17 at 7pm at Poets House: "Blurring Boundaries: A Conversation on the Art of Translation with Rosa Alcalá, Ryoko Sekiguchi, and Cole Swenson. I'll be at the Friday event but not Thursday: Thursday I'm going to Words Without Borders "Axis of Evil" reading at Labyrinth Books!

Thanks to Poets House and Belladonna for this amazing discussion and reading!

My "summary" is very long! I hope it's interesting to you all.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Literature from the "Axis of Evil"

Words Without Borders has a first print anthology, Literature from the "Axis of Evil." Check out these launch events:

--> ­in New York on November 16 at 7 p.m., at Labyrinth Books, 36 West 112th Street. Readers for the evening include Francisco Goldman, Esther Allen, Diana Alvarez-Amell, and Suji Kwock Kim.

--­> in San Francisco on November 29 from 6-8 p.m., at the San Francisco Main Library Auditorium, 100 Larkin St. at Grove St., Civic Center. Alice Walker, Persis Karim, Lea Aschkenas, Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Li Miao Lovett will read and discuss work from the anthology.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Oulipo, catachresis, right and wrong

Phyllis Aronoff sent me this interesting article for the ALTA blog, a talk entitled "Translation and the Oulipo: The Case of the Persevering Maltese," by Harry Mathews. It's about "sound translations", like Marcel Benabou's transformation of "A thing of beauty is a joy forever":

Ah, singe débotté,
Hisse un jouet fort et vert
"O unshod monkey,
raise a stout green toy!"

Phyllis further quotes Mathews: "The Oulipo certainly can't help [translators] in an obvious way. Unless he wanted to sabotage his employer, an editor would be mad to employ an Oulipian as a translator." And then he shows how Oulipo might help a translator in less-obvious ways.

This all reminds me (Liz) of Frankfurt's famous essay "On Bullshit". I do like the accidents that engender new accidents, and catachrestic eruptions, but I don't think I would call them translations. I was near fatally annoyed in a class a couple of years ago by a person who claimed that, since she only had a small inadequate dictionary and didn't know Greek, she could just "pick the word that came before or after the word she was looking up" and use it for a "valid" translation. And that was okay, because that was her level of understanding, her creative filter, and made perfectly good art. While I love the idea of multiple truths, multiple translations, Oulipian game-playing, and a bit of out-of-control chaos; the idea that there might be no RIGHT translation --- I do believe there are WRONG translations.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Multilingual dictionary, good for idioms

I just stumbled across this excellent, free, online resource:, which searches across English, French, Italian, and Portuguese all once, and optionally from any of those languages to nearly any of the others. How incredibly useful!

It's very good with idiomatic expressions. For example, take a look at the entry for cabeza. You get a huge list of expressions using the word, with links to other entries in the dictionaries that contain it. You can hear the word spoken if you click on the icon for the sound file.

If you use Firefox you can also click a link near the bottom of the page to add a Wordreference search box to your toolbar.

There are forums to ask questions, too, and a list down the left sidebar of words nearby in the dictionary so you can browse.

Friday, October 27, 2006

ALTA Conference -- The Host Chair's View Part Two

This conference was filled with so much activity that I am still trying to take it all in. As Host Committee Chair, I was constantly on the move, directing people hither and yon, welcoming people, making sure that people found the coffee, the room, the keynote speakers. I left off the last posting half-way through the conference activities I attended, and so will pick up in the middle of Friday afternoon.

I attended the talk "Reading and Writing Chinese" where there was much conversation around the use of the computer in learning to read as well as discussion on using the computer for composing written documents. I was happy to hear Geoff Waters recommend the Unicode Unified Han pages, which can be found on-line at, since my husband has devoted so much of his life to the Unicode Standard.

Many of us filed in to hear the guest speaker Joseph Butwin give an interesting talk on how his parents became Yiddish translators, and it was beshert that they ended up translating Sholem Aleichem. Fate, or the Heavens, does seem to play a role in translators falling into the profession, and his description won nods of recognition from the audience.

Niloufar Talebi gave a beautiful rendition of contemporary Iranian poetry with the help of two musicians who drove up from Portland. It was a moving, heart-felt and amazing evening of music and recitation. If you weren't there, you missed a wonderful evening. (Let's just say that the musicians made brisk sales of their CD afterwards -- I think they sold out their stock! I bought three of them, one for me and two for friends).

Saturday October 21

After the ALTA breakfast, I headed out to the Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic Voices for the American Reader panel. Ingrid Lansford moderated a panel with Tara Chase (Norwegian) Randi Eldvik (Old Icelandic) and Thom Satterlee (Danish). The discussion grew lively and heated (again, you just think we Scandinavians are cold fish. HA!) One theme that came up was the difficulty in convincing Scandinavians that American English is good enough, compared to British English. As Tara Chase pointed out, "If you want to sell to an American audience, why not translate into American English? There are now 300 million of us and only 60 million of them." Randi Eldvik thought that it should not be a problem, since educated Americans do read British English and watch Public Television, and that the American audience need not and perhaps should not demand translations into American English. I pointed out the fact that American translators can lose work to British translators, due to this prejudice, and that eating is also a very nice thing to do (with example of lost book). Which is better, a real American translation or a "Mid-Atlantic" translation? I noted that the British translators had no qualms about using Britishisms and that we Americans had just as much right to our English as the Brits do. I also told the story of the discussion Niklas Rådström and I had concerning the bird blue titmouse, to much laughter. The question becomes "who do we translate for" -- the English-speaking world as a whole, Americans, to please the Scandinavian authors, who do like to put in their own two cents using dictionaries biased towards British English to butress their arguments? It is a unique problem that Scandinavians do know quite a bit of English, and therefore often have opinions about the translation of their work, which can be quite misguided. We would have kept going, but we were kicked out of the room.

From Scandinavia back to Asia, where I listened to a fascinating panel on the Prose Poem in East Asia. Brian Clements, publisher of Sentence, the prose poem journal, put together a wonderful selection of panelists: Jeffrey Angles, Steve Bradbury, Don Mee Choi (together with the poet she translates Kim Hyesoon) and Andrea Lingenfelder. I was brought up to speed on the history of the prose poem in Asia, and the changes in page layout which made the prose poem possible in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. The prose poem is a new development in Asia, and exciting things are happening as poets work with this, for them, new mode of expression. All of these translators are beyond excellent -- BUY THEIR TRANSLATIONS, you will not regret it. Or look for the upcoming Asian prose poem feature in Sentence.

Since I wear another hat as Secretary-Treasurer of the Association of Swedish Translators in North America (STiNA), I had to leave Asia and go find out practical information that could be of use to STiNA members. That is to say, I went to hear all about Awards, Grants and Funding, and took notes so that I could inform the STiNA membership of upcoming deadlines and requirements for various grants. From this panel, I went to ALTA and the World, where the various translation organizations met to discuss mutual projects and working together to benefit translators around the world. I learned, and I did not know this, that ALTA is a member of the international translator's organization FIT, and that we as ALTA members can get an international translator's identification, which has similar privledges to an international journalist ID. See the FIT website for more information on the international translators ID.

By the time keynote speaker Ch'oe Yun was on stage, I was finding myself feeling a bit dizzy, so I was gripping my seat to keep myself from fainting and making a scene, but in spite of this distraction, I found what Ch'oe Yun said (with Bruce Fulton's translation) a fascinating insight into the contact between Korean and French, and the problems associated when two such different languages meet in the translator's mind and on the translated page.

I was beginning to feel ill and debated whether or not to just call my husband to take me home, but decided that I would attend the Declamacion, since that is the highlight of an ALTA event for me! I love to hear people reciting and singing, and the evening is always filled with laughter and good times. This was my fourth ALTA and hence my third Declamacion (I sat the first one out because I didn't realize that it was in languages other than Spanish), and I also led the group to a rousing chorus of Helan går! So now many dozens of ALTA members can sing one drinking song with the best of the Swedes, which, if you ever win a Nobel Prize yourself, may come in handy. (And special thanks to Liz Henry for "straightening out my bosum" ie, making sure that my folkdräkt and I could be seen in public!)

The words to Helan går:

Helan går nu hopp fa la ra la fa la ley!
Helan går nu hopp fa la ra la ley!
Den som inte helan tar
inte heller halvan får
Helan GÅR (pause to drink)
Nu hopp fa la ra la ley!

A fine conclusion to a good conference.
See you in Dallas! And practice your Swedish drinking song for next year!

Your (now FORMER) Host Committee Chair Laura

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ALTA Conference -- The Host Chair's View Part One

As the Host Committee Chair, first and foremost I would like to thank everyone who participated in the ALTA conference. We had 179 presenters, making for a rich and varied conference, and, again, I thank you.

Now, the summary from the perspective of the Host Chair!

The conference began for me when I drove to Sea-Tac in order to pick up our keynote speaker Göran Malmqvist, who, as a member of the Swedish Academy (the Nobel prize committee guys and gals -- two new members of the Committee were just installed two weeks ago, so I think we will see some interesting developments from Stockholm), and as a translator of Chinese and erudite on all things literary, was a good choice for one of our keynotes. Göran himself is a modest and pleasant man, and, as we relaxed at our house for a few hours before heading to the hotel, he and my husband Asmus, who is one of the authors of the Unicode standard, became immersed in discussing Chinese characters which need to be added to software. Göran had arrived from Taipai, and so went straight to his room to recover, while I milled about, welcoming translators, authors and others who were arriving for the first evening of the conference.

For the welcoming event, I dressed in my Southern Swedish folkdräkt, which hails from the western side of the province of Blekinge. John Balcom wondered why my dräkt had a silk bodice, and I reminded him that the area of Sweden from which I hail has had trade with China for hundreds of years, and Chinese silk is part of the component of the Blekingedräkt. To open the confrence, the local Swedish vocal group Sus gave a short performance of Swedish folk songs, medieval ballads and even one Sami joik, the songs sung by the reindeer-herding people up North, often called Lapps here, but I would like to inform you all that Lapp is a derogatory word in Sweden and Sami is the prefered name. After some drinking and mingling, the opening event continued with Olivia Sears' self-cell poetry multimedia performance. Her work is thought-provoking, rooted in both scientific and human questions of origin and identity. A powerful and moving celebration of the complexity of our bodies and the mystery of our being. From there, many attendees moved to the bar, and I was able to greet Dwayne from Absinthe, who had published one of my translations this past year, and an all-around great guy.

Thursday, October 19th, bright and early, I trooped in to the Scandinavian workshop, where Thor Truelson led the participants through short pieces in Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Danish. The Scandinavian languages (excepting Finnish, which is Finno-Ugric and not Indo-European) are all closely related, and to some extent, mutually intelligable. Few translators had attended a workshop like this before, due to the fact that Scandinavian translation workshops are few and hard to come by in North America, but Thor led everyone through the process, and by the end of the workshop, people felt comfortable to speak out and discuss translation problems and opinions on the translation process. Göran was also in attendance, but was quite modest and participated just like the rest of us Scandinavian translators. Thor is translating an Icelandic saga, and we were grateful that he had already translated his piece, since Icelandic is unique among the Scandinavian languages due to its retention of forms which, for the rest of us, are historic and difficult.

Like Liz, I also attended the Collaborative Translation panel, led by Kelly Lenox Allen, which I enjoyed tremendously. As some of you know, I have a friend who is a Latvian poet, and she has asked me to work with some of her poems, via her rough translation and a poetic translation in French, so I wanted to hear how other people had managed to come to terms with the process and to work together successfully, and these translators seem to manage this through mutual respect and a great deal of humor.

Lunch was a meeting of the Association of Swedish Translators in North America, and a number of STiNA members were at the conference, most for the first time. Even our humble president, Paul Norlen, an award-winning translator from Swedish, was an ALTA newbie. Göran Malmqvist appeared at this lunch as well, and was able to relax among the Swedish translators. It was a good lunch and a good chance to mingle and catch up with what our partners in Swedish translation were doing these days.

Avoiding the Missionary Position is a pun, as those of you who attended the panel are now aware. Mike Farmen led a discussion on the various periods of Chinese erotic poetry and the rise and fall and rise of erotic modes, as well as bringing the audience a new insight into symbolic metaphors -- I will never read the phrase "clouds and rain" in the same way again. John Balcom, Teresa Yu, David Lunde and Geoff Waters are all accomplished translators of Chinese poetry, and hearing their translations (as opposed to just reading them) was a joy.

The ALTA Fellows Reading went smoothly, except for the part that a conference host dreads, the person who misses the plane. Oh well, can't be helped. The Fellows were introduced at the beginning of the reading, and for those of you who missed that, there was a hand-out brochure in the program which listed all five fellows and their work.

I introduced our first keynote speaker, Göran Malmqvist, and I have to say that I am amazed by his insights, erudition and humor. Of course, you don't get to be one of the members of the Swedish Academy if you are an idiot, so his wide range of knowledge on the literatures of the world should come as no surprise. What did come as a surprise to me is the number of ALTA members who did not (prior to this conference) know that the Swedish Academy was the institution responsible for choosing the Nobel prize. OK, repeat after me, the Swedish Academy chooses the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Swedish you know.

Friday October 20th

The panel on contemporary Swedish and Finnish Literature was moderated by yours truly. Moderating of course mostly means cutting people off if they have gone on beyond their time and leading the discussion afterwards, so I heartily recommend being a moderator, as it is much more fun than being a presentor. This is the first time I actually moderated an ALTA panel myself, though I have done the moderator thing once or twice before at the annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies. Erland G. Anderson discussed his translations of Ulf Peter Hallberg, and the importance of soccer in Hallberg's work. Johannes Göransson discussed his work with Aase Berg and the interesting challenges that arise both in her Swedish and then in translating her Swedish. Jill Timbers discussed Finnish literature, and for many of us, the authors that she was introducing were not well-known. Her introduction made us all want to run out and find the Swedish translations of these Finnish works, since very few of these works have appeared in English. The discussion became quite heated (you just thought that Scandinavians were cold fish!) around the issues of standard language, language contact and racism and discrimination. Finally we had to terminate the discussion, but blood pressure was raised and we were all challanged in our understanding of contemporary Scandinavian and American societies.

Bilingual readings, which Alexis Levitin has been arranging for the past twenty-odd years, are a highlight of any ALTA conference, and the Scandivaian reading was no exception. One highlight of the Scandinavian reading was Gudrun Brunot's performance of a poem by Anna Maria Lenngren, first in Swedish and then in English. Her presentation was remarkable, and as she is new to the field of literary translation, we encouraged her to enter the American-Scandinavian Foundation's Translation Prize. Roger Greenwald, a long-time ALTA translator, began the reading with his translations of Niels Frank, Adda Djörup and Catherine Giröndahl (excuse me for using the Swedish ö instead of the Norwegian o with slash -- the sound is idenical for those who are not familiar with the pronunciation of Scandinavian languages). Eva Claesson read from excerpts from her forthcoming collection of ten Swedish women poets (Oyster Press). Margareta Horiba read from her translation of Hjalmar Bergman (one of Sweden's foremost dramatists and novelists, he died in 1933. An aside, my honors thesis at University of Illinois was on Hjalmar Bergman's plays). Thom Satterlee read from his translations of Danish poets Henrik Nordbrandt and Annemette Kure Andersen, and even brought in a CD of the elusive Henrik Nordbrandt reading one of his poems. Sonia Wichman finished the reading with her translation of Finnish children's author Leena Krohn, whose short story on a town bought up house by house to be turned into a museum for one rich man's life was a compelling study of loss and memory and what is truly important.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Conference reports from Sweden and Seattle

Here's Johannes Görannson of Exoskeleton, reporting on his experience of the ALTA conference. He wrote about Korean translators and translation and about meeting Quick, go read it just to see if he mentioned you! (Oh. Wait. Correction: He's in Georgia, or maybe Alabama... he's in an indeterminate location. With a cat, until you open the box.)

Richard Jeffrey Newman posted on poetics blogThe Great American Pinup and It's All Connected, in excellent detail. He wrote about the average age of translators represented at the conference and would like to see more younger translators.

I agree! In fact, I stood up at the ALTA general meeting with some practical suggestions of how to make the conference more welcoming and relevant & interesting to younger translators:

- more roundtable discussions
- more workshops
- peer mentoring, structures to encourage it
- regular old mentoring, ditto
- funding for younger people and/or people at beginning career stages and/or freelancers who aren't associated with a university
- spontaneous programming, unconference style
- more transparency in the panel organizing process

Anyway, Richard also wrote in fascinating detail on the "Translating the Erotic Mode in Persian Poetry" panel:
To the degree that sex is about the body, the way we talk about sex is a way of talking about what bodies are for in a very literal sense. So, for example, if we talk about sex as being only or primarily about reproduction, bodies are there to reproduce and to be reproduced. While if we talk about sex as being about enjoyment, then bodies are there to be enjoyed. It would be fascinating to push this consideration of how to translate the eroticism of one language/culture into another into a consideration of the cultural construction of the body in each culture, to get at an even deeper level of significance.

The Mandarin also had a few things to say about the "clouds and rain" of Seattle. I look forward to reading what he has to say about his panel on sexual themes in classical Chinese poetry. We translators are a racy bunch!

How did I know they were blogging about the conference? Because I'm tapped into the great hive mind, that's how, and because I technorati-ed "literary translator" on the main blog search engine.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Bilingual reading - Misc. - Saturday afternoon

Elizabeth Lowe read from her translation of the Brazilian writer Regina Rheda, author of Ark without Noah, "The Bad Neighbor". There is a UT Press collection of her works, "First World, Third Class". She read from "Bestseller", with strong themes of globalization - ecofeminist, immigration, diaspora - wordplay. I loved this story, which was obnoxious, bitter, funny, disturbing, & surreal!

Liz Henry (me) - Elvira Hernandez and Carmen Berenguer. I read from my translations of "Carta de Viaje", "Bala humanitaria", "Moluska", "A media luz", and "Lengua osa verba". That was a lot of fun. I'm having a blast reading and translating Berenguer, who is bold and outrageous and untranslatable.

Graciela Lucero-Hammer read from her translation of Desnudos del alma, by Marisa Estelrich, who unfortunately could not be here - (Alicia Zavala Galvan read the Spanish). A funny and compelling story from the point of view of a woman who is very annoyed at the nosy manager of her apartment building...

Philip Metres, reading from Sergey Gandlevsky , "A Kindred Orphanhood". A poem inspired by folksongs learned in prison. How people come back from prison all around the world with new language. "A gutter lisping to itself .... a song about wasted life... I'm not particular... a swallow of alcohol is like a hot rose unfolding in your chest. " Wow!

Philip Metres also read several poems by Lev Rubenstein, "The postmodern Chekov." - "Catalogue of Comedic Novelties". A poem called "Here I am" :

"Here I am / there is no other/ this is the only /this is the only /there is no other / well if I'd known it was going to be like this...!" Radical and cool. Subtle ambiguities of everyday thoughts, distressing yet unavoidable uncertainties, strongly expressed. The sort of thing you can be thinking about without being able to stop - but unable to explain what it is that you're thinking. Poetry about exactly that.

Le Pham Le and Nancy Arbuthnot sang and read Le's beautiful poems. I think they were scheduled at a different time, so not a lot of people knew that they were performing at 5pm -- which was too bad because a lot of people were looking forward to hearing their work. Le improvises melodies to the poems. I don't know anything about the rules of the poetic form or of the melodic improvisation but it's clearly part of a long aesthetic tradition. I will just add a few links here for anyone who wants to pursue more information: Ca Dao Viet Nam: Vietnamese Folk Poetry by John Balaban; Versification of Vietnamese Riddles; Traditional Music of Vietnam: Art Songs, Poetry.

Bilingual reading - Argentina, Saturday afternoon

The readings were introduced by Don Bogan.

Lila Zembrorain, who teaches at NYU, read her work, and the translator, Rosa Alcalá, read her translations (co-translator with Monica de la Torre, who also co-edited Reversible Monuments). Both poet and translator spoke on the body in water and moving through water, connecting with the space around it through movement. Malva orquidias del mar, Mauve sea-orchids. A beautiful name for jellyfishes.

"The edge of the horizon with its impressive cleanness.... as if health and illness were there in ... the depth of the genes... in the infinite confusion that forms us... where bodies like yours and mine in the passing hours disintegrate to form the sand's golden surface... one's own absurd cubicle..." --- So beautiful... I enjoyed this reading very much. I've got to see both of their work together on the page, as it is dense and complicated poetic language, good to hear aloud but the sort of thing to meditate on & re-read for better understanding.

Lila's readings impressed me with the swimming feel of the rhythm of words (like body motion) and her long deep breaths exactly like coming up for air. Usually in poetry you don't necessarily pay attention to hearing the breath, but in these poems, read out loud, the audible breath is crucial especially in this poem - I did not catch the name of the poem - but this one:

"who would dare in their heated course crawl .... without oxygen... parpadeando.... blood that drags itself through the body.... only movement admits distance... an insect in the disturbed current... "

Really, I can't wait to read this!

*I missed the middle two readings, unfortunately*

Then, Andrea Labinger talked about Edgar Brau, an amazing poet and fiction writer, an autodidact, very erudite but with no formal education. (Poverty. Ambivalent relationship with the U.S. and its inhabitants.) Excerpt from Casablanca. Everything is black and white and grey, and the story gets stranger and stranger until it's getting my mind into a wonderful atmosphere of mindblowing, hip, surreal science fiction. The "speculative fiction" or slipstream or literary science fiction readers and writers would like this book very much.

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Langston Hughes panel

nancy, nedra, and tanyikaNedra Bickham moderated the panel on Langston Hughes' translations, introducing the poet with a recording of "Weary Blues", a brief overview of Hughes' life, and a quote from Edna St. Vincent Millay about poets as translators vs. another quote from Ruben Dario about non-poets translating poetry.

Nancy Festinger talked about Hughes and Nicolas Guillen, blowing me away with her fiesty trash-talking reading of "Búcate plata", one of the first poems in Afro-Cuban dialect ever published. We talked about how that poem might be translated differently today, and Nancy pointed out particularly that "mi negro" was a general endearment, like saying honey, baby, or sweetie; not really a racial epithet. I enjoyed the poem "Llegada" very much; Nancy provided Hughes' translation and one by Roberto Marquez and David Arthur MacMurray.

Tanyika Carey also quoted Millay more extensively, poetry translation being "as complicated as blood transfusion". She talked about the difference between the Pan-Africanism and negritude movements, and then gave us a fascinating glimpse of Haitian poets Jean-Joseph Rabéarivelo and Jacques Roumain , and Hughes' relationships with them & translations of their work, along with a poem to Hughes by Roumain.

I talked about Hughes' translations of Gabriela Mistral, and how his translations and interpretations were gendered; positioning Mistral as a populist everywoman, as "essentially feminine" or as a cosmic mother singing a simple lullaby. The Nobel at the close of WWII; construction of the myth of the earth mother healing the world's wounds. Hughes extending his own populist project to gender, that what he felt was essentially woman-like should be heard. Critics praised the ways Hughes made Mistral's poetry "sound like a woman's work". Mistral was deeply engaged with Latin American and European intellectual/aesthetic/poetic currents - for example, in dialogue with modernismo. Then I gave a specific example of the short poem "Rocío", reading the Spanish, a very bad translation by someone named Cristopher, Hughes' beautiful and poetic translation, but then I critiqued Hughes' reading of the "dew" and miracle as an infant son - not, as in my reading, of breast milk itself. This as an example of ways that gender-influenced mistranslations can influence the interestingness of poems and subsequent canonization or relative erasure of a writer's work. (I mentioned Mistral's dismaying and complicated racism, but didn't elaborate. If anyone is interested in this, look at her letters and essays after her adopted son killed himself.)

It was a lively panel that put out a ton of information and ideas. I had fun with it and enjoyed the opportunity to learn about Langston Hughes over the last few months of preparation with my fellow panelists.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Bilingual readings, Latin American, Friday afternoon

bilingual readings, ALTA conference
Rhonda Dahl Buchanan, a dynamic & witty speaker, lets us know a little bit about Ana María Shua, "The Queen of Short Shorts". We're the first to get a sneak peek at the scandalously short shorts from Quick Fixes! It's so hot that Rhonda takes off her jacket!

More short shorts from Casa de Geishas; some Quickies, or "texticulos". (!1!!)

Rhonda dedicates "Beware of Women" to the reading organizer, Alexis, who just came in... Everyone cracks up!

I'll never be able to read Shua without hearing her in Rhonda's voice!

Next up, Gary Racz translating Manuel Gonzalez Prada's witty epigrams or grafitos in which he makes fun of many targets, including religious figures, The Bible, ponderous and pompous writers, and anti-semitism. "It's easier to be a God / than make it as a carpenter." And one to St. Augustine "With two mere Latin tags, you proved / the antipodes did not exist..." and to Thomas Aquinas: "His works, once thought to harbor gold / like some ... Himayalan peak..." All in meter and rhyme and quite engaging. Gary comments on what it was like to write in hexameter. I enjoyed the couplets on Cervantes - rhyming "Cervantes" y "pedantes", so we're all laughing by the very first line. Baudelaire: hey! Gonzalez Prada actually likes someone.

Alicia Zavala Galvan reads from her translations of Alfonsina Storni and Carilda Oliver Labra. Storni - "Miedo", 1919. "Engaño", 1925. "Uno" 1935. Her translation of Oliver Labra's "If they knock" was great.

Trudy Balch's translations of Gabriela (Gaby) Brimmer - who could not speak and who typed on an electric typewriter with her big toe. This text is like a dialogue between 3 women - Gaby, her mother, and Florencia (or Nani), Gaby's caregiver.

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Translating Multilingual work - ALTA panel

This was the panel I was on with Karen Philips and Adriana Tatum, and I'll put up some notes later.

ALTA conference: Publishing translations in journals

Notes on "Facing Pages I: Publishing Translations in Journals", moderated by Carolyn Wright.

Dwayne Harris spoke briefly about Absinthe: New European Writing.

Joyelle McSweeney, editor of Action Yes. Action Books, poetry and translation press. Action Yes, a quarterly, is the online arm. The phrase is a good example of Global English. Inflection rather than conventional syntax. Sets the tone, hyper, very present and alive in the world. Hybrid forms, international writing. It's not a facing text but it's a rollover technology that you can toggle. You can print out and you get a facing page printout. You cna toggle between contributor notes, source and target language, and artwork or visual information, using the tech to avoid polarization or binary construction of translation and texts.

(Wow! Fabulous!)

"The sense of excerpt" - you might be reading a complete work but you have a strong sense of the information being incomplete. Estrangement, defamiliarization, vertigo. What is appearing to you in its original language and which is a translation? english starts to look unfamiliar.

Manifesto! For poetry that goes too far. Taking negatives about translation and claim it as something that is the power of translations. Turn those threats into promises. Unleash the positive potential. Action statement. "hybridity, entropy, inflammation." "translation teaches us to read adventurously." "the quest for sincerity is like the quest for a perfect lawn." "the cult of eloquence is eugenic."

Hooray! This makes me want to jump around laughing! It's great.

Editor for Circumference. Stefania and Jennifer. People talk about the risk of printing the original poem - that then speakers of that language can critique your translation. Well, that's exactly the point. Translation is about dialogue and we want to be part of a conversation. So it's central to our mission. Now moving to Center for Literary Translation - Columbia school for the arts - Words without Borders. There are short homophonic translations as experiments in every issue, inviting our readers to translate by sound.

eXchanges - Becka Mara McKay spoke about the online journal from the University of Iowa. It began as a print magazine in 1989 & became defunct, because it was so expensive. in 2003 Chris Merrill decided that grad students could revive it online. Each issue has a theme. Our Flash entry page is important to the journal, its theme, and the interpretations. "Sweet and sour". It's nice to have something for grad students to put on their CVs. (!) The editors find someone who speaks the source language to help with editing.

Martha Collins talked about Field and their guidelines. 2-6 poems at a time, please don't send more. Send the originals. Give a sense, too, of who the poet is. Each fall there's a symposium of 6-7 poets writing about a poet or poem. In spring there are reviews.

Carolyne Wright spoke about her magazine, but I didn't catch the name of it. [Artful Dodger?] Carolyne asks for stuff to be submitted by email to her personal address, as a word document.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

conference reception

Never blog while slightly tipsy. (Do as I say, not as I do.)

Rainer Schulte presented a service award to Elizabeth Gamble Miller for her work for ALTA and translation, and for her excellent work on the ALTA newsletter. *standing ovation for Elizabeth*

Elizabeth gave a very moving speech about how her life has been given meaning and been enriched by the contact she has had with authors and translators.

Elizabeth Gamble Miller

We heard a little bit about the 2008 FIT conference in Shanghai, represented tonight at ALTA by Jiang Yonggang from the Translators Association of China.

Willis Barnstone and Jiang Yonggang

Jim Kates is announcing the National Translation Awards... More than 20 ALTA members participate before the final level. Anyone in ALTA who is interested in participating, please let Jim know: his email is here on the ALTA web site. Over 80 books were submitted for the award this year, and there were 4 finalists:

Landscape of Castile - Antonio Machado - Mary G. Berg and Dennis Maloney
Canterbury Tales - trans. Joseph Glaser
The mysterious flame of Queen Loana -- Umberto Eco - trans. Geoff Brock
And thewinner: Ellen Elias-Bursac - for her translation of Gotz and Meyer by David Albahari.


Jim says something about consistency of dogged understatement.
Ellen talks about Albahari's descriptions of obsession. The protagonist trying to find out the story of his parents in WWII in Belgrade. A carbon monoxide truck... He begins to talk about his obsession to his students, who have no idea what he's talking about.

"They made poetry out of bodies..."
"In rhymed verse?"
"In free verse. With a good deal of repetition."
(The students naively talk about romanticism. Whlle the teacher is talking about the Holocaust and real life evil.)

It's amazing - very compelling - it gives me shivers.

ALTA conference keynote speech - rough notes

The keynote speaker this evening is Göran Malmqvuist, professor emeritus of Sinology at Stockholm University. He's speaking on Pound and Chinese translation, on ideographs and pictographs.

I missed a bit of the talk, and came in again to find Malmqvist trashing the "happy ending" version of Rickshaw Boy. I've read both versions and completely agree - what a travesty of what translation should be - to completely change the ending of a novel!

Malmqvist is mentioning the names of many writers... the author of "The Red Fields" "To Live" and one by a "woman writer", "Starving Daughter".

His own poetry goes back to ancient poetry - two of the traditional Chinese novels, one paraphrased into English, "All Men are Brothers" - and the 16th century, The Journey to the West. (Into Swedish.) Modern Writers - Shen Congwen - greatest novelist of his time - his autobiography, and short stories. And two great modern poets... An anthology of 42 poets... and now, contemporary writers, and the Nobel Laureate ... and by Li Rui... "When night falls I can't help longing for you" a gruesome tale of poor mountain villagers leading up to revolution. The novel by a policeman...

Prof. Malmqvist continues listing the many works he has translated...Then describes his process. First he reads & re-reads many times, without taking notes, to get the flow and the feel, articulating the text silently. He acquaints himself thoroughly with the milieu of the writer... loving and hating them. He also mentions that he refuses to see movies based on anything he's translated - or maybe anything he's read - to avoid the collision between his imagined work and the movie's vision.

Problems he has encountered as a translator:
in translating a plain colloquial language of Northern China, 16th century - In a review, a critic posed the question of style - should the novel sound like it was written in Swedish in the mid-1970s? Or should it attempt to be closer to popular language of the time - in Sweden?

A poem by a T'ang dynasty writer, Liu Zongyuan - 4 verses. Here is the asyntactic translation into English. "Alone fish cold river snow" Translating classical Chinese into a Western language like Swedish or English, forces the translator to decide on definite or indefinite, plural or singular, tenses, etc.

Then, some questions from the audience, some about translation and Chinese, but more questions about the Swedish Academy and its protests or non-protests of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and I think another scandal, the details of which I didn't quite grasp.

I talked to a new member who is a translator of Korean to English, who was very excited to meet Prof. Malmqvist and was here hoping to meet someone from the Swedish Academy. ALTA can be great for networking that way!

(thanks to Geoff Waters, and, for corrections on names.)

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Books bought at the translation conference

2 copies of the new edition of W.S. Merwin's translations of the aphorisms of Antonio Porcia, from Copper Canyon Press. I was so excited by seeing this! I love these so much, but the older editions of course only had the English and the selection was much narrower. This book makes me very happy! (The second copy is for a present. Happy Birthday, Dad!)

Joseph Bednarik gave me a copy of So What: New and Selected Poems 1971-2005 by Taha Muhammad Ali, translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin, and I promised to review it here on this blog in future.

I bought a copy of Violet Twilights by Edith Södergran - translated by Daisy Aldan and Leif Sjöberg. I love her poetry and am a huge fan of the Cross-Cultural Communications Chapbook series.

For my father-in-law I got Because of the Rain: Korean Zen Poems, translated by Won-Chunk Kim & Christopher Merrill; also My Innocent Uncle by Ch'ae Man-shik, Translated by Bruch and Ju-Chan Fulton, Kim Chong-un, and Robert Armstrong -- part of a really nice looking series called "The Portable Library of Korean Literature".

Of course the nicest thing about buying books as presents is that you get to read them first - quickly and carefully, and most definitely not in the bathtub or while eating soup.

"You'll be back," the bookstore clerk from U. of Washington bookstore predicted. "We'll sell everything out by the last day." I'm afraid she's right.

ALTA conference - ALTA Fellows reading

First - Dafna Zur, reading her translations of a Korean short story writer whose name I missed (Kim Yong-ha?). Wild stuff, vampires, all characters struck by lightning, story written in all 2nd person; in a very accessible style, great to work with.

Estonian poetry translated by Brandon Lussier - "Definitely the largest I've ever had for a reading of Estonian poetry." Dialect of southern Estonia, barely intelligible to other Estonians. This poem is of candalous and of dubious literary merit as it is twice removed from its original language. "What strangers know about the Ceto people." (the ones in southern Estonia.) The border was undedr negotiation ... the graveyards fell on the Russian side of the border. In their culture they spend a lot fo time with the dead...

He reads the poem in Estonian. "Do they understand? ... Do you really need to visit them? Well, we certainly don't. They don't remember when we lived in teepees... buried right under the threshold... out to the graveyard to dine with the dead..."

"Teepees" - a rather bold choice! Interesting.

There has never been an Estonian poet published in the U.S. except one out of Copper Canyon of the poet co-translating with Sam Hamil.

Another poet [Hazo Kruo] - "I went down to the seashore...."
another of his poems - "Winter".

Then, four very short poems in a traditional form. Andres [Aiken?] 60s and 70s French surrealist tradition. "Vision". 200 watt chickens. [Hando Runnel.] in collaboration with an artist. "The landscape of the underworld/The leaf".

Ruihua Liu - a translator of Chinese to English - from U. of North Dakota - short story. A tailor and a fancy dress. [ji pao?] I enjoyed the oddness of this story, especially the part vividly imagining the guy growing long, long antlers out of his forehead and how the skin would crack and peel.

4th reader - Jason Grunebaum - (I wish the readers would introduce themselves, or be introduced!) reading his translation from Hindi - "The girl with the golden parasol", by Uday Prakash. "A stinging and humanistic satire about power, corruption, and globalization." The hero is asking himself th burning question, "Do I really want to be an organic chemist?" Extremely funny - as the young guy imagines the repugnant person he will become if he chooses that career - and the person he'd be serving. Greedy, consumeristic, lustful, ridiculous, horrible. Science constructing lab after lab to serve the desires and senses of this glutton... "And this is that man for whom all the women all over the city are ripping their clothes off! all the beauty parlors..." "These girls are the ones called on TV, the bold and beautiful... created to serve 'the rich and famous'." "Freedom! he cries, 'let all your senses be awakened! Nothing is moral! Eat drink have fun! " Then the guy getting massaged by Miss Universes while on his cell phone yelling at the Prime Minister.

Holy sh1t! This story is awesome beyond belief! It's the best thing ever. I can't wait to read it. It made me feel like cheering, lighting things on fire, becoming a sort of monk, and definitely NOT becoming an organic chemist, all at once.

ALTA conference - Translating the Southern Cone

I came in a bit late, just in time for the end of Cindy Schuster's paper. Stephen Kessler talked about how geography is not destiny, and how he grew to respect the New Criticism technique of close reading; a lot of the context can be deduced or learned from the text itself. Kessler mentioned Julio Cortazar's stories in which he speaks very satirically of the provincialness of life in Buenos Aires.

Suzanne Jill Levine answers some of the things Stephen said about Cortazar: actually he left because of Perón and not because of feelings about Buenos Aires being provincial. Levine went on to talk about Borges, the Boom, the Cuban revolution; mentioning the 40s and Victoria Ocampo - then spinning off to talk about publishers and Latin American lit - Klaf, Patterson, EP Dutton, Grove, New Directions - Then back to Borges and the ways his English- and French-inflected Spanish influenced other writers in Latin America. A digression into Uruguay; the journal Marcha; Benedetti, Onetti, and other amazing writers. Tomas Eloy Martinez. ( "Argentine necrophilia at its most sublime").

Questions and ideas from the audience: Carolyn Tipton brought up alberti and exile. Andrea Labinger also spoke about exile, and Carlos Cerda's time spent in East Germany, which influenced his style to where you go 5 pages until you get a verb. Marian Schwartz commented on the way that Spanish speakers can be in exile in completely different countries and yet still speak their own language. Levine added some thoughts on Puig's feeling of alienation as an Argentine in Mexico. Joan Lindgren: more on exile and nationality. Levine: Hugo Mujica, who spent 7 years in silence like Thomas Merton.

ALTA conference report: Collaborative Translation

This was a very well-attended panel moderated by poet & translator from Slovenian, Kelly Lenox Allan. Jean Anderson, Anne Magnan-Park, Mary G. Berg, Martha Collins, Thuy Dinh, and Dennis Maloney were on the panel.

Martha talked about her translation process with Thuy Dinh and her poetry and folk songs. Jean Anderson told us about translating from Maori, and, with Anne Magnan-Park, cotranslating Electric City by Patricia Grace. How the works are "very New Zealand" with Maorisims. Non-standard English. What to do with it in translating it into French. Not standard French. Not Berber or Arab-influence French. So, it's difficult!

Anne adds that Jean is being way too humble: she has been knighted by the French government! Anne emphasizes the importance of working very closely with a publisher - that it's important for the publisher to understand the collaborative nature of the work, especially because of the hybridity of the work! Very good point. Details like *not italicizing* the Maori-isms. Also, Patricia Grace did not want to have a glossary. The reader feels unsettled and uneducated. It reverses the position of power. But, next time there might have to be more compromises. Jean then added that Maori doesn't have a plural and they really didn't want a French person come in and add "s"s on the ends of the words. If it had been published in France we don't know what would have happened; publishing in Tahiti was a good choice. How is it in the French dictionary? "Maori" is in the dictionary. "Pakeha" is not, so it got to stay the same. Anne: growing up with French, it was very satisfying and liberating to get to debunk the French language.

Patricia Grace's first collection reads like a manifesto... the characters chant, and speak very strongly. Electric City's setup is very different. The characters are trying to build a connection. The reader has to establish that connection. Maori structure and syntax in French will not necessarily connect well with the French reader.

Jean: We asked Patricia (for feedback) The accusation of "bad translation" or error (with work that's ungrammatical on purpose) is obviously much more of a danger with translations, and reviewers. So I try not to put too much of it in the first 20 pages... *everyone laughs*

Question: how do we find people to translate/work with?

- at ALTA!
- on the ALTA web site, look up your language and find the other people working in it.
- we should have a database on the web, sponsored by ALTA
- go to other conferences

Daniela Hurezanu - had same problem with French and non-standard English translated into non-standard French and "corrected"... non-consensually. WS Merwin. *everyone sighs and groans in sympathy* *and everyone wants to know the name of the magazine.* Like, "shot" meaning a photo in English, "corrected" to be the french for "gunshot" - with clumsy dictionary use. And this, from another poet.

Dorothy Gilbert continues the thread of exposing French editors who mess things up in the name of "correctness". Something about head lice. British, too, were just unable to deal with the rudeness of head lice... and in a playground scene, with particular inappropriateness, changed eraser to "rubber"...

We all send out waves of comfort and sympathy to the mangled texts and maligned translators.

ALTA conference report: Spanish Workshop

As always, ALTA had a very welcoming, friendly spirit. Around 200-300 translators are converging on the Hilton in Bellevue. Right away I ran into Adriana Tatum and Karen Philips, and many more friends from past conferences.

From 8:30-9:30 I was at the welcome to newcomers. The ALTA board members introduced themselves, and then everyone with a green dot on their badge (indicating it was their first time at ALTA) stood up to describe their work. Everyone was fascinating... Afterwards I traded emails with John Balcom and Andrea Bell, who translate science fiction.

From 9:30 to 10:45 I went to the Spanish translation workshop, which was going to be run by Marisa Estelrich, with a focus on bilingual/multilingual translation, using, I think, her work on Martín Espada who writes in Spanish, English, and Spanglish. Unfortunately, Marisa wasn't there - probably her flight was delayed. I asked that everyone come up to the front to a big conference table, so that we could have a roundtable discussion/workshop anyway.

We spent a lot of time going around the table introducing ourselves. Many of the new members from the "welcome" panel were there, so it was great to get to hear more about what languages they translate from and to. Here's who was there:
- Wendy Call, from Seattle, translating Spanish from Nihe, Zapotec, and (Waife) - from southern Mexico
- Jane Matt - French, Italian, Russian, poetry. From St. Petersburg/Los Angeles. Children's lit.
Lee Trousdale - a Spanish language teacher (?) used to translate for Boeing, interested in literature
Karen Philips - translating Victoria Ocampo. interested in mulitple language translation.
Liz Henry (me) - 19th/early 20th century Latin American women poets - recently translating Nestor Perlongher and Carmen Bereneguer, also reading a lot of Spanglish/bilingual poets from the US
Mark Fried - translator of Eduardo Galenano, works closely with him
Mark Gimsan - Non-fiction, mostly Portuguese. Book on Angola, another on a small tribe in the Amazon. Lots of indigenous words. Useful Brazilian govt. web site helped him. Most of the "untranslateable" words were spiritual or religious concepts or words for food.
Noga Emanuel - Israel - Ladino - interested in Fray Luis de Leon -
Gerry Whelan - from Boston - High school Spanish teacher - involved with the journal "Salmagundi" and translating Mario Vargas Llosa. Translated "The Trojan Women" also.
- Rosanne Mendoza - in publishing/editing - Ph.D. in Latin American Lit - translating a poet from Colombia
Aaron Zaritzky - translated Felipe Benitz Reyes - a poet from Spain, in his 40s, well known in Spain and Italy.

After that, we workshopped a paragraph from a late 19th century science fiction novel that Andrea Bell is translating. I missed the name and the author, but it's a story about a time machine that predates H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine". It was a long complex sentence in a somewhat high-flown style that doesn't come through well if translated literally. In the process we had a lot of interesting conversation about our own translating processes. Most people make multiple passes through the text. Mark Fried does not: he reads the source many times till he can hear it in his head, and then he translates it right off. We all went "ooooOOOOoo" in response to this.

I put up a short verse in Quechua and Spanish, written by Adela Zamudio (1854-1928), a Bolivian poet.

Ripuy, ripuy waj llajtaman / Véte a ciudades lejanas,
Waj kausayta kausarqamuy / anda a vivir otra vida,
Kaypi ñak'arisqaykita, / y lo que yo haya sufrido
Chay kausaypi qonqarqamuy. / olvídalo en tu existencia.

You can see the repetition in the first line in Quechua, not replicated in the Spanish version (self-translation by Zamudio.) The repetition of "ripuy, ripuy" was interestingly not visible in the Spanish version but I'd like to put it into the English translation. Is it mere repetition? Or is it a special intensifier, like saying "wikiwiki" in Hawaiian? I can also see the root of the same word in "Ripunaykita yachaspa", the first line of the poem, which Zamudio gives as "Al saber que ya te irías". We ended the workshop there !

Monday, October 16, 2006

Composite #3: Forough Farrokhzad issue

composite #3 under construction
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.
I'll be bringing lots of copies of Composite #3 to the ALTA conference! It's smaller than past issues, but there are 6 different fantastic translations of "Ghoneh", or "Sin", by Forough Farrokhzhad, with a brief introduction by Sholeh Wolpé, who was kind enough to guest edit.

I get very excited every time I make a new little magazine. It's been way too long! There's something about doing it the "old-fashioned" punk rock way with scissors, tape, transparencies, xeroxing, light boxes, scribbling in pen, that I just don't get from Pagemaker or Quark Express. So, keep that in mind -- the slapdash crookedness is part of the aesthetic. Also, it makes it possible for me to layout, pasteup, and print an entire zine in about 6 hours. (Folding and stapling will be a much longer process, though.)

The past issues of Composite are almost sold out. I printed 400 copies of #1, then another 500 copies, and they're all gone. With #2, I started at 400 copies and then made 200 more. I think I should just print 800 or 1000. They cost me, well, I'm not sure how much, but probably around 25-50 cents per copy. I give most of them away, and charge 1 to 2 dollars for the rest, just to cover the cost of xeroxing and printout.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Latin Labyrinths: Words Without Borders

Katherine Silver sends word that she has a translation of an excerpt of Horacio Castellanos Moya's novel Senselessness in the new issue of Words Without Borders: Latin Labyriths. The novel will be published next year by New Directions. I'm just now going over to read the rest of the issue... it's got Juan Villoro, Alberto Ruy Sanchez, and more...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Carnival of Blog Translation: October

The Carnival of Blog Translation lapsed over the summer, so I'd like to start it up again here.

Please send your translations of any blog entry from September or October, from any language into any other language. Here's an explanation of the concept, and a link to the first Carnival back in February. And here's more: March 2006 on Em Duas Linguas, April on The Bitter Scroll, May 2006 on Sauvage Noble, and the (alas!) fizzling end in June is on Diacritiques.

At the end of October, I'll sum up all the entries and link to your blog and to the original blog. The idea is so nice - I think with more care and feeding, it can continue. I'll keep hosting it here on the ALTA site, by default, until someone comes forward and asks to host the next one.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Funny Thing happened on the way from the Book Fair

I have just returned from the Gothenburg Book Fair, which is held once a year in Gothenburg, Sweden, and where Scandinavian authors meet and greet their agents, publishers, readers and other authors. The theme for this year's book extravaganza was "Freedom of Expression" and included Nobel Peace Prize winning author Shirin Ebadi as well as many other authors who have been persecuted due to their writing.
The Gothenburg Book Fair, for someone who has not been there, is a mass of impressions, people, sounds, poetry, art, and above all, the business side of writing and publishing. I was there meeting with Camilla Läckberg, a mystery author, and her agents, discussing my translation of one of her mystery novels.

But a funny thing happened on the way from the book fair....

I'm in the Amsterdam airport, waiting for my connecting flight home to Seattle. While in the airport, I picked up Shirin Ebadi's autobiography, and was reading it to pass the hours between flights. When I was in the second security line to get on the plane, I expected the same-old tired "did you pack your own bags" questions, and was not surprised as they came, but then, the line of questioning took an interesting turn:

Q: Why were you in Sweden?

ME: To go to the Gothenburg Book Fair.

Q: Did you buy this book there?

ME (thinking hunh?): No.

Q: Where did you buy this book?

ME: Here at the airport.

Q: Why are you reading this book?

ME: For fun. She won the Nobel Peace Prize. (I point to the Nobel Peace Prize winning author blurb).

Q: (Looks sceptical.)

ME: And to educate myself a bit.

ME (thinking): How ironic coming from the Freedom of Expression theme to be interrogated about my reading habits! And I'm dark, too (from a European perspective)! Coincidence? I think not!

The Questioner takes my passport and tickets and disappears and I am left to wonder if I will be allowed to fly home or whether I will be strip-searched or what. Eventually, I am reunited with my passport and ticket and allowed to board, but not without wondering about when reading a Nobel Peace Prize winning author made a person into a suspect. And whether I am now on some kind of secret list of Peace Prize -winning author- book- reading dangerous fliers. It does make a person think. And I thought last month's bug spray situation was troublesome! I find this kind of questioning much more dangerous somehow, and definitely intimidating.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Spanish dictionaries in Firefox toolbar

If you translate from Spanish and use the online DRAE this will make you scream with joy. From Jorge Letralia, a sweet little tool that adds two authoritative and useful dictionaries to your Google Toolbar in Firefox.

I use the DRAE and Diccionario panhispanica de dudas all the time, and now here is a handy tool that lets me avoid the very slow page load and clunky interface of their online search pages. No dictionary could contain the cuss words that I have uttered as I click around laboriously on that web site, which of course I appreciate very much for its being free and useful, and yet... it has also been a source of daily frustration for me for the last few years.

Thanks a million, Jorge!

Now if we wanted to get really slick, one search would return results from both dictionaries, and just label their sources.

Elif Shafak acquitted of 'Insulting Turkishness'

my favourite author~Elif Şafak
Originally uploaded by quasileo.
Recently Elif Shafak was brought to trial for "Insulting Turkishness" in her book The Bastard of Istanbul (Bapa ve pik), under Turkey's Article 301. Like Orhan Pamuk, she has now been acquitted. Asli Bican, translator of the work to English, was also accused, but those charges were dropped.

More details here on the case here, with an interview with Shafak in the Guardian; the trial and almost immediate acquittal (Subscription only, in The Chronicle of Higher Education); here in Spanish from; and here in what looks like mostly French and Turkish you can follow the latest from various blogs.

Siné, a young woman living in Istanbul, says on her Myspace blog:
The foxy leaders who have realised for some time now that the most powerful and maybe the only useful tool to shake the dominant AKP rule is through using the nationalist card, are now in a constant battle to monopolise this dangerous ideology. Now that CHP and MHP are openly collaborating against AKP, it seems that we won't be seeing the light of day for a much longer time. Enjoy the darkness...

You see why I love blogs - you would not get this detailed analysis from most English language newspaper articles nor would you get the interesting personal perspective.

A tip for aspiring international news and blog-searchers: notice I got very different results on this breaking story by searching on "Shafak" vs. "Safak".

Thanks to Marilyn Hacker for the original link.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

BigHal chat translator

This looks like a nifty product: BigHal, an automatic translator that plugs into your IM chat application, like AIM, Yahoo Messenger, GoogleTalk, or ICQ.

It has a pack of different languages installed. The person on the other end of the chat doesn't have to have the software for it to work.

I can picture some very interesting international group chats happening with the help of this tool!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fun with Swedish -- a funny post

C.M. Mayo forwarded me this blog link:

The blogger, an American living in Stockholm, gives a Swedish word for the day, and there are links to a Swedish pronunciation key as well. The blog is called How to learn Swedish in 1000 difficult lessons. The author, Francis Strand, writes on Swedish culture, esp the performing arts, and the issues of the day in both Sweden and the USA, especially gay politics. (Note: the Swedish election is coming up next week and it is a tight race between the Social Democrats and the Moderates!) The author has a wry sense of humor.

Pick up your Swedish word for the day by checking out this blog!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

ALTA's 29th Conference in Bellevue One Month Away!

The program for the 2006 ALTA conference in Bellevue Washington has been completed, thanks to very hard work by members of the host committee, and has been sent off for layout and printing. A number of changes have occured to the program since the preliminary program was posted, and we also have the mainland Chinese FITS General Secretary coming to speak about the FITS translator conference in Shanghai in 2008! The bilingual readings have been set up, thanks to the hard work of Alexis Levitin, and integrated into the program. It wouldn't surprise me if this conference had the widest variety of world languages represented! Deadlines for discounted hotel reservations are coming up soon, as well as the deadline for early-bird registration, so look at today.

I will be host committee chair for one more month, and then the baton will be passed to the Dallas ALTA office, which will host the 30th annual conference near their headquarters in Dallas. Information on that conference should be available by the time the 29th conference convenes. Contact the Dallas office via the website if you are willing to host literary translators in your area in the upcoming years.

ALTA and the ALTA 2006 Host Committee would like to welcome you to Bellevue, Washington next month.