Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ilan Stavans' Review in Today's Washington Post

In today's Washington Post Ilan Stavans reviews Gioconda Belli's The Scroll of Seduction. He writes:
The book's best feature is the lucid English translation by Lisa Dillman. Yet the publisher doesn't highlight the translator's name on the cover, as if embarrassed to recognize that this is a foreign artifact, not coming to us in the original. This is too bad because, as it happens, translation is an inherent component of Belli's novel.
Read the rest of the review here.

Dillman, by the way, co-edited (with Peter Bush), the superb collection of Spanish literature in translation, Spain: A Traveler's Literary Companion.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Only in the Meantime & Office Poems

A major new book of literary translation has just been published by HOST Publications: Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti's Only in the Meantime & Office Poems, translated by Harry Morales. Dedicated, industrious, exacting, and ever-deft, Harry Morales is one of my favorite translators-- I admire his work so much. (I am proud to say he translated Ilan Stavans' short story, "Twins" for Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion.) From the back cover:
Uruguay's Mario Benedetti has dazzled the literary world as a poet, novelist, essayist, critic, journalist, playwright, songwriter, and screenwriter. This first ever bilingual edition of Only in the Meantime & Office Poems introduces Benedetti's poetry to the English-speaking audience. Opening as reflections of everyday life in Montevideo, the poetry blossoms into an art which speaks to all people from all walks of life. Benedetti's extraordinary handling of irony and simplicity alongside his poetry's unmistakable rhythm make him one of the most brilliant observers of 20th century life.
Kudos, Harry!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Must we deal with hysteria? And don't forget the conference!

I read the posting on the Arabic T-shirt with some interest, as I have just been in the skies myself.

I have just returned from Germany, post the London flight scare, not being able to take water bottles on the plane for thirsty kids. I had to listen to "MOM! I'm THIRSY!" for a good hour until drinks were served. (Due to the lengthy security process, there was no time to buy a drink to finish before boarding either). Not to mention I forgot my son's luggage had a bug spray in it, which was confiscated. I felt like a criminal, and then I thought, why should I, an honest American with no intention of ever blowing up a plane, feel like a criminal because my son had a small thing of bug spray in his carryon?
My chances of being blown up in a plane are much lower than being hit by lightening, and certainly much much lower than driving I-5 from the airport. This hysteria must be reined in somehow. Normal people should not have to feel like criminals because they are flying transcontinental flights with small kids. What is the next step, flying in the nude? Obviously, not being able to wear a T-shirt is a step in that direction. And even if we were all in the buff, getting to know our fellow passangers much too well for my taste, I am sure there would be a way someone would figure out something with a nude body, so even that would not be the answer to the terrorist threat.

Within Germany there was a great deal of nervousness due to the failed attempt of the suitcase bombers on the train. For the first time ever, I saw policemen with weapons patrolling the train as we rode through Germany. For some reason, this did not help us feel safer, on the contrary. However, we could bring water bottles on the train.

Meanwhile, the German literary scene was filled with rants against Gunther Grass and his failure to disclose his Waffen SS background. It was the front page news for days.

But the ALTA conference is coming up in only two months, so my attention is turning away from Germany and back to our upcoming conference. You should be able to see the preliminary schedule on the website: and we are looking forward to seeing many ALTA members and visitors there. Please register today!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Vittoria Colonna translations on the web

Ellen Moody has a beautiful translation project up on the web: Amaro Lagrimar: The Poems of Vittoria Colonna. I haven't read it yet but on first glance it looks very interesting. Moody provided a nice bibliography with this project as well.

Wikipedia has a short biography of Vittoria Colonna with some historical context.

I find myself thinking I should do this with a bunch of the writers I've been translating (at least the public domain ones.) Also, for anyone I work on - living, dead, public-domain-dead, or alien visitor from the future - I should make a Wikipedia entry in English and one in Spanish. Editing the Wikipedia is not difficult. You can learn to do it in an hour or so.

Ideally, an online compilation like this would be part of a greater whole, structured for flexibility and feedback. My ideal social software application would allow for this but would be more structured than other collaborative textual collections like Wikipedia. For example, wouldn't it be nice to be able to comment on each poem, the way you can comment on a blog? And to tag the poems with notes, keywords, associations, the way you can tag photos on Flickr? And to generate a page or a file with all the poems by a certain author, or from a particular locality, or subject, to download in plain text to your own computer?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Arabic on a tshirt

Writer and activist Raed Jarrar was stopped and harrassed in New York's JFK airport for wearing a t-shirt that said "I will not be silent" in arabic script.
He said "people are feeling offended because of your t-shirt". I looked at my t-shirt: I was wearing my shirt which states in both Arabic and English "we will not be silent".

and then later in the questioning of Raed in the airport by this Inspector, other officials, and employees of Jet Blue airlines:
. . . so inspector Harris answered "you can't wear a t-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a t-shirt that reads "I am a robber" and going to a bank". I said "but the message on my t-shirt is not offensive, it just says "we will not be silent". I got this t-shirt from Washington DC. There are more than 1000 t-shirts printed with the same slogan, you can google them or email them at It is printed in many other languages: Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, English, etc." Inspector Harris said: "We cant make sure that your t-shirt means we will not be silent, we don't have a translator. Maybe it means something else". I said: "But as you can see, the statement is in both Arabic and English". He said "maybe it is not the same message".

Wow... just displaying something in a non-English language makes one a terrorist. Good to know! Ignorance reaching new heights. Apparently many people called airport security to report being disturbed or scared by Raed's tshirt. What if *gasp* he had been reading a book ... in Arabic?

Tameme Call for Submissions Deadline August 30th

Tameme has call for submissions out for translations of Mexican poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. Deadline is August 30th. For details, click here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Venuti article on the cultural trade deficit

Larry Venuti writes on translation from English to other languages and cultural imperialism in "The Cracked Glass" in the Times Online.
American publishers reap huge profits from the sale of their books overseas, but they invest appallingly little in the translation of foreign books. The charge of cultural imperialism does not seem all that exaggerated. Some observers might go further: the patterns established over the past fifty years have apparently created American readers with provincial tastes, unable to appreciate work from foreign cultures and beset by feelings of inadequacy when confronted with it.

Good food for thought there, and it can be pushed even further. Venuti stops at a point of pondering over Joyce's cracked looking glass of the servant:

I take Joyce’s resonant words as a metaphor for translation at the present moment, when English is the most translated language worldwide, but not much translated into, when American culture dominates the international marketplace, but is so inhospitable to foreign films and books.

More on this later. Discuss...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Translation conference in Beirut, Lebanon, is postponed

International Federation of Translators (IFT/FIT) headquarters in Canada has notified ALTA, an affiliate member of FIT, that the Second International Translation Conference, "Translation, Transnation," which was scheduled to take place in Beirut, Lebanon, from September 18 to 20, 2006, with the cooperation and assistance of FIT, has been postponed. Information concerning a rescheduled conference date will be sent to ALTA and other affiliates as soon as that information is known.