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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