Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and the publisher of Restless Books. His most recent translations are Mariano Azuela’s The Underdogs (Norton, 2015, with Anna More), and Lazarillo of Tormes (Norton, 2016). A recent conversation with him on translation, with Charles Hatfield, is “Silence Is Meaningful,” Buenos Aires Review, July 15, 2015.
What is the best translated book you’ve read recently?
I am in the middle of a strange yet fulfilling experiment: I am rereading Madame Bovary in various translations at once (Eleanor Marx-Aveling, Geoffrey Wall, Lydia Davis, Adam Thorpe), along with the French original and a Spanish translation. I first read Flaubert’s novel in my teens, while still in Mexico. Coming back to it in all these dress-ups is, at times, an embarrassment of riches. Marx-Aveling was the daughter of Karl Marx. Wall wrote a biography of Flaubert. Davis is Davis. And Thorpe talks about the task as “the Everest of translation.” Unfortunately, the Spanish version (not the same one I encountered when young), in its title page, refers to the author as Gustavo Flaubert and to the novel as Madame Bovery. The rest, one might say, is indeed like climbing the Everest. READ MORE…
...a "Lydia Davis" questionnaire for Hungarian-language translator Tim Wilkinson
Tim Wilkinson (b. 1947) grew up in Sheffield, S. Yorks., but has lived most his adult life in London. He is the primary English translator of Hungarian writer Imre Kertész (titles including Fatelessness, Fiasco, Kaddish for an Unborn Child, Liquidation, Detective Story, The Pathseeker and Dossier K) and, more recently, Miklós Szentkuthy (Marginalia on Casanova, Towards the One and Only Metaphor), among others, as well as shorter works by a wide range of other contemporary Hungarian-language authors. Fatelessness was awarded the PEN Club/Book of the Month Translation Prize for 2005.
Q: How did you learn your foreign language, and how did you begin working as a literary translator?
A: I learned Hungarian “on the hoof,” mainly by moving to Budapest around Easter 1970 and marrying the girl with whom I had by then fallen in love, having made several trips there since 1964. I might add that I sort of picked up German in much the same way (minus the love complications), by taking up a job in Switzerland, 20 years later. Contact with speakers of a language is, for me, the important feature, just as it is with small children… The strictly “literary” translation work only really came about ten years ago, after I had been translating a fairly wide range of non-fiction (mostly with a pronounced historical flavor) as an add-on to my main job (which was in an altogether different field and had little or nothing to do with translation). READ MORE…
Your $25,276 will help us fight for world literature another day
We are bowled over! Our crowdfunding campaign just closed on the gorgeous number of$25,276 and we made our target (just in time!). Thanks to 287 AMAZING donors, we will be able to continue our passionate work in world literature. Thank you, 谢谢, dankjewel!!
With 6 hours remaining, we're closing in on the gap with less than $1,000 to go!
In true Asymptote fashion, the script for the following video was written in Berlin and edited and polished in Taipei, Singapore, New York, London, and many other cities. The talking heads were recorded in Ithaca and then edited together in Virginia, all the while being sent all over the globe in various stages of completion so other team members could chime in with their two cents—we could think of no better way to not only explain why we we do what we do, but also to showcase how.
Presenting world literature to a wide audience all over the world is our main goal, but our main strength is our team, which works tirelessly behind the scenes all over the world to showcase that otherwise obscured poet or this overlooked writer in the best possible light and style. Please help us — all 70 of us — keep Asymptote alive beyond January 2015 and for many more years to come by donating to our Indiegogo campaign here.
—Lee Yew Leong, on behalf of the entire Asymptote team
Get excited for Friday with this high-octane sneak peek at our 4th Anniversary issue, out January 30!
From the sparkly trailers for previous issues that you’ll find below to our beautifully designed website, with its gorgeous illustrations and immersive slideshows of visual art, Asymptote is committed to presenting and promoting its writers and artists in great style. If you like what we do, please consider donating to our campaign—only 30 more hours to go!
Start your weekend right by grabbing these new perks! Hurry, as there are very limited copies available!
Reif Larsen, author of the New York Times best-selling The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet and frequent contributor, made us the following brilliant lighthouse-themed video in support of our fundraiser. It’s a scream, really. After getting your fill of laughs, head over to our Indiegogo campaign to check out the newest perks that have been created just in time for the weekend! Yes, it’s true! We’re giving away the very latest titles by our illustrious supporters—other than Reif Larsen, Adam Thirlwell and Deborah Smith, who recently joined us in London for our anniversary event (photos already up here), are also lending a hand. Our Singaporean editor-in-chief couldn’t resist creating the perk “Gateway to Singapore Lit!” comprising a pair of the latest titles by two of the best Singaporean writers today: Desmond Kon and Christine Chia. These books are specially autographed for the campaign; in fact, some are personalized even further—e.g., Reif has said he will even create diagrams for 10 lucky donors! Hurry, as there are limited copies!
Testimonials from Asymptote's global literary partnership in Hong Kong, with journal "Fleurs des Lettres"
One thing that Asymptote certainly delivers is fresh literature. That is, we don’t just sit back and wait for submissions to ping! in our inbox, and make do with whatever we get. In fact, submissions—which we do take seriously, with five dedicated slushpile readers sifting through works that come in over the transom throughout the year—probably make up less than 20% of our published content, if we go by wordcount. Some sections, such as Drama, Interviews, Visual, Criticism, Writers on Writers are heavily commissioned/solicited sections. These need very resourceful/persistent section editors, who can convert the most tenuous of leads into actual contributions. An entire blog post or probably even a book could be written about how we wooed author X or publisher Y or translator Z or guest artist A to come on board.
Even with very resourceful section editors, however, given our mission of diversity, no one editor can cover his or her section for too long and still do his or her job well. That’s where our supporting cast comes in: we have a jet-setting commissioning editor who is able to network on our behalf at writers’ festivals, we have contributing editors to pitch and contribute content, and as mentioned previously, we have an assistant editor researching hitherto unpublished languages, as well as editors-at-large with their fingers on the pulse of their regions’ literary scenes. Today we’ll talk about one facet of editorial work undertaken by editors-at-large that few of our readers may be privy to: journal partnerships.
It makes sense to partner with journals because as the first gatekeepers of literature everywhere, journals publish the freshest and most cutting-edge literature being produced in its region. As for how the partnership works: we take an article or a set of articles from a foreign language (i.e. non English-language) print journal and translate it into English to present in our quarterly issues. In return, the foreign language print journal then takes an article that we have published and commissions a translation of that article to be presented in its pages. All rights are cleared with the author of the article before proceeding. This is a model that stimulates the transmission of literature (in both languages) and benefits magazines, readers, authors, and translators alike.
A list of our journal partners to date can be found on our map here—two more slated for 2015 are Steaua in Romania and Writer in Thailand—but today we’ll only feature testimonials that shed light on one journal partner, the very stylish 《字花》from Hong Kong (also Fleurs des Lettres).
Our very first contest honored emerging translators. Now, a year later, our winners reflect on just what this contest means today
To witness the broad reach of Asymptote, one need look no further than Close Approximations, Asymptote’s first-ever international translation contest targeting fledgling translators and awarding $3,000 in prize money for two categories: poetry and fiction. (That’s $3,000 from your generous donations going directly into the pockets of these literary practitioners, but don’t forget that running a contest also requires heavy promotion—both paid and unpaid—, Asymptote‘s own editorial brainpower—in this case, to screen for the 20 best prose entries—, unseen but substantial administrative work—organizing contest entries and fielding queries from prospective contestants.)
Judged by no less than acclaimed translators Eliot Weinberger (in the poetry category) and Howard Goldblatt (in fiction), this contest received close to 200 submissions. Those who emerged victorious were lauded for their ability to “successfully cross the linguistic boundary,” and render translations that “zip along.” (Here are the complete judges’ citations.) Read on to see where these gifted newcomers find themselves now, a year after winning. If you would like to help us run a second contest (that will include a new nonfiction category!), give us some love—especially now that we’re entering the final stretch of our fundraising campaign, with TEN NERVE-WRACKING DAYS left!
Do you like Asymptote? (Yes). Do you like free prizes? (Obviously). Participate in our reader survey!
A quick PSA for our dear blog readers: if you read the journal (check!), love world literature (check!), would like to snag some Asymptote-swag (check!), and would like to help us cater to you (check—we hope!), please consider filling out our reader survey, which you can find here.
It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes or so, and we’d certainly appreciate the feedback! Be sure to finish it by tomorrow—Monday, September 8th—to be eligible for Asymptote-related swag!
Check out highlights from our past celebrations in London and New York, and don't miss our upcoming events!
We’re thrilled to announce that Asymptote’s globetrotting third anniversary party, which kicked off in London and New York in January, will continue across fivecontinents over the next month—watch our brand-new video trailer below for a taste, and don’t forget to RSVP at our Shanghai (March 29), Philadelphia (March 29), Berlin (April 3), and Sydney (April 11) Facebook Event pages, already live.
In case you can’t make it, don’t fret: we’ve launched a new Events page, where you can find photos, podcasts, videos, and dispatches of all the events we’ve ever organized, as well as an up-to-date pulse for all upcoming events!
If you're going to AWP, drop by and say hi. Pssst...if you are a past contributor, we've got a surprise for you!
Attention literature lovers: the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) is holding its Annual Conference and Bookfair this year in Seattle, Washington, and your favorite literature journal Asymptote will make its first AWP appearance!