Posts filed under 'close approximations'

Reading Resolutions from the Asymptote Team (Part II)

More reading resolutions for 2017


Hannah Vose, Social Media Manager

I confess: 2016 was not a great reading year for me. Settling into a new job, traveling frequently—not to mention living through the U.S. election season!—made me retreat into videogames and the comforts of the suffering, over-handled paperbacks on my bookshelf. So in order to kick myself back out into the world of literature, I have two Reading Resolutions for 2017.

The first is to buy and read at least one book by an author from every continent, although since Antarctica is not awash in literature, Central America will be stepping in to play the role of the seventh. At a time when nationalism and xenophobia are rearing their ugly heads across the U.S. at an alarming rate, it feels more important than ever to remind myself of the incredible breadth and depth of international literature and to support the missions of the presses who publish and promote it by being an active consumer.

The second resolution is much simpler: to read at least one book in Spanish, because “rusty” is starting to become a generous description of my skill level.

hannah

Luckily, I’ve got my Spanish-language, European title all lined up. In Asymptote’s April 2016 issue, we published Close Approximations 2016 runner-up Ona Bantjes-Ràfols’s sample translation of El Mundo Sobre Ruedas by Albert Casals. As a sucker for travel narratives—and funny ones, at that—I was hooked. And since there’s no full English translation available, this is the perfect opportunity to work on my Spanish.

Africa also already has a spot on the reading roster. When Rochester Knockings by Hubert Haddad (trans. Jennifer Grotz) came out in 2015, it jumped straight onto my ever-growing wishlist. Written originally in French by a Tunisian author, it concerns the Fox Sisters, fraudulent mediums and Rochester, New York residents. As a former student of the University of Rochester, where Open Letter Books is based, and a two-time former Open Letter intern, this one is right up my alley. Supporting a favorite indie press and getting to read about fake mystics? Win-win!

Thinking ahead, I’m anticipating difficulties choosing an Australian title. Ideally, I would like to read something in translation from a native Australian language, but I’m having trouble finding something. Failing in that mission, I do want to read something by a native Australian author. As of now, The Swan Book by Alexis Wright and Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch have both entered consideration.

2017 should be a good year for reading. Two books picked out, five to go, and—sorry in advance for the cringe you’ll get out of this—a whole world to explore.

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Read More Recommendations from Asymptote Staff:

Highlights of Our 2016 (Part I)

Thanks to an incredible team behind me, 2016 was a startlingly good year for Asymptote.

1. Amazing scoops 

Where to begin? Interviews with Junot Díaz, Ann Goldstein, Yann Martel, László Krasznahorkai, Pierre Joris, Sawako Nakayasu and Ha Jin. Anita Raja‘s essay on “Translation as the Practice of Acceptance.” Sibylle Lacan on her psychoanalyst father, Jacques Lacan. Vicente Huidobro, one of the very first Latin American avant-garde poets. Jan Dammu and Rasool Yoonan, from the current issue. Hsia Yü. The visual artist and poet Caroline Bergvall. Rising fiction stars Youssef Rakha, Olga Tokarczuk, and Marek VadasPatrick Chamoiseau on Martiniquais writers. Experimental poems translated by Martin Rock and Joe Pan from the Japanese of Nenten Tsubouchi. Karina Lickorish Quinn‘s Spanglish contribution to our Multilingual Writing Special Feature. Drama by György Spiró. These were some of our favorite things.

2. Our eight events in three continents

This year, Asymptote celebrated its fifth anniversary by meeting readers in the flesh in three continents and five cities (New York, London, Ottawa, Chicago, Belgrade, and Hong Kong; photo documentation and event summaries can be found here). Attracting the biggest turnout with 165 attendees was the New York event held at The New School, featuring Ann Goldstein and Natasha Wimmer in conversation with Frederic Tuten. On the other side of the Atlantic, 2016 saw three Asymptote events at Waterstones, Piccadilly, in March, July, and September. The last, organized in honor of International Translation Day, had Adam Freudenheim, Laura Barber, Deborah Smith, and Laura Barber speaking to a sold-out room of 70, with moderator Jonathan Ruppin saying afterwards that Asymptote had become “a real force in London.”

3. Our partnership with The Guardian turns one

Promoted to The Guardian’s international readership, beyond the small circle of world literature aficionados, Asymptote’s showcase at The Guardian represents, for translators, an unparalleled reach in the English-speaking world. As editor of Translation Tuesdays, I either commissioned new work or partnered with publishing houses to present fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from five continents and twenty-nine countries (including underrepresented ones like Andorra, Uzbekistan, Singapore, Iran, and Congo). In curating for diversity, I attempted to correct a Eurocentric bias that has hitherto characterized the canon (European work accounted for just 41% of this year’s lineup; find the full breakdown by continent and country here). Watch this space for our final Translation Tuesday showcase of 2016 next week, where we present an extract of “Mountain of Light” by Akutagawa Prize winner Gen’yū Sōkyū, translated especially for the occasion by contributing editor Sim Yee Chiang.

4. We gave away $4,500 to six emerging translators

This year, we upped the ante and added one more category to our translation contest: Nonfiction. Awarding $4,500 USD (up from $3,000 in 2014) in prizes to six best emerging translators working into English were esteemed judges Michael Hofmann, Ottilie Mulzet and Margaret Jull Costa; additionally, we arranged with The Guardian to present the top entries in each category over three consecutive Tuesdays (one of them, Sean Gasper Bye’s translation of Filip Springer’s extraordinary History of a Disappearancewas even shared 2,275 times, attesting to the newspaper’s incredible reach). Note: this is now an annual contest, with the deadline for the next edition coming up Feb 1, 2017! As with the 2016 edition, we will also be arranging for the winning entries to be showcased in The Guardian, allowing them to be noticed the world over, and possibly launching careers. Find the details here.

5. Daniel Hahn became our resident Agony Uncle for a year

Fielding questions from curious/mystified international readers, Daniel Hahn presided over a monthly column for one entire year. (His last contribution here contains hyperlinks to all previous columns.) Along the way, he ruffled feathers and sparked controversy by opining that translators’ names needn’t necessarily be featured on covers. But mostly, Daniel’s very popular ‘Ask a Translator’ edified and entertained. When I reached out personally to thank Lin Falk van Rooyen for signing up as a sustaining member recently, she even singled out Daniel’s feature for praise:

As a translator I have personally benefitted greatly from Asymptote’s in-depth, inspiring, informative (esp. ‘Ask a Translator’ by the ever sincere, ever astute Daniel Hahn), essential and yes—ambitious!—endeavour to promote and disseminate world literature. 

Part II of ‘Highlights’ continues tomorrow.

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Join Lin Falk van Rooyen in standing behind our mission: become a sustaining member today! Each additional membership takes us closer to being able to operate beyond April 2017. Or, if you are American, consider a one-time tax-deductible donation via our Fractured Atlas Page. 

 

Translation Tuesday: An excerpt of Marie Silkeberg’s The Cities

"a test of the heart. the membranes. could come in the morning. sleep. a measure of freedom."

For the last two weeks, we presented the nonfiction and fiction winners of our annual Close Approximations translation contest, picked by Margaret Jull Costa and Ottilie Mulzet respectively. This week, we present the poetry winners: Swedish poet Marie Silkeberg and her co-translator Kelsi Vanada for their rendition of Silkeberg’s rapid-fire prose poetry, presented in squares, after the black squares of Malevich. Judge Michael Hofmann, one of the six most esteemed literary translators working today according to The Wall Street Journal, whittled his selection down to five entries. “Thereafter, things might have gone differently, all my choices were so incomparably dissimilar. In the end, I asked myself what poems would I most like to see published, to read a book of, to live with and deepen my understanding of, and that gave me my winner.”

—The editors at Asymptote

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said his name. to whom. why. a crossing point. a home. army hotel. attachment building zone. adoptions. Hanoi. soldiers. infants. storm’s coming. we were at the red river. saw a wholly naked bleeding man wrapped in blue plastic. two policemen followed him. humidity rises. after the rain. storm now over Ha Long Bay. literature’s temple. the black space he falls into. rain falls over the streets. people wander in large plastic sheets. hurry. a Chinese man. or Vietnamese. wide round eyes. when I turn around we look each other in the eye. a glance. a glancing moment. double stage. the actors laugh. at our naiveté. examine how it feels. to be able to feel such confidence. to tell a sad story about a family in peacetime. in the morning. in half-sleep. in precisely his eyes. it is raining. I had no luck finding any cigarettes. dial 209 he says. to order. is not the heart the organ of repetition writes M. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. do you lose. or find. so many people everywhere. at each task. in clusters. taxi drivers waiters flower vendors. high humidity. the seven eight month-old children. the expectant parents. how does it sound. she asks the Vietnamese actors. the village you come from. big clusters. flocks of mopeds move among each other. rush between the cars. rapid movements of sadness tenderness run over her face. one pillar pagoda. disgust and pleasure. desire and anger. delta. the black square. darkness. at six o’clock already. begins to fall READ MORE…

Opening the Voice to the Other Sound: A Conversation with Marie Silkeberg

"I believe you must invest your own body in relation to otherness. You can’t choose what’s 'other' to you."

In addition to winning this year’s Close Approximations contest (in poetry, judged by Michael Hofmann), Swedish poet Marie Silkeberg is the author of seven books of poetry and many other works, including essays about and translations of Inger Christensen and Rosmarie Waldrop. She also works on sound compositions and makes poetry films, often in conjunction with other artists. She was born in Denmark and teaches at the University of Southern Denmark.

I translated eight of Marie’s poems into English while she was completing a residency in Iowa City as part of the International Writing Program in the fall of 2015.  The poems form a series called “Städerna” (“The Cities”), and comprise one section of the book Till Damaskus (published in Stockholm by Albert Bonniers Förlag in 2014), a collaboration between Silkeberg and Syrian-born Palestinian poet Ghayath Almadhoun (now based in Sweden). The book explores city spaces across the world and asks questions about belonging, immigration, and identity. As we collaborated on the translations, Marie described her process and her goals for her poetry, as well as her goals for translation. In this conversation, I asked Marie to tell more about some of the initial ideas she shared with me during the translation process.

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Kelsi Vanada: The eight poems in “Städerna” are written in what you’ve called “blocks.” They are composed by many short phrases, separated by periods, which are the only kind of punctuation that mark the poems. In addition, there is no capitalization in the Swedish poems, and many of the phrases separted by periods seem to either extend the thought of the previous phrase, or bleed into the following phrase. Why the choice of this form?

Marie Silkeberg: I’d like to revise that, actually. I want to call them “squares.” They are related to the black square of Malevich. He was a Russian painter, early 20th century. He was extreme; he made black squares on white. It is the extreme part of representation that I’m interested in. Some of the first poems I wrote were in these squares, and I didn’t know what I was doing. The space of a poem is a geometric figure for me. Or the movement in a geometric figure. These squares were invaded by a circular movement; it was a feeling of a circle inside a square.  READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: An excerpt of Filip Springer’s Miedzianka: The History of a Disappearance

"You don’t negotiate with a horde; with a horde you fight to your last breath..."

For this and the next two Translation Tuesdays, we are thrilled to bring you the winners of our annual Close Approximations translation contest, judged by Margaret Jull Costa, Ottilie Mulzet, and Michael Hofmann. First up, Sean Gasper’s Bye translation from the Polish of Filip Springer’s nonfiction. Margaret chose Bye’s entry as the winner “because I found the subject matter totally gripping—it’s set in 1944, when the Soviet counteroffensive has reached the Vistula River—and the prose itself is satisfyingly dense, and it has what I look for in any good translation, a very convincing voice.”

The editors at Asymptote

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O Lord, Make No Tarrying

Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O LORD.
Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward and put to confusion, that desire my hurt.
Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha.
Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.
But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.

Psalm 70, King James Version

[. . .]

Winter

The situation beyond the mountains is getting worse. By 1944, the Soviet counteroffensive has reached the Vistula River. It stops there, though not for long. On January 12, 1945, at 5 a.m., “Stalin’s organs” begin to play on the banks of the Vistula. A thousand Katyusha rockets give the Red Army the signal to attack. It won’t stop until it reaches Berlin. Over the next few days, panic breaks out in the furthest-flung eastern provinces of the Reich. Since mid-January, hundreds of thousands of refugees from Upper Silesia—mainly women and children—have already been heading west. On January 20, all across Breslau the civilian population is ordered to abandon the city immediately. The scene on the streets is like Dante’s Inferno. There’s not space on the trains for everyone, so thousands set off on foot in sub-zero temperatures.

Helena Szczepańska is also among the refugees. She’s eight years old and the youngest of five siblings. Until now, she and her mother have lived in Niklasfähre, on the border of Upper and Lower Silesia. Thanks to their German ancestry—and despite their de facto Polish ethnicity—they are evacuated along with the other Germans. They stop for a day when they reach Schurgast, and then walk westward for almost two weeks. On February 1, 1945, they reach a small town on top of a hill—Kupferberg. Helena will remember this place well, for during their almost three-week trek through Silesia, Kupferberg is the only place she and her family get to sleep in a heated building. Everywhere else they sleep in barns, sheds, cellars, and God knows where else. READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 8 January 2016: Happy New Year!

This week's literary highlights from all across the world

It’s the first news roundup of the new year—and I’m still stuck in the last one: I very nearly typed “2015.” Lots of good things happened since we last caught up—not least of which that Asymptote happily reached its Indiegogo goal (“Indiegogoal?”)! This means you can look forward to our fifth-anniversary celebrations in fifteen events happening all across the globe between now and April. And don’t forget: we’ve extended the deadline for our translation contest—scramble your materials and get it together by February 1st for a chance at literary wealth, fame, and renown!

READ MORE…

Close Approximations—Deadline Extended!

Six more weeks to polish that translation you've been meaning to share with the world!

Good news! Our judges have agreed to an extension of deadline for Close Approximations, our international contest for emerging translators. Yes, you now have six more weeks (until 1 Feb 2016) to polish that translation in your drawer you’ve been meaning to share with the world. This is to allow as many emerging translators as possible to vie for a total of $4,500 in prize money awarded for fiction, poetry and—a new category this year—nonfiction submissions. Winning entries will still be published in our April 2016 issue, according to the original schedule. Don’t miss this opportunity to have your work read by acclaimed translators Michael Hofmann, Ottilie Mulzet and Margaret Jull Costa!

As a result of this extension, we will be pushing back our spotlight on our first contest’s winners (and spreading it out over four weekends in January instead). Get working now on your contest application! (Guidelines can be found here.)

 

Revisiting Our 2014 Contest Winners: Poetics of Wonder: Passage to Mogador by Alberto Ruy-Sánchez

They became tinged with burning desire for each other, and finally one of them made a colorful confession: "Your voice makes me feel saffronized."

Happy Sunday! Today, we continue with our spotlight on our Close Approximations contest by showcasing the first edition’s winners. If you’re interested or know someone who might be interested, bear in mind that we’ll be awarding $4,500 total in prize money to six emerging translators, and our deadline closes in just sixteen days. Visit our contest page for full details.

The second of our two runners-up in the fiction category, Rhonda Dahl Buchanan, gives us this prize-winning translation of an excerpt from Mexican author Alberto Ruy-Sánchez’s Poetics of Wonder: Passage to Mogador.

What a thrill it was to see a sample of my translation from Poetics of Wonder: Passage to Mogador by the Mexican writer Alberto Ruy Sánchez, published in the January 2014 edition of Asymptote—complete with the beautiful Arabic calligraphy created by Caterina Camastra for the English translation of Nueve veces el asombro and an excerpt of the author reading a passage from the novel in the original Spanish.

I believe this recognition helped Dennis Maloney, editor of White Pine Press, secure a PROTRAD grant from the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA). With funds from FONCA’s Program of Support for Translation, Poetics of Wonder  was published in July 2014 in the “Companions for the Journey” series of White Pine Press. In September 2014, Alberto Ruy Sánchez and I were invited to Washington, D.C. by the Mexican Cultural Institute to present a bilingual reading of the novel, and we’ve been invited back to D.C. by the Mexican Embassy for an encore book presentation this March.

Shortly before Christmas 2014, Texas Tech University Press published my translation of the Argentine writer Perla Suez’s novel La pasajera in their Americas Series, titled Dreaming of the Delta. I hope that being selected as a winner of the Close Approximations Competition will help me secure grants and publishers for future translation projects. I am truly grateful to Howard Goldblatt, Lee Yew Leong, and the Asymptote editors for this honor that truly has been the gift that keeps on giving!

—Rhonda Dahl Buchanan, Runner-up in the fiction category, Close Approximations

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Revisiting Our 2014 Contest Winners: Ó by Nuno Ramos

Like a whale letting its gas escape, the insane energy of our physical happiness seeks cover—in language.

With less than three weeks to submit to our Close Approximations competition, we thought it’d be a good idea to revisit the winning translations of our previous edition (judged by Eliot Weinberger and Howard Goldblatt), each accompanied by a brief note from the victorious translator.

This year’s esteemed judges—Michael Hofmann (Poetry), Ottilie Mulzet (Fiction) Margaret Jull Costa (Nonfiction)—are itching to start reading your submissions, so we hope these prize-winning translations inspire you to submit your work and stand to win up to 1,000 USD in prize money! Visit our contest page for full details.

This weekend, we will be presenting the two runners-up in the fiction category. First up, Krista Brune’s prize-winning translation of an excerpt from Nuno Ramos’s Ó, from the Portuguese: READ MORE…

3 Asymptote Announcements (You Don’t Want to Miss)

After announcing Close Approximations, our $4,500 translation contest, we're thrilled to share more exciting news!

As you might remember, we recently announced Close Approximations, our $4,500 translation contest judged by Michael Hofmann, Ottilie Mulzet, and Margaret Jull Costa. But we have more exciting news for you: Our podcast and annual reader survey are back! And to prepare for new ventures, we’re hoping to enlist new team members via our final recruitment drive of the year (deadline: 1 September 2015). Check out the details here: READ MORE…

Close Approximations Winners: Where Are They Now?

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!

—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief

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Asymptote’s 3rd Anniversary Celebrations in March and April (Plus: our New Events Page, with Multimedia!)

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 five continents 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!

READ MORE…