Posts filed under 'Germany'

What’s New in Translation: September 2017

Looking for reading recommendations? Here are three releases—a book-length essay about translation, a German novel, and an experimental anthology.

Summer is drawing to a close and our bookshelves are groaning with the weight of new releases. Asymptote team members review three very different books—a genre-bending meditation on the practice of translation, a German bestseller about African refugees in Berlin, and an anthology of monologues that were once performed on the streets of Quebec City. There is much to delve into. 

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This Little Art by Kate Briggs, Fitzcarraldo Editions.

Reviewed by Theophilus Kwek, Editor-at-Large, Singapore.

It is in 1977, as he begins lecturing as Professor of Literary Semiology at the Collège de France, that Roland Barthes realizes he is no longer young: an “old and untimely body,” on a “new public stage.” But to speak to the students gathered—with their “new concerns, new urgencies, new desires”—he will have to “fling [himself] into the illusion that [he is] contemporary with the young bodies present before [him]”; he must, in Kate Briggs’s memorable words, forget the distances of age and time, and be “carried forward by the force of forgetting, which is the forward-tilting force of all living life.”

Briggs’s new book-length essay on translation, published this month by Fitzcarraldo (who surely must produce some of the most elegant books around) joins the ranks of treatises that ponder how we, as practitioners, should “properly register what’s going on with this—with [our]—work.” It’s an important question, she argues, not only because translation is a little understood (and hence undervalued) enterprise, but also because the process of translation itself sheds light on what it takes to make meaning, and art. Her answer, pursued over seven interlocking chapters, runs parallel to Barthes’s realization. Just as the old professor must “be born again,” translation is the work of making new: of bridging time and language to “make [literature] contemporary with [our] own present moment.” READ MORE…

Section Editors’ Highlights: Summer 2017

From an essay investigating a literary hoax to new art responding to Trump's xenophobia, our editors share their favorites from the new issue!

Asymptote’s glorious Summer issue is chockablock with gems. Some of our section editors share their highlights:

“To assert that Tove Jansson’s invention of the Moomin world may be partially rooted in ancient lore is, for this writer, to fear performing an act of sacrilege,” confesses Stephanie Sauer in her essay on renowned Finnish author-artist, Tove Jansson. This confession is the crux of Sauer’s questionings. Journey with Sauer from the moment the Moomins were conceived, to its unlikely, subversive evolution. Hold tighter still as she dives into Jansson’s personal life, her questions of war, artistry, womanhood, and sexuality, and the fearless, unconventional course she cut through history.

—Ah-reum Han, Writers on Writers Editor

This issue features excerpts from two plays that deal with aspects of “disappearance” and surveillance. In Blanca Doménech’s The Sickness of Stone, translated from the Spanish by William Gregory, we take a look at a cold, dark world where random pieces of text read from discarded books become a kind of key to unlocking society’s ills or sickness. Gregory’s eloquent, tart translation finds the humor, bite and despair in this fascinating play.

In Hanit Guli’s Orshinatranslated from the Hebrew by Yaron Regev, a father must decide how he will disappear from his family’s life and what he will or will not tell them. An odd, compassionate family drama, Regev’s translation of Guli’s one-act is evocative and clear.

—Caridad Svich, Drama Editor

READ MORE…

Begging Pardon in Berlin

Punctuality is the highest German virtue, and with each passing minute, I felt my chances of making a good impression dribble away.

Berlin seemed like the obvious choice. I had taken German classes for three years, and had been incubating visions of myself as an artistic, experimental person. Based on breathless reports from friends, the city seemed a stand-in for New York in the 70’s and 80’s. Cheap rent, temporary galleries, nightclubs that never closed—I pictured a city covered in the graffiti Giuliani had scrubbed away, yet cleansed of students from NYU—and paved with black leather catsuits and crushed bottles of pilsner.

To justify the trip, I had taken time off from school and secured an internship with a local arts magazine, called BPIGs, which somehow stood for Berlin Independents Guide. After a jet-lagged night in a hostel, I planned to wake up, drop off my giant backpack across town in my sublet room and then head to the magazine’s office. Without a smart phone, or even a cell phone that worked in Germany, I relied on print-out directions from Google. By the time I arrived at my sublet apartment on Weichselstraße, I realized I would soon be late for what was supposed to be my first official meeting. I threw my bag by my bed and ran out the apartment door, back to the U-bahn.

When I emerged from the station an hour later, I found myself on the gray banks of the Spree, in a neighborhood that seemed oddly starchy for an underground arts magazine. I ran up and down the empty street, tucking my chin against the January cold, scanning the building’s blank facades for the address, but none of them were quite right. It was now 3:00 in the afternoon, and I hadn’t managed to find the place. More than honesty or integrity, punctuality is the highest German virtue, and with each passing minute, I felt my chances of making a good impression dribble away. This internship was my only ostensible reason for being in the city, and it seemed I was going to squander it. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: “Barefoot Through the Temple” by Albert Ostermaier

a sticky pressure / on my soles crusted / animal blood ash red blossoms / charred at the edges

nice shoes he pointed to
my shoes i took them
off i know you he smiled
you’re a movie star i
smiled back camera
switched on he rolled his
eyes you can take a
picture of me i counted
the money out he put the
notes in his breast pocket
bowed briefly &
took me by the hand
where do you come from
READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: (More) Poems from “Dickicht,” by Ulrike Almut Sandig

had he just heard that said or / read it in the books of his friends? / what had gone wrong? had it gone wrong?

noon

 

outside the shadows are dwindling

but we are so tired again.

 

above us the sun stands at midday

around us the thicket of high

 

buildings: inside couples lie close

and barely know one another.

 

we are there too, you and me too

on the floor. my skin cools against

 

yours, outside as always the heat

but I am as always too cold. are you

 

asleep, my friend? one clock hand stopped

dead on top of the other and someone

 

shouts NO and then again NO and

the shadows between us start to grow

 ***

‘write down what we had.’ we had

one or two poems, three or four weeks

 

the city towers as our primeval forest

and burrowed inside we two in the

 

yellow light of a streetlamp, between

the tree trunks cast of metal and glass.

 

there was no sun, for the time I was with

you, for that time the rain held us at bay

 

for that time everything drifted away: all

your money, my shoes, the time and my

 

dream of animals in a totally rain-swept zoo:

 

a unicorn out for the count, motionless bears

a dripping-wet peacock. high above us flew

 

a swarm of foxes, we hardly heard them at all.

for, whatever you say, there were two of us,

and everyone else was lost without trace.

***

first she took him by the hands

then she left him by the ferns

 

in the furthest part of the forest

alone. time passed in an instant

 

between the birches the heat flared

then night fell hard one more time

 

birds swivelled their heads to face him

slowly two-hundred and seventy degrees

 

but he had not marked his way back

to the glittering cities of central Europe

 

with a single crumb of bread.

mushrooms sprouting round his feet

 

the feel of fur brushing past him

out of nowhere, front and behind

 

shadows, above him trees creaked

the southern sky kept on turning

 

and kept on turning in circles or

had he just heard that said or

 

read it in the books of his friends?

what had gone wrong? had it gone wrong?

***

Read the poems in their original German here, and listen to the author read her work here.

***

Ulrike Almut Sandig was born in 1979 in Großenhain, Saxony, and now lives in Berlin. In 2005 she completed a degree in theology and modern indology and in 2010 she graduated from the German Literary Institute in Leipzig. Alongside various editorial activities, she has published three volumes of poetry—Zunder (2005/2009), Streumen (2007), and Dickicht (2011)—and Flamingos (2010), a collection of short stories, as well as radio plays. She has been granted residencies in Helsinki and Sydney and won numerous prizes, including the prestigious Leonce-und-Lena Prize (2009) and, most recently, the Droste Award for Emerging Talent (2012). 

Karen Leeder is an academic and writer. Her translations of German poetry have appeared in a variety of journals including Poetry Review, PN Review, Domus (Italy) and MPT. Her volume of Evelyn Schlag’s Selected Poems with Carcanet in 2004 won the Schlegel-Tieck Prize in 2005, and her translations of Durs Grünbein’s “Childhood in the Diorama” won the Times Stephen Spender prize in 2013. Her translations of Sandig poems have appeared in MPT (UK) and SPORT (New Zealand) and she received a Deutsche Übersetzerfonds award in 2014. She will translate Sandig’s Flamingos for Liverpool University Press in 2015. 

Published with permission from: Ulrike Almut Sandig, Dickicht. Gedichte. © Schöffling & Co. Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 2011.

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Translation Tuesday: Short Prose by Oleg Yuriev

"Suddenly, the cow moaned like a door."

A sunny winter in Florence. 

Early morning—blue and gold, and

the black Florentine air—eeny meeny miney moe—has completely vanished from the city: and is now wrapping up and flowing down the hills that are more orbital than surrounding.

Above the hills—the still-white night sky slowly turns blue. And between the hills, red Tuscan brushwood burns, which will soon become gold…

The conjoined sky.

The mooing hills.

The well-defined valleys.

The cypresses are like folded umbrellas,

and the stone pines—unfolded.

Under the stone pines and cypresses, Italians brushed the drips from their gray hair in the rear-view mirrors of their own and others’ motor scooters and sang sweetly with voices as hoarse as though they had an Italian three-day stubble.

 

READ MORE…