Posts filed under 'Publishing'

Ask a Translator with Daniel Hahn

I’d much rather they stuck J.K. Rowling’s name on my book than insisting on mine. We might even sell a few copies.

Our resident translation expert Daniel Hahn is back with a response to the hotly debated issue of how and where to credit translators’ work. This question comes from Michelle Loh in Singapore.  

Why aren’t translators’ names on most book covers? Are you for or against this practice of keeping translators’ names hidden?

Some people believe that readers are scared of translations. They assume—whether rightly or wrongly—that a reader is more likely to pick up a book whose front jacket reads

Title of Great Novel!

by

Name-Of-Awesome-Novelist

than a book whose front jacket reads

Title of Great Novel!

by

Name-Of-Awesome-Novelist, but actually not really because I’m afraid it’s been translated by Unrecognisable-Translator-Person so it’s probably quite obscure and kind of foreign and anyway you know what translations are like (LOL!) and tbqh you can’t even really be sure of what you’re getting…

(I paraphrase, slightly.)

Their argument, then, is that translations are hard enough to sell as it is without your having to remind people that the book is a translation before they’ve even picked it up. There are plenty of publishers I like very much who make this argument, and I do understand. I do think it underestimates our readers, but where most publishers are concerned I really don’t see this as a lack of respect for the translator’s work.

READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 3 June 2016: Superstar Contributorstars

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Happy Friday, Asymptote!

All translation is approximate, but we don’t always like to think so. “Approximate Translation” is a performance that grapples with intelligibility, performing sections of Ouyang Jianghe’s poem Between Chinese and English. And speaking of canny approximation, the Los Angeles Review of Books‘ “Multilingual Wordsmiths” series continues with Ann Goldstein, past journal interviewee and translator of Italian fever-phenom Elena Ferrante. READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 13 May 2016: My Niece, Johanna Bach

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Happy lucky Friday, Asymptote friends! If you’re feeling unlucky, Google might suggest otherwise. But translators (and their authors, if they aren’t Anglophone) are certainly feeling lucky—or at least relieved, as the Guardian dropped the spectacular news this week that translated titles sell better than their untranslated counterparts. And publishing in translation has grown overall—while the rest of the literary industry struggles (perhaps it’s all this IKEA writing)… READ MORE…

Ask a Translator with Daniel Hahn

...Get a contract. Make sure it’s unambiguous. Make sure it’s comprehensive. Make sure you understand it.

Our literary translator on the street, award-winning writer and editor Daniel Hahn, is back with another installment of “Ask a Translator,” the monthly column responding to readers’ deepest questions about the day-to-day practice of literary translation. This time around, Asymptote reader Marius Surleac asked the following:​

Have you experienced troubles with any publisher and if so, what’s your advice for a novice?

Have I ever experienced any troubles with a publisher? Yes!

(Finally, a nice, easy one to answer.)

Because honestly, I’ve published close to fifty books so far, with publishers of all kinds, in various countries, so it would be surprising if every experience had been equally, perfectly smooth. Yes, of course there’s trouble, sometimes. And that trouble, naturally, can take several forms.

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Publisher Profile: New Directions

"This is going to sound really Pollyanna, but things have gotten better recently."

Frances Riddle: Can you tell us a little bit about how New Directions got started?

Barbara Epler: We were started by James Laughlin in 1936 and he had gone to study with Ezra Pound; he was bored at Harvard and went to study with Gertrude Stein first and then with Ezra. And J.L. always wanted to be a writer. And Pound, seeing a rich kid, probably had an idea, and he said “No, you’ll never be a very good poet, why don’t you do something useful and go home, finish Harvard so that your parents will give you money, and start a publishing company.” Or assassinate the reviewer he hated at the Saturday Review of Literature. But do something useful. So J.L. came back and when he was still in college started New Directions. J.L. passed away in 1997 but he created a trust so that we could not be bought or sold but we have to stay the same size. He didn’t believe in the capital growth thing which I think is correct—that’ll kill a literary company. And we have to publish books of the same quality. READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 18th September 2015: National Book and We’re Awarded!

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Yay, it’s Friday! It’s a good Friday at that—this week marked the announcements for the American Literary Translators Association’s Lucien Stryk Prize shortlist. The Prize goes to literary translation from Asian languages, and with the exception of the Kalidasa, every single one of its nominees—both author and translator—have appeared on Asymptote‘s digital pages. We’re pretty chuffed about that—go ahead and check out the list or our archives, for what’s sure to be a star-studded reading experience (we recommend looking at Kim Hyesoon’s much-buzzed-about Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream to get you started).

This week was full of awards in general—the S.E.A. Write, or South East Asian Writers Award similarly announced its shortlist. Meanwhile, in other—Anglophone, more-or-less boring—prizes: the National Book Award announced its poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and young adult longlisted nominees—check them out! But we can’t say we aren’t a little baffled at what didn’t make the list (#Argonauts, anyone?).  And in light of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara, the London Review of Books offers a strongly-worded dissenting opinion.

Meanwhile, over at the Poetry Foundation, Robert Fernandez and Blake Bronson-Barrett describe what it’s like translating French surrealist Mallarmé (don’t you love this shop talk?). And just when it’s announced that another Seamus Heaney translation is slated to appear posthumously, the Irish poet’s last words are revealed to the public. And if we’re interested in peeking in/behind the writer’s veil, read Iranian writer, artist, and activist Shahirar Mandanipour’s interview with Little Village. 

We reported last week on the terrible, repugnant Yi-Fen Chou debacle. This week, actual Asian poets continue to respond—and offer their work. Meanwhile, the New Republic suggests that cheating might be the only way to get published (say it isn’t so! It isn’t so at Asymptote). And it might be interesting to read Sherman Alexie’s private email to the group of poets accepted for Best American publication  (“I’m sorry for this pseudonym bullshit,” he says).

What’s New in Translation? September 2015

So many translations hit the shelves this month—here's what you need to know, from Asymptote's own.

Mercè Rodoreda, Death in Spring (Open Letter, September 2015). Tr. from the Catalan by Martha Tennant—Review by Ellen Jones, Criticism Editor

Death_in_Spring-front_large

Martha Tennant’s translation of Death in Spring, the (posthumously published) final novel by Mercè Rodoreda, is republished in paperback this month by Open Letter, having been long out of print. Written while in exile from Franco’s Spain during the Civil War, the novel is considered Rodoreda’s most accomplished work, and can be read as an allegory of a repressive regime.

Told through the eyes of a nameless boy who seems perpetually on the cusp of manhood, the novel recounts the cruel, bewildering traditions of a village community constantly under threat of being washed away by the river that runs underneath it. The villagers’ brutalism is bizarre and often casual—they pour cement down people’s throats as they lie dying to prevent their souls from escaping, then bury them in hollowed out trees. A thief is imprisoned in a tiny cage until he begins to behave like an animal; children are locked in cupboards until they half-suffocate; and every year a young man is forced to swim underneath the village and endure inevitable mutilation or death.

READ MORE…

Defying Sameness: A Conversation With Danny Lawless of Plume

An in-depth look at Plume Poetry and Plume Anthology with Danny Lawless, editor-in-chief.

Alex Cigale: “Le jardin reste ouvert pour ceux qui l’ont aimé.” Plume’s motto is the concluding line of Jacques Prévert’s “Vainement.” Could you connect for us Plume’s literary influences with the spot you see Plume inhabiting on the poetry journal literary map?

Danny Lawless: Michaux, Prevert, Follain, Parra, Ponge. These, and so many others, are transformational apparitions from a world beyond my provincial one, growing up in Louisville, Kentucky.

There was Breton, of course, the most famous name, whose poetry I now think did not prosper in the shade of his political and artistic manifestos that descended into fiats and excommunications. But one proceeds by allusion, right? A sort of overhearing. So in the course of taking in all of Breton—I was persistent—I made the acquaintance of Desnos, Reverdy, Char.

The book that all but exploded in my hands was Benedikt’s The Poetry of Surrealism: An Anthology. And so I read these people for years and years—over four decades, and when it was time to begin work on what would become Plume, there was no question regarding what its “aesthetic” would be. And, I suppose, making Plume was an act of conservation, for these poets had fallen out of fashion, if they were ever in it, in the United States.

I wanted to introduce these voices to other readers, to connect with those who knew and loved them as I did. I thought if future contributors had read as I had (and I discovered many had), then we would be of like minds, sharing certain affinities and antipathies—that their work would be what I liked and admired, and that publishing it would be a pleasure. READ MORE…

34 Animal Farms: Literary Translation and Copyright in Iran

Our Editor-at-Large Poupeh Missaghi on the peculiarity of copyright and translation in Iran

It’s safe to say that the Iranian book market has a strong interest in translation: it’s easy to find several translations of the same book in a single bookstore. Several reasons fuel this phenomenon, but the most important is rather banal: Iran’s glaring disregard for copyright laws—both internationally and domestically—mean that these kinds of retranslations run rampant.

Most literary publishers enter the translation and publication processes without securing the rights to the original foreign book. Or they can simply translate/publish a title already in print or well into the process of translation/publication by another publishing house.

Iran is not a signatory to the Copyright Treaty of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), though it joined WIPO in 2001. Neither does Iran take part in international conventions on the protection of literary and artistic works. Not legally bound in the way that organizations in other countries—such as many European countries and the United States—are, Iran’s public and/or private literary/artistic organizations do not often behave ethically toward their foreign counterparts. READ MORE…

In Conversation: Alex Cigale, Guest Editor of the Atlanta Review’s Russian Poetry Issue

An interview with Alex Cigale on editing the Atlanta Review's Russian Poetry Issue

 

I interviewed Alex Cigale, guest editor for the Russia issue of the Atlanta Review, to pick his brain about the editing process, the special issue, and the state of Russian poetry at-large.

Alex Cigale (former Central Asia editor-at-large for Asymptote!) has collaborated with the editors of the anthologyCrossing Centuries: the New Generation in Russian Poetry (2000), and more recently, the online Twenty First Century Russian Poetry (Big Bridge 16, 2014). Independently, he has presented a score of contemporary Russian poets to Anglophone readers. This year, Cigale was the recipient of an NEA in Literary Translation for his work with poet of the St. Petersburg philological school, Mikhail Eremin.

The Atlanta Review is known for its long-established and respected annual contest, offering publication in each of its fall issues, with a $1,000 top prize and 20 publication awards for finalists (including 30 merit awards for semi-finalists). In its 20-year history, it has published a long list of established poets, including Seamus Heaney, Rachel Hadas, Maxine Kumin, Stephen Dunn, Charles Wright, Billy Collins, Derek Walcott, Paul Muldoon, and so on.

PN: What did the Atlanta Review ask from you for its Russia Issue? How did you approach the editorship and solicit contributions?

AC: My directions were quite open: curate an 80-page section of contemporary Russian poetry. In every Spring issue, the Atlanta Review includes an international feature. In recent years, it had shone a spotlight on international hotspots (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, etc.) as well as on Anglophone or partly-Anglophone nations in the news (India, Ireland, and Scotland, the latter forthcoming in 2016).

While each is planned two years in advance, the editorial phase itself is quite brief: in my case, I only had this past late fall/early winter to work on the curation, so its contents were largely determined by what unpublished work in translation was available at the moment. As I noted in my introduction, above all else, the issue is a “slice of life”—what (primarily American) translators of Russian poetry are working on right now. The world of Russian poetry translation is a fairly small community, so I was able to put out early word of the issue on social media and correspond with nearly each translator personally to discuss their projects. READ MORE…

From the Archives: “Resistance Is Futile” by Walter Siti

In this ongoing series, a look at fiction from our January 2015 issue translated by Antony Shugaar

What is “autofiction?”

I don’t know. I really don’t. “Autofiction” belongs to the category of words I’ll habitually skim over in lieu of context clues. (Also in this category: “antifiction,” “matron literature,” “ergodic literature”—any ideas?). Critics toss around categories such as these so flippantly, practically taunting their readers to look them up on Wikipedia, but unless I get the sense that the term is particularly operative, I am likely to continue reading.

I came across “autofiction” more recently: after reading the incredible excerpt from Walter Siti’s Resistance is Futile from our latest issue (translated from the Italian by longtime blog contributor/superstar translator Antony Shugaar). In his translator’s note, Shugaar says that Siti’s “approach is called autofiction” and that “Siti seems to swing it over his head recklessly like a heavy gold chain.”

I’m intrigued. But first and foremost, I’m intrigued by the excerpt itself, because Resistence is Futile is incredible. Written in increasingly circular retrospect, the story’s more a taut deferral of linearly cruel memory than anything resembling realist fiction, but that’s not to say it isn’t visceral, gutting, utterly material, and wrenching, as it recounts the youth of an unfortunately corpulent young boy, Tommaso.

The boy’s fat—that’s because he was a slow eater as an infant—and worse still, even that’s because the mother may or may not have “somehow been jinxed, conceived under a bad star” after she “got it stuck in her head that the child had been generated the very night that her husband came home drunk (and as far as that went, nothing out of the ordinary), cursing and washing the blood off himself.” READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 15th Mary 2015: PEN or Sword, Too Many Prizes

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Happy Friday, Asymptote friends! Another day, another dollar, another slew of literary prizes to report. This week, the PEN prizes were of special interest: Two Lines Press’ translation of Baboon, written by Danish author Naja Marie Aidt with translation by Denise Neuman has snagged the PEN Translation Prize (for a short-story excerpt from Baboon, click here!—or better yet: read Eric MIchael Becker’s exclusive interview with the author here). Meanwhile, the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize (for translations of German-into-English) is slated to go to Catherine Schelbert, for her translation of Hugo Ball’s Flametti. And the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize has announced its shortlist, which includes our own friend of the blog (and Tiff-ster) Susan Bernofsky, for her translation of German writer Jenny Erpenbeck’s The End of Days (coincidentally reviewed here in our latest issue). READ MORE…

Spotlight From the Archives: “Towards the One and Only Metaphor” by Miklós Szentkuthy

"Anyone who has experienced a life of total contemplation and total work knows what a pain mornings are."

The excerpt of Miklós Szentkuthy’s Towards the One and Only Metaphor, translated from the Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson in our April 2013 issue, is the very first thing I ever read on Asymptote. This was long before I was a blogger (much less blog editor), and perhaps the first time I felt enraptured enough to sustain interest in reading something literary off a screen. It was my induction into the literary Internet. It seems so long ago to me now, and so absurd—online journals portend equity and unlimited access! Poems can be shared, clicked on! Stories bookmarked and hung on (Facebook) walls! And it’s all for free!

But until that moment I was rather unimpressed with the prospect of reading something from a screen that had not been printed, circulated, tattered with time and dead tree. But here is where it changed: where I was so arrested by a piece, I knew immediately how important this kind of Internet literary journalism is—for writers, for translators, and for readers most of all. READ MORE…

In Conversation: George Henson, Translator

Rosie Clarke chats with George Henson, translator of Sergio Pitol's "The Art of Flight"

George Henson is a senior lecturer at UT Dallas, where he specializes in literary translation, translation theory, Spanish language, 20th century Latin American poetry and narrative, and queer literature. His translations of short stories by Mexican author Elena Poniatowska have appeared in Nimrod, Translation Review, The Literary Review, and Puerto del Sol. His translation of Carlos Pintado’s short story “Joy Eslava” was published by Zafra Lit, and his translations of poems by Francisco Morán have appeared in Sojourn and The Havana Reader.

His translation of Sergio Pitol’s The Art of Flight, the first of Pitol’s “Trilogy of Memory,” was published last month by Deep Vellum. Recipient of the Cervantes Prize in 2005, Pitol is considered by many to be Mexico’s greatest living author, but this is his first appearance in English translation. I spoke with George via email about why this could be, and discussed his translation practice and the challenges of working with a multigeneric work like Pitol’s. READ MORE…