Weekly News Roundup, 15th November 2013: Nomads for Proust, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, translation in India and Korea

A look at some of the most important literary news this past week

New York. You’re hard-pressed to find a French writer who inspires as much nostalgia and anguish as Marcel Proust. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of À la recherche du temps perdu (known in English as In Search of Lost Time), the New Yorkais rose to the occasion: Ira Glass, Rick Moody, and Paris Review editor Lorin Stein joined forces in a citywide nomadic reading project this November 8-14. Each of the seven reading sessions was illustrated, à la Marcel’s own secret doodlings.  (Psst: if you remember Proust’s epic tome as Remembrance of Things Past instead, you’ve got translator Scott Moncrieff to thank).

Also in New York, another nomadic event: the New Literature from Europe festival (this year’s theme: ‘In Transit’) runs from November 14-16. The festival features contemporary literary all-stars like Sabine Gruber (Austria), György Dragomán (Romania/Hungary), Jáchym Topol (Czech Republic), and many more. Of particular interest is the appearance of German writer Ilja Trojanow, whose viciously anti-NSA stance once spurred exclusion from the United States. We’re happy to see that this ban has been lifted, and it’s clear that the ordeal certainly won’t stop Trojanow from speaking his mind.

Incidentally, Ilja Trojanow happens to be on the jury for the Jan Michalski Prize, the literary honor awarded to “one book a year, irrespective of the language in which it is written.” This year’s winner is Iranian writer Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, whose novel The Colonel was lauded as dark, poignant, and important (The Independent famously went so far as to say that “it’s about time that everybody even remotely interested in Iran read this novel”). But this week’s accolades don’t end there.  In Brazil, the country’s highest literary honor, the Jabuti Book of the Year Prize, has been announced.  In the fiction category, Luís Fernando Veríssimo wins for his short story collection Diálogos Impossíveis (loose English translation: Impossible Dialogues) while Audálio Dantas snags the nonfiction award for his The Two Wars of Vladimir Herzog. Dantas hasn’t been translated to English yet, but we recommend checking out Veríssimo’s English-language work, translated by Asymptote alum Margaret Jull Costa.

It isn’t breaking news, but it’s well worth a read. At India’s Frontline, K. Satchidanadan, the Malayalam poet and bilingual critic, discusses why translation is so crucial for India, a country steeped in multilingualism. Meanwhile, the Indian government announces a program the facilitate machined translation of twenty-two of the country’s Indic languages. Hmph.

Also in Korea, translation on the brain: according to Craig Fehrman, the country risks missing out on international success in the face of its neighbors, literary heavyweights China and Japan. Looks like it’s up to translators to take Korean literature to global heights. Happily, efforts like Dalkey Archive Press’ Library of Korean Literature are already underway (and if you’ll excuse us, a bit of shameless self-promotion:  Asymptote boasts quite a bit of impressive Korean literature as well).

Finally, an ego-boost and friendly reminder from French/Chinese Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian: translation is like “rewriting from scratch.” Go forth, translation doers!