Hey Asymptote, happy Friday! This week’s big news is big for everyone in lit, not just translation—but we translators are extra chuffed. The Man Booker International Prize is one that’s raised the visibility of books in translation (perhaps contributing to the last week’s reported overall increase in translation sales?), and this year’s winner—Korean author Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, translated by Deborah Smith—is no exception. Pore through the journal for an essay by Smith, on “Translating Human Acts,” Kang’s latest translated tome, an altogether difficult translatorial endeavor.
Speaking of prizes, behemoth-we-love-to-hate Amazon has announced its third Indie Prize for Spanish-language authors published through the innovative and surprisingly translation-friendly Kindle Direct enterprise. The German Internationaler Kulturpreis has announced this year’s shortlist, as well (and it features a certain Luiselli we love…). If you’d prefer your Spanish-language reading of the translated sort, check out Tedi López Mills’ Against the Current (translated by Wendy Burk), excerpted in the journal in 2014 and now available in its entirety via Phoneme Media.
Is all translation the same? Kareem James Abu-Zeid talks shop about the differences between “literary” and “academic translation. What kinds of lassitudes does a literary translator have that an academic can’t afford? And not that we’re worried about our jobs or anything, but here are five burning questions about “Pilot,” the earbud translation device that’s competing with Skype Translator (harumph). And the Los Angeles Review of Books hosts a Q&A with “multilingual wordsmith” Lydia Davis.
This coming week, the ninth-annual Palestine Festival of Literature will take place in various cities (Bethlehem, Gaza City, Ramallah) and locales, featuring Pulitzer nominee Laila Lalami, novelist Colum McCann, Booker winner J. M. Coetzee, Remi Kanazi, and many others.
Learning languages is always hard, but learning languages whose written form is “an obstacle to literacy” is especially difficult. Here’s a cantankerous essay imagining a world in which Chinese characters were phonetic. (Phonetics are learnable, but aren’t other kinds of literacy valuable, too)?