Posts by Dominick Boyle

Asymptote Podcast: Our First Interactions with New Languages

Discover funny stories about linguistic misunderstandings in our latest podcast episode!

Before we translate with a language, we have to pick it up. In this episode of the Asymptote Podcast, learn about people’s first interactions with new languages. Discover the funny stories about linguistic misunderstandings unearthed by Podcast Editor Dominick Boyle as he stands on a bridge between two countries. Plus, hear what’s in store for the podcast this fall.

Podcast Editor and Host: Dominick Boyle

Music by Podington Bear, used under a Creative Commons License from the Free Music Archive.

Asymptote Podcast: In Conversation with Suchitra Ramachandran

Dominick Boyle talks to the winner of our 2017 Close Approximations contest (fiction category)!

In this episode of the Asymptote Podcast we feature an interview with translator Suchitra Ramachandran. Her translation of the short story, Periyamma’s Words by B. Jeyamohan, won Asymptote‘s 2017 Close Approximations Prize in Fiction. Ramachandran and Podcast Editor Dominick Boyle delve into the rich world of language that the two main characters of Periyamma’s Words find themselves in, which is filled with symbolism that reaches epic proportions. Ramachandran says that this creates a text both incredibly challenging to translate, but also incredibly rewarding.

They also discuss her own journey of linguistic discovery, which motivated her to become a translator. Frustrated by the inadequacy of Indian literature written in English to speak to her own experience, Ramachandran turned to literature in Tamil. Now, she hopes that translation can bring it to a wider audience. She says that translations of Tamil literature, surprisingly, are helping other Indians, and even native Tamil speakers, to discover the tremendous wealth of stories available in their own backyard.

Podcast Editor and Host: Dominick Boyle

Music is “Divider” by Chris Zabriskie and “El Tranva” by Jenifer Avila. Used under a Creative Commons License from the Free Music Archive.

(Editor’s Note: Ramachandran would like to add that it is incorrect when she says in the podcast that students of English read translations of Mulk Raj Anand—Anand was an Indian author who wrote in English.)

Asymptote Podcast: The World of Mundartliteratur, Part 2

Language with fewer boundaries.

In this episode of the Asymptote Podcast we return to the world of Mundartliteratur in Switzerland in an exclusive interview with Pedro Lenz, one of the best known Swiss authors who writes in dialect. His engaging and immediate works of prose and poetry present life in modern Switzerland as it really is: a far cry from the idealized herders of Heidi. His 2010 novel Der Goalie bin ig has been translated out of the Bernese Swiss-German into 8 languages, including Glaswegian English, and adapted as a film.
Podcast Editor Dominick Boyle talks with Lenz about the relationship between language, sound, and story. Lenz believes that the highly deliberate but ultimately artificial way he constructs his texts paradoxically allows a work to connect to its audience with fewer boundaries. We also speak about how his work was given a new life and context when translated into Glaswegian.

All sound recorded and produced by Dominick Boyle, or available in public domain.

Asymptote Podcast: The Power of the In-Between

Voices from our Special Feature

In this week’s all new podcast, dive deeper into our Special Feature on Literature from Banned Nations from our Spring Issue with exclusive interviews with two of our contributors. Writer and educator Lauren Camp speaks about the experiences that inspired her poem Given a Continuous Function, We Define a New Function and what it’s like navigating family history though fragments. Then, translator Ghada Mourad talks with us about the striking work of Syrian poet and journalist Omar Youssef Souleimane, and her translation of his poem, Away from Damascus, which powerfully distills the experiences of Syrian refugees. We also discuss what it’s like to translate the work of those in exile and others from the in-between, and the power of poetry across borders. Welcome to the Asymptote Podcast, available to download today!

Podcast Editor and Host: Dominick Boyle

All sound recorded and produced by Dominick Boyle, or available in public domain.

Asymptote Podcast: The World of Mundartliteratur

Writing in their own language.

The Swiss are known for their rules and order. Language is not exempt from this trend, except when it comes to Swiss-German in which case there are no rules and there is no order, because there is no Swiss-German. Instead, the German-speaking part of Switzerland is home to many different dialects, often referred to as distinct languages: Baseldytsch, Bärndütsch, Züritüütsch. Despite the lack of a standardized writing system, authors in Switzerland are writing the stories of modern Switzerland the way they hear them and in the language in which they live. This literature, referred to as Mundartliteratur, is a unique form of translation from the spoken to the written, as each author must create their own method for transcribing the unique sound of their “Swiss-German”. In the first of two episodes exploring MundartliteraturAsymptote Podcast Editor Dominick Boyle speaks with Professor of literature at the University of Fribourg, Ralph Müller, to provide some valuable historical context, and Swiss writer and poet Beat Sterchi who explains just why it is so important for the Swiss to write in their own language. Sterchi, a member of the collective Bern ist überall, also shares a reading, giving us a true sense of his work and the sound of his Bernese Swiss-German.

Podcast Editor and Host: Dominick Boyle

All sound recorded and produced by Dominick Boyle.

Asymptote Podcast: Opera and Translation

Translating opera is a multimodal undertaking.

Starting off the new year fresh, we’re taking a look at opera, an art form that purports to have it all: poetry, music, costumes, and lots of drama. Opera in translation is ubiquitous, and what originally started as a private performance for Florentine nobles quickly spread beyond the palace walls and around the world with the aid of translation. With so much going on, translating opera is a multimodal undertaking. Our new podcast editor Dominick Boyle talks with Lucile Desblache, a professor at the University of Roehampton in London who led the project Translating Music. She guides us through the history of opera, explaining that translation has been there all along—just in different costumes. We also talk to Amanda Holden, a practicing opera translator who specializes in creating sung translations. She talks about how our image of opera as a boring and staid art form is a problem of translation, and how its true power can be revealed. With enough twists and turns to fill an opera, this is the Asymptote podcast.

Podcast Editor and Host: Dominick Boyle

Music provided under a Creative Commons license from freemusicarchive.com and copyright free from museopen.org and europarchive.org.

To Pay or Not to Pay: The Linguistic Hurdle to Entering the Met

Every time I asked a visitor to name their own price, I was throwing the script of a typical commercial transaction out the window

If I sold you a ticket in the last year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I was running an experiment on you. Thank you for your participation.

Now, this experiment wasn’t very tightly controlled, and it definitely wasn’t sanctioned by the higher-ups, but when you’re doing the same thing 500 times a day you have to find a way to keep it interesting. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the ticketing policy of the Met, it is somewhat well known in the field because you can pay anything you want for a ticket, as long as it’s above $0. For those of you familiar with this policy, it’s probably a source of anxiety.

For staff on the “frontline”, it’s a linguistic hurdle that we must cross with each and every transaction. It was impressed on me upon starting at the museum that I must make sure (probably for legal reasons) that each and every visitor understands this “pay-what-you-wish” policy which, believe-you-me, is not as simple as you might think. I began my experiment to try to find the magic words that people would understand, but confusion over the price of a ticket ensued pretty much instantaneously.

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