Posts filed under 'collaboration'

Idiomatic Agony and Collective Vision: Izidora Angel on Bringing International Literature to the Forefront

I want to convince all publishers that putting the translator’s name on the cover of the book is the right thing to do . . .

Chicago-based Izidora Angel is one amongst only a handful of translators working to bring Bulgarian literature to English-language readers. Her experiences as an emerging translator working in an under-represented language prompted Angel to seek the support and knowledge of her peers, and what began as an informal workshop with fellow translators Lucina Schell and Jason Grunebaum has evolved into an international network of literary translators who seek to share resources and mentor each other, in addition to bringing literature in translation to a wider audience. Third Coast Translators Collective co-founder Angel spoke with Asymptote about forming the collective, the importance of community, activism, and her best translation practices.

—Sarah Timmer Harvey, August 2019

Sarah Timmer Harvey (STH): Can you tell me about Third Coast Translators Collective and how it came to be?

Izidora Angel (IA): When I joined the group in early 2016, it wasn’t yet the Third Coast Translators Collective (TCTC), it was still more or less an informal group gathering of Chicago-land translators started by Lucina Schell, who translates from the Spanish, and Jason Grunebaum, who translates from the Hindi. But people kept wanting to join, and we all had this great chemistry, so we thought, why not make it official? Have a proper name, a mission and vision, a website, a digital presence, readings. Now there’s over thirty of us; it feels like a powerful entity.

STH: Why is being part of a collective important to you?

IA: Community is essential, regardless of what it might be that is bringing you together. Humans are social animals, and we need that connection for life. As translators, especially if we are translating from at-risk or vulnerable languages like I am, belonging to a group like this is integral for collaboration, workshopping, and knowledge sharing. Including minority languages like Bulgarian helps to shape the mission of a group like TCTC in a really important way. READ MORE…

In Conversation: Susanna Nied

Acclaimed translator Susanna Nied on polymath author Inger Christensen and their parallel lives

A giant in world poetry and experimental text, much of Inger Christensen’s influence can be seen cascading to many generations of writers, in several languages. Her book-length poem, Det (1969) shook the foundations of Danish poetry, and in its translations, continues to startle and affect readers profoundly. Her essays have been translated into English and collected into a volume for the first time. To mark this literary event, poet and former Asymptote team member Sohini Basak spoke via email to Susanna Nied, who has translated into English Christensen’s poetic oeuvre as well as the forthcoming book of essays The Condition of Secrecy (New Directions).

SOHINI BASAK: For those of us bound by the English-language, it is because of you that we’ve come to know of Inger Christensen’s poetry. And as you’re the translator of her complete poetic oeuvre, it’s very interesting that you started with her first book (Light), and then the sequence almost coincides with the order in which the original collections were published … although not entirely. How did you decide your working order?

SUSANNA NIED: I actually didn’t do anything like choosing a working order. When I started on Light, in the 1970s, I didn’t know Inger had written anything besides Light and Grass. I didn’t even know who Inger was, and I certainly didn’t know that I was going to become a translator, much less her translator. I was just a university student browsing the library stacks for something Danish to read for pleasure, and I happened upon this little bibliography of contemporary Danish poets. When I got to “C” I found “Christensen, Inger”.

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In Conversation: Canan Marasligil

What I find important is to talk from a personal place: sharing what you know, writing from what you know, expressing yourself with sincerity.

Canan Maraşlıgil’s world has always been a multilingual one. Currently based in Amsterdam, she was born in Turkey, spent her childhood in Belgium, and, as a student, lived for a short time in Canada. Today, as a freelance writer and literary translator, she often travels internationally to deliver workshops and presentations, and works in no less than five languages: English, French, Turkish, Dutch, and Spanish. Always involved in several inspiring projects at once, Canan explores literature through writing and translation, but also photography, video, podcast, and digital media. You can therefore easily imagine our joy when, in addition to all of her brilliant projects, she kindly agreed to schedule an interview with Asymptote’s team member Lou Sarabadzic.

Lou Sarabadzic (LS): You work mostly in French, English, and Turkish, and are regularly involved in projects dealing with multilingualism. What does multilingualism mean for you, and why is it so central to your work?

Canan Maraşlıgil (CM): Multilingualism is my reality. I grew up in a family who came from Turkey to Belgium. We spoke Turkish at home, I went to school in French, then I learned Dutch at school (Belgium is a trilingual country if you count German, but the second language we learned at school was Dutch). I was also hearing a lot of German in our living-room through TV and our cousins living in Zurich and Hamburg—I also have family who migrated to Germany. I started to learn English through friends of my dad who was working in a hotel as a night receptionist, and through popular culture—films and music. However, English only became part of my formal education much later. Now, I start my sentences in one language and end them in another. In my mind, everything is multilingual. Certain feelings come to me in one language, and others in another language. I also work in Dutch a lot, but I don’t really feel in Dutch, nor in Spanish, which is also a language I know, but use much less.

Multilingualism means seeing the world through many different lenses. You can try and understand issues and current affairs through different media in different languages. I think that’s a huge advantage in today’s world.

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In Conversation: Natasha Wimmer on Teaching Translation

Teaching translation feels like I’ve been lifting weights, and then I go to my own translation and it's like, whoa, these weights are so light!

What does it mean to teach translation? Many translators are self-taught, having honed their skills in careers as writers or editors, academics or language experts. But some universities in the United States also offer seminars in the craft of translation. The teacher-translator, then, takes on the unique challenge of developing new pedagogy for a field in flux, one that exists at the intersection of language study, theory, and the instructor’s own experiences in the creative practice of translation.

Today, translator Natasha Wimmer sits down with her former student and Asymptote Editor-at-Large in Brazil, Lara Norgaard, to discuss her approach to teaching translation. 

Lara Norgaard (LN): How did you begin teaching translation? What made you interested in education?

Natasha Wimmer (NW): Princeton approached me, actually. I had never taught a class. Not only that, but I also only have an undergraduate degree, so I had never even taken a graduate class. I was a little bit nervous about taking the job. A few years later I started at Columbia. In that case, I did a panel discussion with the other Bolaño translator, Chris Andrews, and the department heads enjoyed the discussion, so they asked me to teach.

LN: Was there a particular class you took or text you read that influenced the way you approached teaching for the first time?

NW: I actually imagined the course as the class I wish I’d taken before I became a translator. I had no formal education in translation at all. I had never taken a translation class and, in fact, I hadn’t even read anything about translation until about eight years into my translation career. When I was asked to give a talk about translation, I realized I had avoided reading about translation because I was afraid that I would discover that I had been doing it wrong, or that maybe I would mess with the instinctive approach that had somehow been successful so far. But then I found reading about translation really stimulating. I discovered that, not surprisingly, there was a conversation about the questions I had and about the things that I hadn’t articulated but had been working through as a translator.

I worked really hard the first year I taught the Princeton class. I spent a few months just reading translation theory and translation essays for material that I thought was interesting and put together a reading list. The first semester I taught at Princeton was very experimental. In retrospect, I’m surprised I survived. The format of the class changed a lot from the first year to the second.

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In Conversation: Lesley Saunders on translation, poetic collaboration and creating new writing with refugees

I think there’s a place opening up where poet-translators can have a kind of collective presence

Lesley Saunders has published several books of poetry, and a new collection Nominy Dominy is due out from Two Rivers Press next year. She has won several awards for her poetry, including the inaugural Manchester Poetry Prize, the Stephen Spender Award for poetry in translation and The Poetry Business 2016/17 International Book & Pamphlet Competition; she is currently working on a book of translations of selected poems by the acclaimed Portuguese writer Maria Teresa Horta. Find our more about her work at www.lesleysaunders.org.uk

Theophilus Kwek (TK): Congratulations on winning the 2016 Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation with your lovely translation of Poema by Maria Teresa Horta! In your commentary, you write about that striking central image of the poem—a ‘prowler-intruder’—which, as compared to Hughes’ ‘thought-fox’, is felt rather than seen. Did you face any challenges in rendering such a tactile ‘muse’ in a different language?

Lesley Saunders (LS): This is a really hard question! I’m very much guided, in my translation, by a text I’ve come across quite recently: James Underhill’s Voice and Versification in Translating Poems, which is wonderful – and which I first discovered by being asked to review it. I started reading the book more out of duty, then was completely captivated by how Underhill describes the difficult but not impossible challenge of translating poetry.

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Anita Gopalan on the Joys of Translation

These references are woven inside the text, sometimes explicitly, sometimes covertly. They pulsate with meaning...

Anita Gopalan, a Bangalore-based translator, received the 2016 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for her translation of the Hindi novella Simsim by Geet Chaturvedi. Despite India producing a wealth of literature, Gopalan is only the second Indian to have received this grant. Over email, Poorna Swami asked Gopalan about Hindi literature and translating Chaturvedi.

Poorna Swami (PS): So you have a rather unconventional literary background, and even worked for many years in the banking sector. How did you find your way into translation? What do you enjoy most about it?

Anita Gopalan (AG): Although I don’t have a conventional literary background, I am striking out on a new path that is only natural to me. You see, when I was young I wanted to become a writer. Our house in Pilani was filled with books and I had access to all kinds of texts. At age eleven, I started on unabridged Dickens, by thirteen, it was Bonjour Tristesse and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and I had already written a whole book of poems (in Hindi, English, and Marwari). I read my poetry out loud to all our house maids and they were the ones who lovingly listened to it. But something happened that even I can’t fathom—my last poem was about suicide, and that was that. I did not become a writer. Rather, I thrived doing math—Hilbert spaces, isomorphisms—and moved on to banking technology and had a wonderful career in that field.

Years later, I had to cut down on my hectic work schedule due to a health condition and suddenly there was a vacuum. “To believe you are magnificent. And gradually to discover that you are not magnificent. Enough labor for one human life,” Czesław Miłosz said, and that fit my condition perfectly. I again turned to writing, and Facebook became the medium for me to post my writings and music. Here, I became acquainted with the wonderful writer Geet Chaturvedi. Interestingly, his first work that I read was not poetry or fiction—the genres he is famous for—but a short essay on music. His splendid poetic prose and sharp insights were evident even in that post. I fell in love with his writings. It was his poems that enchanted me most. A couple of years ago, he suddenly asked me to translate them. I was taken aback. I hadn’t translated anything before, but at the same time I was thrilled.

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Translation Tuesday: Dead Stars by Álvaro Bisama

"The past is that: a photo taken in a hotel we wish was our home—false photographs, proof of the life we never had."

Forthcoming from Ox and Pigeon Press is Megan McDowell’s English translation of Álvaro Bisama’s Dead Stars, which won the 2011 Santiago Municipal Prize for Literature and the 2011 Premio Academia, given out by the Chilean Academy of Language for the best book of 2010.

Álvaro Bisama’s award-winning novel Dead Stars is a story-within-a-story set against the backdrop of Chile’s transition to democracy after decades under the Pinochet dictatorship, filled with characters desperately searching for a way to escape their past, their present, their future: a small-town metalhead; left-wing revolutionaries without a new cause; a brotherhood of cough syrup addicts; punks, prostitutes, and thieves. Through them, Bisama’s tragic novel explores how our choices, the people we know, the places we pass through, and the events of our lives exert an unsuspected influence long after their light has gone out and they have faded from our memory (Ox and Pigeon).

 ***

Javiera failed almost all of her classes. We always used to put her name on our assignments. That way she’d come closer to passing her courses. I made that gesture, same as Donoso, and Luisa, our classmate who was going out with Charly Alberti, the drummer from Soda Stereo.

You’re fucking with me, I said.

Seriously, that’s what she said, that she was Charly Alberti’s girlfriend, that he was crazy about her and sometimes he’d sneak away to Chile in secret to see her. Donoso and I knew about it. No one else. Not even Javiera, unless Donoso told her. But I don’t think he did. Donoso was very discreet. But that’s what Luisa told us. She confessed one time when she was drunk, and it was all downhill from there. She was always telling us the gory details about her and Alberti. She told us they’d spent the weekend in Reñaca, because he’d flown in on his private jet to show her his new album. She told us her parents knew about it. That it had been hard to convince her father, who was a cop and an evangelical, but Alberti had done it. That he was serious about their relationship. That he had been respectful of her. That she was still almost a virgin. I don’t know what she meant by that almost, but Donoso would hug her and sometimes she’d open her backpack and take out a giant album full of photos of Charly Alberti, a heavy book full of concert memorabilia, posters from TV Grama and VEA, and newspaper clippings. There was only one photo of them together, Alberti and Luisa, taken in the hallway of a hotel.

**

Her: Aside from many other things, the past is that: a photo taken in a hotel we wish was our home—false photographs, proof of the life we never had.

**

She said: But it doesn’t matter. The photo isn’t important. What’s important is Luisa’s role in all this, because I was with her when I saw Javiera and Donoso’s relationship start to go to shit. Because, even though she was a facha right-wing conservative, she went with me to a party thrown by the Youth League in a typographical union off Calle Colón. I don’t know why we went. Maybe we just wanted to relax. Or maybe it was easier to go there than home after classes. I don’t know. The fact is, we went. We killed time browsing thrift stores, and then we made ourselves up in the bathroom of a diner. Javiera and Donoso were at the party. We hadn’t seen much of them that semester. Javiera was in the middle of an appeal, trying to get them to let her take a class for the third time, and Donoso was busy at the restaurant. So, I went with Luisa to the party. She complained because they weren’t playing “Luna Roja,” and she insisted that Alberti was coming to see her that weekend. That she wasn’t going to drink too much because Alberti hated it when she drank, he detested drugs and alcohol. Of course, the party was full. I was drinking beer. I didn’t see Javiera anywhere. In the throng of people, I saw Donoso with a bottle of pisco in his hand. There were a few bands that played Andean music, and a couple Pablo Milanés clones. In between the bands, people danced. The party was fun, if you like that kind of thing. I didn’t really like it, but it wasn’t terrible. This was just before the mayoral election in Valparaíso. Back then, before the Spiniak case, that fat guy Pino was way ahead. At the university, someone said Javiera was going to run for council. I don’t know if it was just a rumor. It was probably true. The party would put any university leader up for election; they’d send whoever it was to campaign in villages out in the middle of nowhere, like Catemu or Puchuncaví. To us it seemed like an obvious thing that Javiera would be a candidate. So that’s how things were at that party: Luisa talking about Charly Alberti, Donoso drinking alone, Javiera nowhere to be found. The last thing I saw before disaster struck was this: Donoso sitting in a plastic chair clutching a bottle of straight pisco. That was the cut-off point, maybe. That was the moment when I lost sight of them, because Luisa went to the bathroom and she didn’t come back, and after a while someone told me: Your friend is in the bathroom crying. I went to find her. The bathroom was disgusting, but there was Luisa, sitting on the wet floor, hysterical. She had a piece of paper in her hand. A newspaper page. Luisa was holding a page from a newspaper or a magazine and sobbing hysterically. No, the fucker can’t do this to me, he can’t do this, Luisa said. I hugged her and she repeated it, he can’t fuck me over like this, he can’t do this to me, the motherfucker, she was saying, sniffling. I hugged her and she was pretty drunk and then I saw that page in her hand. There was Charly Alberti with his bride, a model. That’s why Luisa was crying. Because of that page she found on the floor of the bathroom or in the hallway. A social page, a page with the kind of short articles that close every edition of a paper. That loose page, lost at the party, a little bit of trash just like the one you have in your hands now, the newspaper page that shows Javiera with white hair. It’s like someone let these articles loose in the wind, waiting for someone else to see them and break down, just like I’m doing now, man, just like Luisa broke down then.

**

The past is always a newspaper page left behind on the ground, she said.

**

She said: But then something happened. While I was hugging Luisa, we heard noises coming from the men’s bathroom. Shouts. We heard something break. A mirror. A woman’s voice screeching: Let him go, you asshole, let him go! Then more voices. Let him go, man, you’re going to kill him. Let him go. Luisa stopped crying. I got up from the floor. There was a cumbia song playing. We walked out of the women’s bathroom. The door to the men’s room was across the hall. The paper with the photo of Charly Alberti’s wedding stayed behind on the floor. At that moment, several guys shoved Donoso out of the bathroom. He fought back, legs kicking. His shirt was torn. They threw him to the ground in the middle of the dance floor. They kicked him. We watched as they carried him to the door and threw him down the stairs. The cumbia never stopped. And then they finally played Soda Stereo. It all lasted one minute, two minutes, she said. It lasted for half of one song. We couldn’t do anything, say anything. Then, Javiera came running out of the bathroom. She went after Donoso. She didn’t see us. We stood there, paralyzed. Then, the same guys who had kicked Donoso out went back to the bathroom and hauled out a guy, unconscious, his face covered in blood; it seemed like he was someone important. I’d seen him around campus. He was always surrounded by members of the Youth League, and he always sat in front at the events they held in the quad. He never spoke. The others conferred with him in whispers. But now the same people who whispered to him were carrying him like a sack of potatoes. His mouth was destroyed. I think he was missing teeth. I guess those teeth were scattered around the bathroom and covered in urine, dirty water, and blood, she said. And the guy wasn’t responding. I guess they put him in a taxi and took him to the hospital. Luisa didn’t say anything. I remember the two of us just stood there outside that bathroom, staring at the tiles. More than the blood or the guy’s face, I remember those tiles, just that: the dragons drawn in black and white on the floor. Those tiles were worn out, chipped by the passage of time, cracked. The bathroom at my house had similar ones. I dreamed about those dragons for a week. Finally I said: What just happened? I don’t know, Luisa answered.

**

But I know. What happened was that everything went to shit, she said.

I said: It’s a law of nature. When everything goes to shit, someone’s teeth wind up on a bathroom floor. There’s no turning back. No turning back.

***

Álvaro Bisama (Valparaíso, Chile, 1975) is a writer, cultural critic, and professor. In 2007, he was selected as one of thirty-nine best Latin American authors under the age of thirty-nine at the Hay Festival in Bogota. Estrellas muertas (Dead Stars), his third novel, won the 2011 Santiago Municipal Prize for Literature and the 2011 Premio Academia, given out by the Chilean Academy of Language for the best book of 2010. His most recent novel, Ruido (Noise), was published in 2013 and was a finalist for the Premio Altazor.

Megan McDowell, Asymptote managing editor, is a literary translator from Richmond, Kentucky. Her translations have appeared in Words Without Borders, Mandorla, Los Angeles Review of Books, McSweeney’s, Vice, and Granta, among others. She has translated books by Alejandro Zambra, Arturo Fontaine, Carlos Busqued, and Juan Emar. She lives in Zurich, Switzerland.