Posts filed under 'creative writing'

What I Learned: The Benefits of a Poetry Translation Workshop

Unlike in life, in translation you can generally decide what you can bear to lose, and you should know that there are multiple methods.

What should a budding translator read? What kinds of critical lenses should he or she apply to the process of translation? Assistant Editor Andreea Scridon shares some insights she gathered from the poetry translation workshop she attended this summer in Norwich, UK.

Every summer, the University of East Anglia in Norwich (home of the first Creative Writing program in the United Kingdom) holds an International Literary Translation & Creative Writing Summer School. This past July, the program was held in partnership with the British Centre for Literary Translation, and I attended the multilingual poetry translation workshopled by internationally translated poet and writer Fiona Sampsonas an emerging translator of Romanian and Spanish into English. Below I recount musings on the most significant things I learned, which I hope will be of use to those potentially looking to break into literary translation.

A sound starting point in this discussion is the question of considering what to read as a translator. It should go without saying that a literary translator must necessarily be a well-read person in order to be able to make the best possible choices in terms of context, likely more so than anybody else. Having established this as a point of consensus, we discussed, both officially in workshops and amongst ourselves, what exactly a translator should be reading today. In my opinion, the library of a(n) (aspiring) literary translator should include contemporary literature, non-contemporary literature (both classics and obscure-but-lovely older works), and, of course, translations, preferably in as many languages as possible. For instance, examples of each subsection in my current library include Lauren Groff’s Florida and Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart (which are English-language works but useful examples of the spirit of today’s literary scene), Romain Gary’s The Kites and Mikhail Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don, and Anna Akhmatova’s various poetry collections in translation by Yevgeny Bonver, Richard McKane, and Alexander Cigale, to name only a few. I asked Ian Gwin, an emerging translator of Finnish, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian who also participated in the Summer School, for suggestions. He recommends Keith Gessen’s A Terrible Country, noting that Gessen is himself a bilingual and that the theme of the two cultures meeting within the novel may be useful for a translator to consider. Regarding multiple translations, he recommends Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, pinning the more linguistically faithful translation of Eithne Wilkins and Ernest Kaiser against the newer one produced by Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike. He also suggests the high-quality recent translation of Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz by Michael Hoffman, citing it as a long work that shows an attempt to render a specific style in a second language.

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Asymptote Blog wants YOU to write on topical issues!

Asymptote blog seeks new contributions on current cultural events and political issues.

“Look at the rose through world-colored glasses,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote. In this spirit, Asymptote is now seeking (translated) poetry and nonfiction directly responding to global issues and worldwide cultural events for publication on our blog.

Subjects can vary widely: the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, the Paris attacks, the work of recent prize-winning writers, anniversaries of significant cultural events, even the release of the new Star Wars film. From politics to pop culture phenomena, we are looking for new writing on the most up-to-date global events.

Like our journal, we are looking for creative, original, and highly engaging work that is translated into English, or consider how translation plays a role in these events.

The goal of this new blog series is to share responses to the most current matters from all over the world, not just its English-speaking territories, and to encourage writers of all stripes to engage with these issues and events.

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Recent highlights from the blog include:

Alberto Chimals essay on Star Wars (aka La guerra de las galaxias [War of the Galaxies]) in Mexico, translated by George Henson

Allegra Rosebaum’s “Spectacle Shopping,” her analysis of Black Friday through the lens of Guy Debord’s La Société du spectacle

Say Ayotzinapa,” a special feature in which David Huerta’s poem “Ayotzinapa,” written in response to mass kidnappings and killings in a small town in Guerrero, Mexico, was translated into 20 languages

Jennifer Croft’s “When an Author You Translate Gets Death Threats,” a comprehensive essay which detailed the intense online criticism of Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk and Nobel-winner Svetlana Alexievich’s defense of Tokarczuk

Ryan Mihaly’s “Translating Indigenous Mexican Writers: An Interview with Translator David Shook,” posted on Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which discussed the controversial holiday 

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Non-fiction submissions should be no more than 1500 words. Translations into English are preferred over submissions originally in English. Send your submissions, pitches or queries to blog editors Ryan Mihaly and Patty Nash at blog@asymptotejournal.com. Send us your best, most critically engaged and creative writing on the important matters of the dayRolling deadline.

Making Narrative Witness: A Caracas-Sarajevo Collaboration

A revolutionary collaboration spanning countries, languages, and memories

THE SCENE

The scene is an online video meeting. (Does that qualify as a scene?) In it are several Venezuelan writers and photographers gathered in a classroom in Caracas (all men but one, though not everyone is present) and their counterparts in and around Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, gathered mostly in twos and threes at laptops in apartments (all women but two; everyone is present).

A couple of Caracas photographers also tune in from what appear to be their flats. One Bosnian is in the town of Bihać. A Croatian writer from the Sarajevo group joins from Spain.

The Venezuelans in the classroom are having technical difficulties with their audio, and people move close to the room’s single computer to be heard. We make introductions. A few jokes. We lay out our plans. At least one Sarajevan, a redhead perched on a sofa, enjoys a cigarette.

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How Literary Translation Upgraded my MFA

Our new blog editor Katrine explains how literary translation transformed her creative writing MFA & writing practice overall.

First, I did it for the money. I used to work as a freelance journalist, and to support myself on the side I translated tv-shows, computer games, websites, you name it.  It paid well. So when I came to Columbia University to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing, I thought: hey, I’ll just do a double-concentration in fiction and literary translation so I can support myself as a translator of books while trying to make it as a writer. Ha! Ha.

I remember the writing program hosted a mingle with drinks on the first evening of our intro week, and halfway through the event I was already drunk on a) wine, b) nerves, and c) an incredibly long conversation with poet Timothy Donnelly about the great Danish poet Inger Christensen and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. READ MORE…

Hunger and the Artist: Interviewing Windham Campbell Prizewinner Helon Habila

An interview with Nigerian author Helon Habila, winner of a 2015 Windham Campbell Prize in Fiction

The Windham Campbell Prize, launched just two years ago, has quickly become one of the most sought-after literary awards in the world, offering recipients the financial freedom to write with a $150,000 no-strings-attached grant. This year, Nigeria-born Helon Habila, author of the novels Waiting for an Angel (Norton, 2002), Measuring Time (Norton, 2007), and Oil on Water (Norton, 2010), received a Windham Campbell Prize in the Fiction category. Established by Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell, who were artists themselves, the prize recognizes writers writing in English from anywhere in the world.

Nicole Idar: The Windham Campbell Prize was inspired by Donald Windham’s own experiences as a young writer struggling to support himself, and in your own work you’ve written about young writers faced with this very struggle—Diaz, the narrator and aspiring journalist in “The Hotel Malogo,” for example. When you were first starting out as a writer, you worked as an editor for several years in Lagos. How has this struggle to balance art with financial security shaped you as a writer?

Helon Habila: Hunger, both metaphorical and literal, is always good for the artist. It sharpens your focus and drives you on. There’s a beautiful essay by Ben Okri on this subject, published in the British Council’s New Writing anthology a long time ago. It is based on his own experiences as a struggling writer in London. He describes how hunger would literally wake you up at night and drive you to the writing desk. But of course the best work on this subject for me is Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. Yet, when the hunger becomes too much, it becomes a burden, not a helper. You might, for instance, find yourself writing about food for no discernible reason. I wrote my first book mostly hungry, with no computer, and by candle light because our electricity wasn’t working. This was in Lagos. I had to go to work at 7 am, and get home at around 7 pm, rest for a few hours and start writing by candle light till around 3 am. Then rest and go to work at 7 am. It was tough, but it shaped me in so many ways. I am glad that book worked out, it went on to win the Caine Prize and got me my first book deal with Penguin and Norton. It would have been devastating if it didn’t. READ MORE…

Asymptote Blog Wants YOU!

We're on the hunt for new contributors!

It’s that time of year again, dear readers—we at Asymptote blog are on the hunt for the freshest, funniest, most clever and on-the-pulse writing you’ve got, related to literature, translation, and the way words shape our world.

Like our journal, we are committed to publishing creative, original, and knife-sharp pieces in conversation with world literature, translation, and global culture—which means we love to read and publish original pieces and translations by writers, thinkers, and artists like you. So if you have something to say, read on—and get in touch!

Asymptote blog looks for voice, depth, and topicality in its postings. We welcome regular and one-time contributors, and publish essays, dispatches from literary events, interviews, book reviews, in-depth examinations of the world-at-literature and the world-at-large, as well as weekly new translations of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama!

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Highlights from the blog’s recent past include:

Nina Sparling takes an up-close look at food, translation, and literature—how do we read “terroir,” Emile Zola’s Les Halles, and Colette’s kicked fish? 

Florian Duijsens’s “Pop Around the World” column examines House of the Rising Sun,” well, around the world. 

In The Tiff, a new recurring column, leading translators debate some of the field’s most pressing current issues. 

Matthew Spencer’s on-the-edge column The Orbital Library teases out the intersections of the sci-fi genre and translation.

A conversation between two legends of Russian-to-English literary translation is uncovered—picking bones over a Russian restaurant menu, of all things.

Josh Billings discusses the often-fascinating histories behind the wheeling-and-dealing ghosts of world literature—its translators!

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If you’d like to contribute, but don’t quite know where to start, here are a few simple ways you can join the list of blog contributors:

1. We’re looking for reviewers to write about new translated or translation-related books. In your e-mail, talk about a few works you would like to review and why.

2. We’re also looking for translations, published every Tuesday in an ongoing series (predictably dubbed Translation Tuesday). In your e-mail, let us know your translation ideas, as well as your connections with authors or specific works. Permission and rights are necessary prior to publishing.

3. We’re looking for general musings related to translation, poetics, writing, the industry, current events, politics, visual arts, film—whatever fits your fancy! We’re amenable to all sorts of different writing

Variety is our bread-and-butter, so if you have something new you’re itching to say, we might just be the platform for you! Please send us a proposal with some information about you, how you’d like to contribute, and a writing or translation sample at blog@asymptotejournal.com. Rolling deadline.