Posts filed under 'editing'

The Good Bad Translator: Celina Wieniewska And Her Bruno Schulz

"Wieniewska was correct in her intuition about ‘how much Schulz' the reader was prepared to handle."

Bruno Schulz (1892-1942) is one of the relatively few Polish authors of fiction who enjoy international recognition. Originally published in the 1930s, since the early 1960s the Polish-Jewish writer and visual artist’s oneiric short stories have been translated and retranslated into almost forty languages, despite their seemingly untranslatable style: an exquisitely rich poetic prose, comprised of meandering syntax and multi-tiered metaphors. In English-speaking countries, Schulz’s name was made in the late 1970s, when his Street of Crocodiles, first published in English in 1963 in both the UK and the US (the British edition was titled Cinnamon Shops, following closely the original Polish Sklepy cynamonowe), was reissued in Philip Roth’s influential Penguin series Writers from the Other Europe (1977), alongside Milan Kundera and other authors from behind the Iron Curtain whom the West had yet to discover. Schulz’s second story collection, Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass (Polish: Sanatorium pod Klepsydrą), followed shortly (1978), and ever since then both volumes have been regularly republished and reprinted, as well as in series such as Picador Classics (1988), Penguin 20th Century Classics (1992), and Penguin Classics (2008).

This summer, the Northwestern University Press announced that “an authoritative new translation of the complete fiction of Bruno Schulz” by Madeline Levine, Professor Emerita of Slavic Literatures at the University of North Carolina, is forthcoming in March 2018. Commissioned by the Polish Book Institute and publicized already since 2012, this retranslation has been impatiently awaited, especially by Schulz scholars dissatisfied with the old translation by Celina Wieniewska. Indeed, it’s great that Levine’s version is finally going to see the light of day—it is certainly going to yet strengthen Schulz’s already strong position. Unfortunately, the preferred (and easiest) way of promoting retranslations is to criticize and ridicule previous translations and, more often than not, translators. Even though the retranslator herself has spoken of her predecessor with much respect, showing understanding of Wieniewska’s goals, strategies, and the historical context in which she was working, I doubt that journalists, critics, and bloggers are going to show as much consideration.

In an attempt to counter this trend, I would like to present an overview of the life and work of Celina Wieniewska, since I believe that rather than being representative of a certain kind of invisibility as a translator (her name brought up only in connection with her ‘faults’), she deserves attention as the co-author of Schulz’s international success. Much like Edwin and Willa Muir, whose translations of Kafka have been criticised as dated and error-ridden, but proved successful in their day, Wieniewska’s version was instrumental in introducing Schulz’s writing to English-speaking readers around the world. Before Levine’s retranslation takes over, let’s take a moment to celebrate her predecessor, who was a truly extraordinary figure and has been undeservedly forgotten.

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Penny Hueston on her Latest Translation: Men by Marie Darrieussecq

Translating is an act of empathy, of finding something like the appropriate “melody”, but keeping what is idiosyncratic to the writer.

Penny Hueston, translator and editor at Text Publishing—a Melbourne-based independent publishing house—shared with me the process of translating the inimitable French author Marie Darrieussecq, how her editing and translation processes relate, and her next translations we have to look forward to.

Madeline Jones (MJ): How did you first begin translating?

Penny Hueston (PH): After spending about four years in Paris doing post-graduate studies, I returned to Melbourne and was asked to translate various articles—by the literary critic Gérard Genette, for example—for the French issue of a literary magazine, Scripsi. I also translated, with the poet John A. Scott, poems by Emmanuel Hocquard and by Claude Royet-Journoud. Poetry must be the hardest writing to translate.

MJ: Would you say translating followed naturally from your editing career, or how do the two processes relate to one another for you, if at all?

PH: I suppose you could say that translating is a form of editing. In a sense, both my fields of work are about being more or less invisible; at least that is how I conceive of my work as an editor. Julian Barnes seems to nail a similarity between the two processes: “Translation involves micro-pedantry as much as the full yet controlled use of the linguistic imagination. The plainest sentence is full of hazard; often the choices available seem to be between different percentages of loss.” Damon Searles’ take is that translators “gerrymander unscrupulously”, which could also apply to editors! Javier Marias could be talking about editors when he says of translators: “You have to choose every word. And like an actor, you have to renounce your own style.”

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Weekly News Roundup, 6 May 2016: The Best. Translated. Book.

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Happy Friday, Asymptote! The biggest news this week is that of the official announcement of Three Percent‘s Best Translated Book Award winners, so we won’t keep you waiting: in the fiction category, Mexican novelist Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World, translated by Lisa Dillman, took home top honors (you can read a review the blog published preceding the award here—we totally called it). And in the poetry category, Rilke Shake by Brazilian author Angélica Freitas and translated by Hilary Kaplan snagged top honors. Big congratulations to the winning writers, translators, publishers, editors, and readers! READ MORE…

In Conversation: Alex Cigale, Guest Editor of the Atlanta Review’s Russian Poetry Issue

An interview with Alex Cigale on editing the Atlanta Review's Russian Poetry Issue

 

I interviewed Alex Cigale, guest editor for the Russia issue of the Atlanta Review, to pick his brain about the editing process, the special issue, and the state of Russian poetry at-large.

Alex Cigale (former Central Asia editor-at-large for Asymptote!) has collaborated with the editors of the anthologyCrossing Centuries: the New Generation in Russian Poetry (2000), and more recently, the online Twenty First Century Russian Poetry (Big Bridge 16, 2014). Independently, he has presented a score of contemporary Russian poets to Anglophone readers. This year, Cigale was the recipient of an NEA in Literary Translation for his work with poet of the St. Petersburg philological school, Mikhail Eremin.

The Atlanta Review is known for its long-established and respected annual contest, offering publication in each of its fall issues, with a $1,000 top prize and 20 publication awards for finalists (including 30 merit awards for semi-finalists). In its 20-year history, it has published a long list of established poets, including Seamus Heaney, Rachel Hadas, Maxine Kumin, Stephen Dunn, Charles Wright, Billy Collins, Derek Walcott, Paul Muldoon, and so on.

PN: What did the Atlanta Review ask from you for its Russia Issue? How did you approach the editorship and solicit contributions?

AC: My directions were quite open: curate an 80-page section of contemporary Russian poetry. In every Spring issue, the Atlanta Review includes an international feature. In recent years, it had shone a spotlight on international hotspots (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, etc.) as well as on Anglophone or partly-Anglophone nations in the news (India, Ireland, and Scotland, the latter forthcoming in 2016).

While each is planned two years in advance, the editorial phase itself is quite brief: in my case, I only had this past late fall/early winter to work on the curation, so its contents were largely determined by what unpublished work in translation was available at the moment. As I noted in my introduction, above all else, the issue is a “slice of life”—what (primarily American) translators of Russian poetry are working on right now. The world of Russian poetry translation is a fairly small community, so I was able to put out early word of the issue on social media and correspond with nearly each translator personally to discuss their projects. READ MORE…

The Tiff: Is the Translator Responsible for Political Problem Texts?

Yardenne Greenspan and Marcia Lynx Qualey on the choices we translators can make

M. Lynx Qualey: The most important decision a translator must make is: Will I translate this text?

Being an essentially freelance profession, translation has a mountain of drawbacks, but it does make a bit more allowance for choice. The injunction to “translate only what you love” works—as long as you have a stable income outside of translating. I prefer Samah Selim’s version: “Never translate a book you don’t like unless you have to.” Or my own: “Never translate a text you think you’ll regret (unless creditors are outside the window).”

Yet what makes for a “politically problematic” text may have less to do with the text itself and more to do with context. Propagandists thrive on selective translation. The MEMRI “media monitoring organization,” described by Guardian reporter Brian Whitaker, is perhaps the largest ongoing Arabic-English translation project. Some of the individual news and cultural texts that MEMRI translates might be innocuous, but the project as a whole furthers a political agenda.

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The Men in My Life

A dispatch from our "Writers on Writers" editor Luisa Zielinski

One sad summer—possibly in 2010—I came across Vivian Gornick’s The Men in my Life. The book’s premise is simple. Gornick’s essays, written with characteristic clarity and poise, profile writers such as such as H.G. Wells, Loren Eiseley, and James Baldwin. From works and lives so very diverse, Gornick discerns one common thread: loathing, especially of the self, was often a potent inspiration. Loneliness, too.

The book’s title is less playful—and more literal—than one might think. Gornick’s men here are not just any men, nor just any literary men. They are, indeed, the men in her life. Each of her essays resounds as a conversation between two minds; the kind of conversation that doesn’t so much blur the distinction between life and letters as it nullifies the need for it. The book, for me, sparked a lasting fascination with essays by writers on writers—the very best of which open up the conversation to a third party, a sort of kindly voyeur: the reader.

And then a friend introduced me to Asymptote, an online journal with a whole section devoted to precisely that format. What better way to introduce writers little known in the Anglophone world than through the unique voice of another? However intimate the relationship between a writer and their mentor, colleague, rival, or translator, and however close or far apart they may be in age or geography—publishing these essays in English exposes these networks of admiration and craft, revealing tantalizing lines of further inquiry and further reading.  READ MORE…

A Winter’s Night in Sydney: Poetry Plurilingual

Reporting from the front lines of poetry, translation, and performance

I walked through Sydney’s back streets and upstairs to the crowded room where “Poetry Plurilingual” was about to begin. We sat on mismatched armchairs and wooden benches and squeezed up against each other. The night started with a series of readings of poems in foreign languages, followed by English-language translations. The focus of these readings was on the “original,” foreign, text. But the night took a sharp turn when two readers—Jack Breukelaar and Toby Fitch—boldly shifted the audience’s attention to the process and text of translation.

Jack introduced the audience to the work of Japanese writer and manga artist Kiriko Nananan, showing us a “1994 cool female authors” edition of Garo, an avant-garde manga periodical that began in the sixties, that he bought for a dollar at a discount bookshop. The book was visually striking—Jack didn’t know the work’s significance when he bought it—“but was drawn to [the] cover image by Nananan, reminiscent of Schiele or Baudelaire.” More of Nananan’s work has been translated into French than into English, and Jack had not found any previous English translation of his chosen poem:   READ MORE…

Publisher Profile: Ox and Pigeon

"I can’t imagine [digital publishing] is going to be anything but good for translated literature."

Ox and Pigeon Electronic Books embraces the digital age with a dynamic publishing model that enables them to deliver the literature they love to readers anywhere in the world. Since 2012, they have specialized in translations through their literary journal, The Portable Museum. Earlier this year, Ox and Pigeon began releasing their first novels in English translation. I spoke with co-founder Lucas Lyndes from his home in Lima, Peru, via Skype.

Frances Riddle: How was Ox and Pigeon born?

Lucas Lyndes: I moved to Peru in 2005 to learn Spanish with the idea of becoming a translator. I got married here in 2010 and my friends from Boston, Jason Curran and Katie Sedat, came down for the wedding. We got to talking about books because we’re all big readers. I was dabbling in translation and I was surprised at what was being translated; there were a lot of writers who weren’t getting any attention. So we decided to try and do something about it. The idea was born in 2010 and the first issue of The Portable Museum came out in 2012.  READ MORE…