Doomi Golo is the first book to be translated into English from Wolof, an indigenous language widely spoken in Senegal. In its interesting linguistic journey, the Francophone author Boubacar Boris Diop has also personally translated the novel from Wolof to French.
The protagonist Nguirane Faye’s six notebooks written for his grandson compose the heft of the novel. One of the many iconic passages in the book tackles a central question facing the decolonizing world:
I am perfectly aware, Badou, that turning one’s back on the outside world is tantamount to the kiss of death. It’s bound to be a good thing if a nation lets the winds that are blowing from all corners of the globe expand its chest, but not unless we do what we can to preserve the crucible destined to receive its breath when they are blowing. Life, after all, is not born out of the void.
Every aspect of Diop’s masterpiece, from its content to choice of language to its translation, addresses this struggle to preserve marginalized identities in a globalized context. It is unsurprising that this pioneering novel was a finalist for the Best Translated Book Award 2017, founded by Three Percent.
Interestingly, Diop decided to translate Doomi Golo from Wolof after being “inundated with requests,” according to Vera Wülfing-Leckie, one of the two translators of the English version. Adding intrigue to the situation, Wülfing-Leckie notes in her captivating introduction that some scholars argue that the French version, entitled Les petits de la guenon, “was a new novel that merely bore close similarities to the original.“ As for the English translation, Wülfing-Leckie mainly worked with the French version. However, El Hadji Moustapha Diop, Boubacar Boris Diop’s son and the second person in the translating duo, consulted the Wolof version as well.
Open Letter was founded in 2007 as the University of Rochester’s literary translation press. It aims to bring world literature to English readers as well as provide an opportunity for the university’s translation students to learn about the publishing process. Open Letter releases ten books a year, translated from languages and countries across the globe. The press also runs the Three Percent website, a platform for discussing contemporary literature in translation. The site is regularly updated with articles, reviews, and podcast episodes. Asymptote’s Editor-at-Large for Argentina, Sarah Moses, spoke to publisher Chad Post over Skype about changes in the literary translation industry and some of the Open Letter titles he’s excited about.
Sarah Moses (SM): I’d like to begin by asking you how Open Letter got started.
Chad Post (CP): Open Letter got started back in 2007 when I came to the University of Rochester from Dalkey Archive Press with a couple of other people that had been working at Dalkey as well. The idea was that the University of Rochester wanted to put together a literary translation program for undergraduate and graduate students, and as part of that wanted there to be a practical component that would be publishing a high-quality line of books that would bring attention to the program and to the university, and also be providing a lot of resources for students so they could intern; they could learn how a book gets edited; how it gets published; why it gets published and some other book does not; and how to market and promote translations, as well. So reaching as wide a range of people as possible and being able to understand the business side of things to go along with the theory of translation stuff and the practice of having to do a full-length translation. Because here at the university, in the translation program for master’s students, your thesis is a full book-length translation that should be publishable. The way that it’s most publishable is if they work with us and learn that component of it rather than just being in the classroom and being disconnected from the actual community. So we were brought in to be that kind of bridge and a sort of connection.
The first book came out in September of 2008. We set everything up in the beginning of 2007, but we knew that it would be a year before the actual books came out and everything was in place.
Happy Friday! The time has finally arrived for the Best Translated Book Award longlist… After weeks of blog- and social-media hype, both the fiction and poetry longlists have been announced, and we can’t say we aren’t impressed! The lineup includes, among others, several Asymptote friends, like Faces in the Crowd author and blog contributor, Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli, blog interviewee and Translation Tuesday featurette Danish author Naja Marie Aidt, deceased Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal (featured in another Translation Tuesday dedication), Chinese interviewee and Nobel-deserving Can Xue, and many, many more. It’s definitely worth taking a peek through the list—I’ve no idea how the judges managed to narrow it down (at Three Percent, Chad Post laments the books he thought would make it—but didn’t), nor how they’ll be able to pick a winner from such a strong group. READ MORE…
Prescriptive grammarians may enjoy this, even if it destabilizes their strict sense of right and wrong: Slate has detailed the 250-year-long grammatical quibble over the correct use of “hopefully,” that ever-present eye twitch of incorrect adverbial usage. Also related: the same website explains why certain adjectives just sound right in one way, and not the other. If your eyes aren’t tearing up with that twitch yet, take a look at io9′s ambitious compilation of the most disastrous typos in Western history.
Meanwhile, in the same spirit of chronological grammar-mapping, The Atlantic has compiled a web app history of the New York Times’ stiff slang explanations (example: “Diss, or a perceived act of disrespect”). And the game-side disputes can finally end: Scrabble has added over five thousand new terms to its updated player dictionary, including such witticisms as “sudoku” (shouldn’t that be a proper noun?), “buzzkill,” and “vlog.”