In case you missed it this week, you know, while you were melting into a sticky puddle on a NYC sidewalk somewhere, lots of things were going on in the wide wide world of literature in translation. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that there’s no better way to stay cool in the summer than a hyper-air conditioned bookstore or library reading a book translated from a very cold climate, preferably Iceland, Russia, or a British summer.
Our good friend, Elisabeth Watson over at Publishing Trendsetter clued us in to this gem about how to piss off a translator. The basics include: misnaming the language they translate, and asking for a detailed justification for any and all deviations from a “word for word” translation.
Publishing Perspectives reports that some writers find that translators are more powerful advocates for their books abroad than their agents. English language readers are closed to translation not only because we are used to exporting our own culture abroad, but because there is a large community of immigrants (as well as British commonwealth countries) to provide exotic literature in English. Writers also complain that the key to being translated into many smaller languages is to first be translated into one of the “Big” ones, English, French, or German.
From the Wall Street Journal, one translator’s attempts to bridge the gap between French culture and American readers, including changing a reference to Segolene Royal to Barack Obama. And speaking of the French, they seem to have the art of independent bookstores figured out. If only our government could take a hint.
If you missed it, we gave a shout-out to Olympic reader Ann Morgan, who is taking a year to read the world. This week she heads to Cuba where she encounters Lydia Cabrera’s Afro-Cuban Tales (University of Nebraska Press) which she describes: I’ve never come across stories more extraordinary than these. Operating in a universe of turtle-men, tiger-men and elephant-men, where stags ride horses, fishermen negotiate with their prey and earthworms compete for the hands of beautiful heroines, these tales pull apart the threads of reality’s backdrop and invite the reader to step through to the weird, cruel and magical cosmos beyond. Read more here.
Robert Gray of ShelfAwareness is Reading Russia, including the fabulous Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz (Open Letter, 2012), you can catch up on our thoughts of the Read Russia event on this book in particular. And speaking of Russia, Yale University Press will digitize Stalin’s personal archive.
A publisher in Argentina has discovered a way to force their book to the top of buyers “to be read” lists, meet the book that can’t wait. (Spanish readers only for now, but a great promo in English, so who knows what the future holds.)
Though the book is written in English, I can’t help but be drawn to the complex political reception in India of Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis (Penguin), and in particular the country’s continued struggle with poverty, drugs, and prostitution. He says he was mostly inspired by the Russians, Dostoevsky in particular. The book seems to be much better received in America than at home.
As always, lots of goodies from Three Percent, a review of The Zafarani Files by Gamal al-Ghitani translated from the Arabic by the American University of Cairo Press. Also from Arabic, an independent literary magazine, Banipal. And an interview with Chad Post himself from PMc Magazine on the importance of international literature. And from the New York Times, a review of All Men Are Liars by Argentine author Alberto Manguel and My Struggle by Karle Ove Knausgaard, who as the Times puts it “says a lot for a Norwegian.” Maybe we should ask fellow Norwegian, Jo Nesbo, reviewed in the same issue. Varamo by Cesar Aira (New Directions) and The Duel by Heinrich von Kleist (Melville) both make Flavorwire’s Summer Shorts: 10 Novellas Perfect for Literary Lounging.
Traveling through literature: Azareen Van der Vliet and Leonardo Francalanci (what fabulous names!) from Words Without Borders travel through Catalonia following Merce Rodoreda’s novel The Time of the Doves. And demonstrating the influence of foreign literature on American writers, an homage to Roberto Bolano by Frederic Tuten in the Paris Review.
Last week, the Paris Review listed many translated books as a good way to impress a girl. This week, Flavorwire listed 15 books that make you undateable. The list was unmistakably America-centric. Except for Crime and Punishment. Oh well. No genre’s perfect.
So let’s all keep impressing our dates by reading literature in translation.
Until next week,