Despite the infrequent updates over the last few months, the world of translation has been hopping over the past month. So here are some random bits and bobs from the month of May.
PEN Translation Festival
I was lucky enough to get tickets to two events for the Pen World Voices Literary Festival: The Re-Interviews of Martin Amis & Michael Stipe and Translating On the Edge, a panel sponsored by the PEN Translation Committee. Amis & Stipe were charming, fascinating, charismatic and everything you’d expect two celebrities to be. And the premise behind the their re-interviews, hosted by (who else?) Interview Magazine, was truly brilliant. Three people were on the stage at a time: the interviewer, an actor playing the interviewee and the man, himself. The actors read Amis’ & Stipe’s answers from past interviews (some dating, in Amis’ case, as far back as the 1970’s). Giving the interviewer a chance to address his/her questions to both Amis’ & Stipe’s younger and present selves. Amis & Stipe were then able to correct or confirm the record.
Amis was, as is to be expected, incredibly charming & erudite. Stipe was a bit less articulate – but wonderfully animated and remarkably candid. I attended with a friend and we both enjoyed ourselves immensely. We spent the next morning recounting the entire event – virtually word for word – to her husband’s amusement over breakfast. I can only hope it will become a regular feature of the Festival.
Thanks to an email from the translator, Margaret Carson, I bought a last minute ticket to the Translating On the Edge Panel (sponsored by the PEN Translation Committee) moderated by Heather Cleary. On the panel were three translators: Sara Khalili (Censoring of an Iranian Love Story by Shariar Mandanipour), Robyn Creswell (That Smell by Sonallah Ibrahim) and Bonnie Huie (Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin). Cleary did a wonderful job – keeping just the right balance between readings and actual discussion.
Huie’s reading from Notes of a Crocodile, the only book of the three that I wasn’t familiar with, stood out. Notes of a Crocodile is scheduled to be published by New York Review of Books Classics. They also published the English translation of Miaojin’s Last Words from Montmarte. For those of you, like me, who never heard of this incredible author: Qui Miaojin was a Taiwanese author who committed suicide in 1995 at the tragic age of 26. She won the China Times Literature Award for Notes of a Crocodile. The novel is considered a cult classic – in part due to the GLBT subject matter (Miaojin was openly lesbian). I wasn’t able to find a release date online, but here’s an excerpt posted on the Asian American Writers’ Workshop website. And definitely check out the video. The entire panel was excellent – but if you’re limited for time take a moment to fast-forward to Bonnie Huie’s reading.
Women In Translation Month
If you haven’t heard – Biblibio is declaring August WOMEN IN TRANSLATION MONTH. There’s a badge for readers & bloggers who take part, a hashtag #WomenInTranslation or #WITMonth on Twitter, and a schedule of activities forthcoming. This all began in December when Biblibio crunched the numbers and realized that less than 30% of the books translated in 2013 were by women authors. She’s continued to explore the topic – looking at specific publishers, polling readers and bloggers, and putting up this incredible May 25th post featuring an embarrassing riches of charts and graphs. Whether or not you want to acknowledge the bias (I’ve had a hard time with it if only because it seems so ridiculous/unbelievable… and then I took the time to examine my own *blush* reading history) Biblibio makes a solid case. Her sampling is manageable because the number of books in translation published each year is relatively small, and thanks to the database put out by Three Percent she has all the data she needs. The numbers don’t lie. So support the cause, people – read a female author in translation! If you love to read, if you love reading translations, it’s an important one to bet behind.
Some Award News
I’m not sure why, but I’ve been suffering from a case of literary award fatigue. But in case you haven’t:
Best Translate Book Award went to 2x winner László Krasznahorkai with his novel Seiobo Down Below, translated by Ottilie Mulzet
Independent Foreign Fiction Prize went to Hassin Blasim for his novel The Iraqi Christ, translated by Jonathan Wright – the first Arabic novel to win the Prize
AND – the lesser known French-American Foundation’s Translation Prize went to Electrico W by Herve Le Tellier, translated by Adriana Hunter – beating out a shortlist that included both The Conductor and Other Tales by Jean Ferry (translated by Edward Gauvin), All My Friends by Marie NDiaye (translated by Gordan Stump).
And here’s what I’m currently reading (as I type this, I’m embarrassed to realize that there are no women on the list):
- Château D’Argol by Julien Gracq, translated by Louies Varèse
- The Corpse Exhibition & Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blasim, translated by Jonathan Wright
- Ten Years In the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books by Nick Hornby