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December, 2016

“Memoirs of a Polar Bear” by Yoko Tawada

In reading Yoko Tawada’s latest novel, it is impossible not to consider the vast ways in which the world a person inhabits differs from the world of his or her ancestors. Many features remain the same, of course, and there is typically an overlap in time and space, but even in the short span of a generation or two, so much changes. Memoirs of a Polar Bear follows three generations of polar bears, and with each generation, not only are there changes in culture, politics, and...

The City and the Writer: In Budapest with Krisztina Tóth

This entry is a part of a special series of The City and the Writer featuring writers who will be appearing as a part of the 2016 New Literature from Europe Festival, happening in New York City, December 7–10. See Krisztina Tóth, and series curator Nathalie Handal, at the festival on December 8 and 9.   If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the...

The City and the Writer: In Paola, Malta with Immanuel Mifsud

This entry is a part of a special series of The City and the Writer featuring writers who will be appearing as a part of the 2016 New Literature from Europe Festival, happening in New York City, December 7–10. See Immanuel Mifsud at the festival, and check back on WWB Daily tomorrow for an interview with Krisztina Tóth, conducted by C&W curator and festival participant Nathalie Handal.    If each city is like a game of chess, the...

Fidel in the Literary Imagination

I was born to Cuban exiles after the Revolution. For me, Fidel was always there, openly when his image paraded across the TV news in our Philadelphia living room, or implicitly when I watched movies like Woody Allen’s “Bananas.” He was the ghost in the room when my parents returned from a trip back to Havana in 1979, their photos of relatives I’d never met and stories of how much had changed on the island infused with a continuous, underlying chant of “this is...

The City and the Writer: In Vienna with Ann Cotten

This entry is a part of a special series of The City and the Writer featuring writers who will be appearing as a part of the 2016 New Literature from Europe Festival, happening in New York City, December 7–10. See Ann Cotten at the festival, and check back on WWB Daily tomorrow and Wednesday for interviews with Immanuel Mifsud and Krisztina Tóth, conducted by C&W curator and festival participant Nathalie Handal.    If...

The City and the Writer: In Sofia with Elena Alexieva

This entry is a part of a special series of The City and the Writer featuring writers who will be appearing as a part of the 2016 New Literature from Europe Festival, happening in New York City, December 7–10. See Elena Alexieva at the festival, and check back on WWB Daily next week for interviews with Immanuel Mifsud, Krisztina Tóth, and Ann Cotten, all conducted by C&W curator and festival participant Nathalie Handal.  If each city is like a game of chess,...

From Nonsense to Nonsense: Translating Graphic Design

Paulina Duda’s translation of Mieczysław Szczuka and Teresa Żarnowerówna’s “Printing: On Layout” appears in the November 2016 feature of Words without Borders: “Interwar Avant-Garde Poetry.” Translating a text whose objective is to show the advantage of using one printing layout over another sounds like translating excerpts from a “Graphic Design 101” textbook. Yet Mieczysław Szczuka and Teresa...

The Translator Relay: Vivek Narayanan

WWB’s Translator Relay features an interview with a different translator each month. This month’s translator will choose the next interviewee, adding a different, sixth question.  For November’s installment, Jeffrey Yang passed the baton to poet, translator, and editor Vivek Narayanan.   What is your connection to the language(s) you translate from and/or the place(s) where the books you translate are written? Sanskrit is undeniably...

The World on Stage: Micro-Plays in Translation

One of the unique qualities of theater translation is that the text the translator translates is not really a “text” at all. It is a written invitation to make theater—to occasion a moment of fleeting complicity between an actor on the stage and a spectator in the audience. In the movement from page to stage, the otherness of the playwright’s words—written in another language, in another time, and another place, imbued with dramatic potential and gesturing...

Number Six

José Ignacio Valenzuela’s distrustful woman debates whether she ought to allow a stranger into her home.       Characters WOMAN MAN NEWSCASTER (voiceover) A living room with a small sofa, a television set switched on, and a door. There’s an old- fashioned phone beside the TV. We hear the sound of rainstorm: thunder and lightning. A woman is sitting on the sofa watching the TV. VOICEOVER OF THE NEWSCASTER  The police have issued no statements...

No Direction

Miguel Alcantud and Santiago Molero present the mysterious call-and-response of a nameless man and the woman who appears to be holding him captive.    Characters HIM HER The room appears to be a bedroom but with a bit of everything thrown in. It looks like a kind of basement area or shed, although it is well set up. There is a bed, a piece of low furniture that could be a dresser or chest of drawers, and a chair. As the audience enters a man can be seen...

Grandmother’s Little Hut

An Unfinished Play In Andrei Platonov’s unfinished play from 1938, two young orphans seek out their promised land.   Characters DUSYA, an orphan TATYANA FILIPPOVNA, DUSYA’s aunt ARCHAPOV ARKADY, the aunt’s husband MITYA, an orphan MITYA’s UNCLE A YOUNG WOMAN, the uncle’s girlfriend   ACT 1 Scene 1 (A room in the small old house of a tradesman. A dresser. Above it are photographs of the owners’ relatives; on it stand aging souvenirs and...

Visitors from on High

A Tragicomedy in Science Fiction Roberto Athayde’s extraterrestrials invite terrestrial concerns around man’s place in the world and in the universe at large.   Characters DR. ANTARIS   A Brazilian astronomer, an aficionado of UFOs. LOUIS               His assistant, an attractive young man. PERO                A...

Love Thy Savior

Part Three Jerzy Lutowski takes us to Inquisition-era Spain, where intolerance demands a bold choice of a young Jewish woman.   House lights down. The measured peal of a bell. The doleful tune of a penitential psalm is heard. From the wings on the right three monks emerge, their cowls lowered over their faces. The middle one is carrying a black gonfalon, the other two carry lighted candles. They stop in mid-stage and turn to face the audience. On the gonfalon the words THE...

Translating for Theater

Paul Russell Garrett reflects on breaking into theater translation, mistrust between theater makers and theater translators, and “collective dramaturgy.”   Recently I found myself in a quandary when asked to identify myself as either a translator or a theater maker. Under normal circumstances, I would consider myself a translator, but surrounded as I was by actors, directors, and producers, about to participate in an “actory” workshop involving movement...

The Strangeness of the Theater Translator

William Gregory argues for a greater role for theater translators in theater-making and looks at theater translation’s curious position straddling the fields of drama, creative writing, and modern languages.   I began translating plays in 2002. I was a jobbing actor, euphemistically “resting,” and looking for a way to stay creative and to make use of my languages degree. So I went to the London Instituto Cervantes (the Spanish cultural center), found...

November, 2016

New in Thai: Uten Mahamid’s Poems and Novels from Uthis Haemamool and Prabda Yoon

Mui Poopoksakul, who guest-edited the November 2016 issue—Modernization and Its Discontents: Contemporary Thai Writing—recommends new and forthcoming Thai works. I started following Uten Mahamid’s work after coming across a poem of his that contains no vowels. This kind of lipogram is possible in Thai (although his is the first and only example I have seen) because there is one consonant that doubles as a vowel. Still, the poem is visually striking because without...

“The Midwife” by Katja Kettu

The Midwife by Katja Kettu, published by Amazon Crossing and translated deftly from the Finnish by David Hackston, is Kettu’s English debut. The novel received widespread acclaim in Finland and was turned into a feature film of the same name in 2015. Born in 1978, Kettu is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and columnist, and she has published several novels and a collection of short stories. Hackston is a graduate of University College London and a frequent translator...

Bedřich Václavek’s “New Art” in Uncertain Times

Meghan Forbes’s translation of Bedřich Václavek’s “New Art” appears in the November 2016 feature of Words without Borders: “Interwar Avant-Garde Poetry.” In deeply troubling times, people have turned to art, music, poetry, and prose to signal their dissent and to seek solace. We are, to be sure, seeking solace now. Just days after the election results, Poetry.org reported that more poems had been shared than in any other...

The City and the Writer: In Phnom Penh with Madeleine Thien

If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains. —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities Can you describe the mood of Phnom Penh as you feel/see it? Phnom Penh is a pensive, joyful, teetering, melancholic city, a truly open place. Movement (the city, rivers, people, politics, colors, change, sound) is constant in Phnom Penh, which gives rise to mesmerizing...

On Translating Dragan Aleksić’s Dadaist Visual Poem, “ButtsLoaDs”

Aleksandar Bošković and Jennifer Zoble’s translation of Dragan Aleksić’s “ButtsLoaDs” appears in the November 2016 feature of Words without Borders: Interwar Avant-Garde Poetry. Ian McLellan Davis designed the visual layout of their translation.   “The periodical [Dada] Tank, published in 1922,” writes Hans Richter in his Dada: Art and Anti-Art, “had a powerful effect despite the shortness of its life. This...

My Father’s Shoes

Translated from the Portuguese by Eric M. B. Becker This crônica by Victor Heringer is the second installment in a monthly series resulting from a partnership between WWB and Brazil’s Revista Pessoa. Each month, WWB will bring readers new work that originally appeared in Pessoa here in English translation, and Pessoa will publish work from WWB's pages in translation into Brazilian Portuguese. 1. I was trying to give a few...

Women in Translation’s Interview with WWB Book Review Editor M. Bartley Seigel

Margaret Carson, who runs the vital Women in Translation Tumblr with Alta L. Price, interviewed WWB’s book review editor M. Bartley Seigel about reviewing practices. We’re very pleased to share the interview, originally published on WiT.   Interviewing the Editors #1: M. Bartley Seigel, Book Review Editor @ Words Without Borders It’s hard to think of a better place to get some answers to our questions about the noticeable gender gap in reviews of books in...

“Frantumaglia” by Elena Ferrante

Originally published by Edizioni E/O in Italian in 2003 and then progressively augmented with new material in subsequent editions, Elena Ferrante’s Frantumaglia features short notes and meditations by Ferrante, carefully selected correspondence between Ferrante and her publishers, as well as a variety of interviews with both Italian journalists and members of the international press. As Sandra Ozzola––one of the publishers of the edition––informs readers, this...

First Read—From “The Tongue of Adam” by Abdelfattah Kilito

How, from Babel onward, can we explain the plurality of language? In The Tongue of Adam, translated from the French by Robyn Creswell and forthcoming from New Directions, Moroccan writer Abdelfattah Kilito explores this and other enigmatic questions related to translation, comparative religion, and lexicography.   Babels The question of an original language arises when multiple languages are found in a state of compe­tition or rivalry. Every inquiry into the tongue of Adam hopes...

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