All Articles by Date

October, 2014

Help Yourself: An Interview with Alona Kimhi

I met with Alona Kimhi at a Czech café in New York’s West Village on a furiously rainy day this past spring. She was still shaking the rain off her trenchcoat as we sat down to talk about her latest book, Lily La Tigresse, translated by Dalya Bilu, which follows Lily, the book’s dental hygienist heroine, as she navigates the perilous waters of her various relationships—with her close female friends, with the men in her life, and ultimately, with a tiger cub she’s forced…...

The Week in Translation

GO what: The Bridge Series: Gregory Rabassa, Samantha Schnee, and Carmen Boullosa on translation and Latin American literature when: Wednesday, October 29, 8pm where: McNally Jackson, 52 Prince Street, NYC 10012 more info: http://ow.ly/CGaLH what: Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference when: June 1-7, 2015 where: Bread Loaf Campus of Middlebury College, Ripton, VT more info: http://ow.ly/ArhUv

Translator Relay: Karen Emmerich

Our "Translator Relay" series features a new interview each month. This month's translator will choose the next interviewee, adding a different, sixth question. For October's installment, Bill Johnston passed the baton to Karen Emmerich, a prolific translator of Modern Greek poetry and prose. Her recent and forthcoming translations include Something Will Happen, You’ll See by Christos Ikonomou, The Scapegoat by Sophia Nikolaidou, and Why I Killed My Best Friend by Amanda Michalopoulou.…...

Antal Szerb’s “Journey by Moonlight”

In the epigraph to his best-known poem, The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot cites Petronius’s picaresque novel, The Satyricon. More specifically, he reproduces the Roman satirist’s story of the Cumaean Sibyl: “Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σίβυλλα τί θέλεις: respondebat illa: άποθανειν…...

Venedikt Erofeev’s “Walpurgis Night”

To those five-sixths parts of the world not encircled by Russian borders—borders that, for centuries, have flittered carelessly across map-faces like so many loose ribbons in the wind—at least a Russian identity of letters feels stable and secure: there is Pushkin, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy; beside them proudly prance characters crafted in their image, Onegin, Bazarov, Prince Myshkin, and Levin. So, while the peoples of Ukraine and Eastern Crimea continue daily to suffer from…...

Syria Speaks: An Interview with Zaher Omareen and Malu Halasa

Malu Halasa and Zaher Omareen are two of the editors of Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline.  This new anthology showcases Syrian essays, fiction, poetry, visual art and photography, in a wide-ranging collection of artistic work that explores, critiques, and bears witness to the momentous changes experienced by the Syrian people since 2011.             Malu Halasa is a writer and curator with a focus on the Middle East. She co-curated three exhibitions…...

Translating Heart First: Translation Workshop with Maureen Freely

Among an already special series of Fall Semester events marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Iowa translation MFA, a working workshop session for us current MFA students guest-led by Maureen Freely was a highlight among highlights. A novelist, journalist, translator, activist, professor, and the newest president of English PEN, Freely visited the University of Iowa in late September for a four day residency as an Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor. Established in 1978, these short-term…...

The Week in Translation

GO what: WWB: New Writing from Guatemala with Eduardo Halfon, Rodrigo Fuentes, and Idra Novey. when: Tuesday, October 14, 7pm where: Community Bookstore, 143, 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. what: The Bridge Series: Gregory Rabassa, Samantha Schnee, and Carmen Boullosa on translation and Latin American literature when: Wednesday, October 29, 8pm where: McNally Jackson, 52 Prince Street, NYC 10012 more info: http://ow.ly/CGaLH what: Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference when: June 1-7, 2015 where:…...

The City and the Writer: In Atlanta with Erica Wright

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 Atlanta as you feel/see it? In a Paris Review interview, Donald Barthelme said, “I think writers like old cities and are made very nervous by new cities.” This is from a 1981 issue, but I happened to read it recently. Atlanta is about…...

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature: It’s Patrick Modiano

The 2014 Nobel Prize in literature goes to France's Patrick Modiano. In its announcement, the Swedish Academy praised Modiano “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation." Modiano is well known in France, but less so elsewhere; his UK profile is so low that the Guardian originally reported that he was not available in English translation. That article's been corrected; perhaps now…...

The Week in Translation

GO what: WWB: New Writing from Guatemala with Eduardo Halfon, Rodrigo Fuentes, and Idra Novey. when: October 14, 7pm where: Community Bookstore, 143, 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. what: Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference when: June 1-7, 2015 where: Bread Loaf Campus of Middlebury College, Ripton, VT more info: http://ow.ly/ArhUv SUBMIT what: Call for papers for a special translation section of the International Journal of Communications, “Babel and Globalization: Translating in…...

New in Bulgarian: “Sunflowers for Maria” by Kerana Angelova

Kerana Angelova is a Bulgarian writer whose works would appeal to readers anywhere in the world because she deals with universal themes of the human soul: love, pain, time, god, violence, and happiness. What makes her special is the beauty of her words, the subtle transitions between fantasy and reality in her world, and her ability to draw readers in with her relatable characters. Unfortunately, few of her poems exist in English now, and none of her prose is accessible to the English-speaking reader.…...

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature: Latest Odds (and Ends)

The Nobels kick off next week. Traditionally, the Swedish Academy reveals the date (always a Thursday) for the literature award only hours in advance, but since the Nobel week once again coincides with the Frankfurt Book Fair, the 9th seems likely. Other sources have been more assiduous in tracking the speculation; I recommend the doughty Michael Orthofer at The Literary Saloon at the Complete Review for a, well, complete review. The cheerily named NicerOdds (owned by one Håkan…...

The City and the Writer: In Oklahoma City with Nathan Brown

                                    Special Series / Oklahoma 2014 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 Oklahoma City as you feel/see it? Oklahoma City is an “easy” place to be and move…...

Some Other Zoo

It was as though she knew exactly where she had to go, as though it was an agreed appointment. She raised her arm to take my hand, pulled gently—she did almost everything gently—and I followed her. She led me to her mother’s car (her mother was not around), and I helped her up into the child seat. “So, off to the zoo.” “Yes,” she said. “Eagle! Lion!” The zoo seemed to be empty. Alone, in the middle of the main path, a roadsweeper was pushing a…...

Amir

This one’s family, Amir would say with a hand on my shoulder, his fingers large and heavy but kind. The other person would look at me, then look at him, then smile slightly before putting out his hand and saying it was a real pleasure to meet any relative of Amir’s. Later, when they knew each other better, Amir would explain to the person that he was actually my stepfather, that’s why we didn’t look alike. But that’s how Amir was, not overly careful when it came to speaking—not…...

Paranoid City

“Did you hear that noise?” the woman whispered, leaning on one elbow in bed, and opening her eyes wide. “What noise?” her husband asked sleepily. “It sounds like it’s coming from the yard. There’s someone on the roof, or in the kitchen,” she said fearfully. “Get up. Go check on the kids, while I get my pistol,” he ordered in a hushed voice and woke up entirely. While the woman quickly tiptoed to the children’s room the man got the…...

“The Mastermind”: An Act of Translation

The Rodrigo Rosenberg case broke into public view over five years ago with an eighteen-minute video recording that was distributed to the Guatemalan press at Rosenberg's funeral two days after his April 10, 2009, death. The video--in which Rosenberg predicted his own murder—was uploaded immediately to YouTube where it went viral, receiving hundreds of thousands of hits from all over the globe in a matter of hours. The recording revealed a nervous Rosenberg lambasting a corrupt and immoral…...

from “With Absolute Passion”

Days drift away slowly and quietly deep inside Guatemala. No inner musings. No pondering or ideas. Just a numbing silence, which reminds me of Buddhists and their thoughts about beginners’ minds that are forever capable of wonder. There’s something here that eludes my grasp . . . But in the snapshot instant when the plunging frigidity of Lake Atitlán pitches me into the arms of another reality, I suddenly understand. Perhaps the Mayas really do suspend this land from a tenuous…...

The Ape

I used to think it an exaggeration that Latin American dictators were always depicted as apes in cartoons. Until one day . . . On the railway track, hundreds of soldiers appeared in their camouflage gear, several armored cars blocked the crossroads, and up in the sky hovered two of those birds. It was Sunday. A football match was being played out in the field, there were drunks in the cantinas, and a sweet marimba was playing at a party. All of a sudden, everything felt like a Monday. Those who could…...

Raspberries

Papá gave me this notebook. It’s so you can draw life, he told me from bed, and write, when you learn how to write, he said, his eyes sunken deep, as I played on the rug. He gave me the notebook because I told him about the bird that crossed the street at the crosswalk and about the red spider with little antennas. Spiders don’t have antennas, he said, smiling, and I said this one did, it was probably a different insect, he said, and I replied that it was not, that it was a spider,…...

Young Aurora and the Captive Child

Every time I go back to Guatemala City I make a stop at Avenida Bolívar, the capital's main thoroughfare, with all the reverence of a mourner at a cemetery. The ravenous traffic, and the blue, green, and red houses, whose doors swing open and shut as the busy, hot-blooded people come and go, are all nothing but shadows; other figures, more substantial, more alive, emerge within me. I feel the urge to cry out, but go along quietly, and if on occasion I have wept then it's been…...

The Liberated Voice: Three Writers from Syria

Clearly the most important duty for the outsider looking to read new Syrian literature at the moment is not to expect a consistent voice or search for a monolithic take on the current period of Syrian history—or on anything else, for that matter. As a translator of Arabic literature and a sometime resident of Damascus with many Syrian friends, perhaps the most depressing question one gets asked is “What do Syrians / Syrian women / Arabs / young Arabs / ordinary Arabs think about X?”…...

David Albahari’s “Globetrotter”

“I have always wrestled with what is missing, and my paintings depict absence rather than scenes of presence,” says Globetrotter’s nameless narrator early in the novel. This is both a statement of the book’s primary thematic concern and something of a warning: David Albahari’s Globetrotter is the sort of book where the reader constantly worries that she is missing something very important. This makes concretely describing the book’s contents a bit of a challenge.…...

A Bedtime Story for Eid

Translator’s note: Zaher Omareen’s tale takes us on a journey back to 1980s Hama, zooming in on some of the individual victims of the massacres and disappearances committed by the regime there, as told by a mother to her son. Between 10,000 and 40,000 people perished at the hands of Hafez al-Assad’s forces in a 27-day massacre in 1982: such was the climate of fear that it has only ever been referred to—if at all—as The Events. As this story is told in the imagined voice…...

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