All Articles by Date

July, 2015

Translator Relay: Allison Markin Powell

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 July's installment, Tess Lewis passed the baton to Allison Markin Powell, a literary translator, editor, and publishing consultant in New York City. She has worked in the editorial departments of American and Japanese book and magazine publishing, and has translated works by Osamu Dazai, Hiromi Kawakami, and Fuminori...

New Youth and Old Nightmares

2015 has been a good year so far when it comes to contemporary Chinese literature in translation, thanks to the publication of English-language editions of novels by two of China’s most important contemporary writers: Yan Lianke and Yu Hua. Yan’s The Four Books, very ably translated by Carlos Rojas, is an ambitiously complex work. Structured around the presentation of fragments from a quartet of texts, it presents a fancifully told but historically grounded, often harrowing account...

Introduction: Emerging German Writers

For a long time, a large photo hung above the stage at Berlin’s Literary Colloquium, shot by Renate von Mangoldt and showing a meeting of the writers’ group Gruppe 47 there in 1965. Rows and rows of frowning white men in suits, fading into the background, the tobacco smoke almost tangible. That’s the image I have in my mind, I hope falsely, when I imagine how readers think of German writing. This issue of Words without Borders is dedicated to emerging German writers. It is...

You Turn Your Head, I Turn My Head

blue The way I spend all morning just thinking: blue! No way is this here blue. You must have been crazy or had some kind of color disability or been a total joker to call this green blue, to insist for years, stubborn as a mule and absolutely serious, that there was an ocean-blue sofa in this room. The way I sit here and shake my head and think: it’s crazy, it’s incredible, crazy blue! The way I sit here and think: all that’s left over, all it is is this totally green sofa?...

The Legal Haziness of a Marriage

Leyla’s 10-by-6-foot cell looked like the setting of a bad film noir. A hard cot. A tiny barred window. The air was stuffy and the days dragged by unapologetically. Leyla spent most face down, hands cuffed behind her back. She felt disgusted with her body. It had been a week since her last shower. Her dress was caked with multiple layers of blood and sweat. She had been arrested for illegal racing in Baku’s city center. The official charge might have been “hooliganism,”...

Rickshaw Diaries

August 27, 2014 Lucky Punch My second novel Deutscher Meister is about how the professional boxer Heinrich Trollmann beat the Nazis; it was published by Hoffmann und Campe in 2014. As I was writing the last chapter, researching liver punches, those ending in K.O. and those not, and how differently and yet specifically to the liver punch the recipients fall, and what kind of pain they feel, and how liver punches take effect on the inside, in anatomical terms, I worked out where a person’s...

After Half a Life

1 After half a life: selva oscura. The dog that I was. Jesus-mittens nailed onto treetips—the Lord had large hands. Blooms made of ejaculate. I walked on. Deeper into the woods.   2 King of the beasts: a bird walking with a broken nose; wings, a comet tail, never worn. Pride after the fall. Carnal desire: a puffy octopus from the class of unsuitable cephalopods, floating in the sky in place of a moon. Staring at the transwoman I cannot be. Call me Beatrice, she says. I...

In Praise of an American Egg Wholesaler

May 6, 1946, thirty miles east of Dayton, Ohio, at an altitude of six thousand feet, in an old C-54 transport plane. John Conkey, six feet four inches and still completely pale after the fudged takeoff, unbuckles himself and wriggles forward through the gutted interior of the aircraft to Ray Melanchthon Petersime, who is sitting in one of the two remaining rows of seats and watching as a backwater called South Solon emerges beneath him, a heap of houses dumped between sodden fields by the...

Aladdin

The barrel of a gun is trained on my head. I stare at the wall, the unplastered bricks that have to be scenery so that this doesn’t stop being a game. Faruq is lying behind me. I want to turn my head, expecting the shot, blanks, a bang as my eardrum ruptures. The soldiers yelling, the supervisor’s voice, and I feel like I can hear Faruq gasping. Don’t move!—it’s my own breathing. The moment we were supposed to prepare for. The instant when the situation starts to...

Maidenhands and Monologues

Maidenhands I walk past an establishment: Barbecue, Drinks, Girls. A modest sign stands out on the right— Contact Bar—and above the red lights smiles a blonde woman with heavily plucked eyebrows. She’s not actually the advertising face of the Contact Bar—she’s holding a pat of butter in her hands, just above her breasts, which are spilling out of her bodice, and smiling on behalf of a supermarket. An ad for a budget market and plucked breasts. Butter ads and...

Fighter

He doesn’t say that he had no choice. He says that his father was also a soldier. He says that if he had the choice today, he would perhaps choose differently. At that time he made his choice. My two grandfathers were also soldiers and fought for the lunatic who had his grandparents gassed in a concentration camp. But he has never asked about my grandfathers. He was stationed for five years in the occupied territories. Voluntarily. During the First Intifada. He tells this to everyone...

as a mouse

“muxmäuschen” © Simone Kornappel. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by Jake Schneider. All rights reserved.

From “Baho!”

Nkunda kurya yariye igifyera kimumena amatama The glutton ate the snail; it made his cheeks explode By the time the sun’s luminous fingers had come to rest on Hariho’s fields, his neck was already sore. Undeniably, nights are cold in these parts. This morning he had come down to this trickle of water to rest, like a mosquito sated after a night pumping blood from the depths of fatigued and world-weary veins. He was calm, brimming with images from last night and the mouthfuls he had...

My Friends

My friends are distressed Stunned into silence Many of them grieve And all have despaired Suddenly the night has attacked us It’s so dark I can’t see my path Darkness spreads over everything Like grief after a death            People look for light They search for candles, lanterns To cast light on this tragedy Instead of lighting their houses My friends grieve And my brothers Stunned into silence Everyone despairs         ...

Burundi: Writing from the State of Sleep

Burundi is a small East Central African nation on the northern edge of Lake Tanganyika, one of Africa’s Great Lakes, which holds almost one-fifth of the world’s entire fresh water supply. The lake was of minor strategic importance during World War I, when it was a battle site for the German and British, later served as the backdrop of Che’s fighting in the Eastern Congo, and today is home to Gustave, allegedly the world’s largest crocodile. The former Belgian...

Izina

History will remember this man Our grandchildren will study him between school recesses Old women will speak of him as a strange enigma A myth, an eccentric aberration . . . The old men will brush off their shoulders Their lesson finished, the children will rush to the courtyard to play ubete, the wolf And mothers let out a weak sigh At hearing their children cry: Peter ninde? Ni wewe, ni wewe Who’s Pierre? It’s you, it’s you. There will be no more wolf on the vast...

June, 2015

Lessons from the Human Zoo

In the 1950s, the behavioral scientist Desmond Morris carried out art experiments with the chimpanzee Congo. What began with a hesitant pencil line drawn by Congo soon led to expressive, powerful, abstract compositions. Julian Huxley and Pablo Picasso were among those who bought the work. Congo painted with a passion but he wasn’t interested in "impact." He felt no need to display his pictures. In fact, he liked to tear them up as soon as they were finished. Morris had to go to some...

The City and the Writer: In Cambridge, Massachusetts and Boulder, Colorado with David Gessner

Special Series/Nature Writers 2015 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 moods of Cambridge and Boulder as you feel/see them? Cambridge is all bustle; the fun is in the foment. Boulder has that, too, but a more relaxed foment since it is required by law to work out for three...

The Week in Translation

APPLY what: Writers OMI at Ledig House, Fall 2015 Translation Lab: 12-day residency for five teams of writers & translators this fall when: November 10-21, 2015 where: OMI International Arts Center, Ghent, NY application deadline: July 15, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/JvRYv   SUBMIT what: Gulf Coast Magazine's Prize in Translation (this year's contest is open to prose, both fiction and non-fiction). submission deadline: August 31, 2015 more...

Göran Rosenberg’s “A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz”

In 1953 the West German government offered reparations to Jewish Holocaust survivors. But as Göran Rosenberg explains in A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz, it did so grudgingly. Claimants were required to prove that their suffering at the hands of the Nazis had diminished their capacity to work by at least 30%. They had to submit sworn witness statements and other documentation that was difficult, even impossible to come by. Yet Rosenberg’s father was undeterred by these...

Kamel Daoud’s “The Meursault Investigation”

In Algeria, Nobel Prize winner and Algerian-born Albert Camus casts a long shadow over the country’s contemporary fiction landscape. But his reputation there is complex. Few of his well-developed characters are North African, though it is a common setting in his works. Camus also remained ambivalent about Algerian independence until his death, a year before France’s referendum on Algerian self-determination. Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation,...

Translation vs. Creative Writing Workshops: Structural Differences

As a track within the MFA Program at Queens College, literary translation tends to follow the pedagogical models of creative writing in poetry, fiction, and drama. Operating on the principle that better writers become better translators, we require translation students to take writing courses in other genres. A verse translator, for example, can opt for a craft class in poetic closure, which will ultimately help his or her renderings into English. Conversely, many of our creative writers with...

Dispatch from Florence’s Festival degli Scrittori

The ninth annual Festival degli Scrittori and the Premio von Rezzori, a Florence-based literary festival that culminates in a ceremony conferring the Premio von Rezzori for best foreign literary work and best translation of a foreign work, was held from June 10 through  June 12, 2015. It opened with a provocative Lectio Magistralis by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri, and concluded with the announcement that Vladimir Sorokin was this year’s winner of the Premio, as it...

The City and the Writer: In Portland, Maine, with Kathryn Miles

Special Series/Nature Writers 2015 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 Portland as you feel/see it? Hopeful. A decade or so ago, Portland had the reputation of being pretty down-and-out. Since then,...

The Week in Translation

GO what: Launch for The Game for Real by Richard Weiner, translated by Benjamin Paloff, who will be joined by Alex Zucker.  when: Thursday, June 25, 7pm  where: Community Bookstore, 143 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn more info:http://ow.ly/OCAQW APPLY what: Writers OMI at Ledig House, Fall 2015 Translation Lab: 12-day residency for five teams of writers & translators this fall when: November 10-21, 2015 where: OMI International Arts Center, Ghent, NY application...

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