All Articles by Date

December, 2014

The New Normal: On Cuba and the Power of Translation

During the historic speech on December 17, 2014, when he announced the normalization of relations with Cuba, Barack Obama turned to address the Cuban people directly. He began with a citation from José Martí: "Liberty is the right of every man to be honest." Cultural anthropologist Ruth Behar, a daughter of Cuban exiles whose work focuses on Cuba, hailed this as one of the most significant features of the speech for all Cubans, on or off the island. As a translator of Martí,…...

Just Be: On Jessica Schiefauer’s “The Boys”

As a pre-teen in Southern California, I was terrified of the day I would have to wear a bra. As soon as you wore one, the boys would stalk you around school, sneak up behind you, and painfully snap the hook and eye closure against your back. It was a humiliating hazing ritual of sorts, with one foot in the innocence of childish play, and the other in the common attitudes about gender in the adult world, where women are often portrayed or treated as objects. And then there was the garment itself.…...

“Around the Globe”: International Diversity in YA Writing Event at the NYPL

Last Wednesday evening, the New York Public Library hosted “Around the Globe,” a lively panel discussion marking the launch of Words Without Borders' first-ever International Young Adult Literature issue. In their introduction to the issue, guest editors Briony Everroad and Daniel Hahn make a passionate case for the genre: If you can get past the thick fog of casual snobbery that always seems to envelop this subject, it seems perfectly obvious that a lot of the most interesting writing…...

Tove Jansson’s “The Woman Who Borrowed Memories”

The Finnish writer Tove Jansson is best-known for her dreamy children’s books about a family of trolls. The Moomintrolls (sensible Moomin mama, stargazing Moomin papa, and gentle Moomin boy) have endless adventures and reversals of fortune. Their lives are not always easy—the plots can involve death, bankruptcy, and social alienation. But Jansson’s trolls are so cheery and loving that they make light out of the dark events. The Moomins first appeared in 1945 and are still beloved…...

The Week in Translation

SUBMIT what: PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000), open to applicants from any nationality or citizenship who are translating into English. submission deadline: January 15, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/Ep3dc what: Transference Literary Journal: Dedicated to the celebration of poetry in translation, the journal publishes translations from Arabic, Chinese, French and Old French, German, Classical Greek and Latin, Japanese, and Russian into English verse.  submission…...

WWB’s Holiday Reading List

hr {margin:4em 0;background-color:white;} Still looking for the perfect gift for your international literature-loving friends and family? Let WWB's editors, reviewers, and contributors help! Susan Harris The Antiquarian, by Gustavo Faverón Patriau (Grove Press, Black Cat) Translated from the Spanish by Joseph Mulligan. It's impossible to choose from the many wonderful books by our contributors—watch this space for a yearend list—so I'll recommend one by an…...

WWB Seeks Editor

Editor, Words Without Borders Full time New York, NY Words without Borders seeks a highly organized and talented editor for its online monthly magazine of international literature, wordswithoutborders.org. The editor will work closely with the editorial director in developing, commissioning, and editing the content of Words without Borders. The ideal candidate will be an experienced editor who thrives in a fast-paced environment and is comfortable balancing a heavy editorial load with other administrative,…...

Joanne Leedom-Ackerman and Maaza Mengiste Join WWB Board of Directors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Joanne Leedom-Ackerman and Maaza Mengiste Join WWB Board of Directors New York City, New York, December 10, 2014—Words without Borders is pleased to announce the election of Joanne Leedom-Ackerman and Maaza Mengiste to the board of the directors of Words without Borders, effective October 29, 2014. “We are thrilled to welcome two such talented individuals to our board of directors,” said Samantha Schnee, Chair. “Joanne and Maaza bring invaluable experience…...

International YA, Dec. 10 at NYPL: A Reading List from the Panelists

Most of us came to books as young readers. Working on our current issue of international Young Adult literature, we were reminded of the joy of those early literary encounters. In many ways this December issue is a nostalgic affair, and a lively one too. After you journey from Germany to Bangladesh in these pages, you may find that the diverse stories only whet your appetite. So we hope you will join us next week—December 10, 2014, at 6 pm—for a panel discussion on International Diversity…...

WWB Seeks Education Intern

Education Intern New York, NY Words without Borders (WWB) seeks a highly organized, reliable, research-savvy education intern with perfect grammar and an eye for detail. The intern will support the development of Words without Borders Campus (wwb-campus.org), a new online initiative designed to connect students and educators to eye-opening contemporary literature from across the globe. This is a great opportunity for a curious, creative individual to contribute to a start-up educational Web site…...

The Week in Translation

SUBMIT what: PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000), open to applicants from any nationality or citizenship who are translating into English. submission deadline: January 15, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/Ep3dc what: Transference Literary Journal: Dedicated to the celebration of poetry in translation, the journal publishes translations from Arabic, Chinese, French and Old French, German, Classical Greek and Latin, Japanese, and Russian into English verse.  submission…...

Call for Applications: Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC)

what: The Banff International Literary Translation Centre The Banff International Literary Translation Centre is open to 15 literary translators from the Americas translating works from any country in the world, as well as to translators from all over the world who are translating works from the Americas. Each year the program strives to include translators who are at different stages of their careers, from those with only one book-length published translation to veterans who have been…...

“Paint with Everything You Are!”: An Interview with Magdaléna Platzová

In the English-language world, Magdaléna Platzová is a very recent arrival, her debut novel, Aaron’s Leap, translated into English by Craig Cravens, having been published in January of 2014. The novel was initially published in Czech in 2006, her third book, and she has written three more books in the meantime. What’s more this “new” author has been covering a literary terrain—the Holocaust, Central Europe between the wars and after the fall of Communism,…...

My Favorite Bookstore: Lazer Lederhendler on The Basement

A Bookstore in the Shape of a Back   The bookstore was near the University of Ottawa campus, where I was striving for an arts degree while working as a full-time translator for the Federal government. I was also under investigation by Canadian intelligence as a potential security risk due to my past involvement in a Marxist organization. The shop was called the Basement, although this was not—I never learned why—the name on the sign by the street-level doorway. That name escapes…...

The Week in Translation

GO what: New Literature from Europe when: Friday, December 5 and Saturday, December 6 where: Austrian Cultural Forum NY/11 East 52nd St/New York, NY more info: http://ow.ly/F7AAt SUBMIT what: Call for Papers: Translating the Literatures of Small European Nations (International Conference, University of Bristol, September 8th-10th, 2015) submission deadline: December 5, 2014 more info: http://ow.ly/ELlFs what: PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000), open to applicants…...

Around the Globe: An Introduction to International YA Writing

If you can get past the thick fog of casual snobbery that always seems to envelop this subject, it seems perfectly obvious that a lot of the most interesting writing happening in the English-speaking world just now is being published as YA (young adult) fiction. Obvious, at least, to those who actually bother to read it, rather than those who don’t but still comment on how it is all, necessarily, unsophisticated, derivative, and shallow. Yes, of course there's some bad YA writing out there,…...

from “The Boys”

It was a balmy night, spring had started to slip into early summer, the trees’ leaves were thick and bright green. We didn’t speak, we only looked each other in the eyes and received the paper bags that Momo ceremoniously handed to us. And when I opened my bag in Bella’s room, my heart started beating so fast it hammered in my ears. She had made me a tiger costume. There was a hooded coat and a pair of elbow-length gloves, the tip of each finger adorned with a golden claw. There…...

Wizard Bakery

The Devil’s Cinnamon Cookies. 2 per serving. 9000 won. Ingredients: flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, raisins, and a secret extract. The essence of the extract will not be revealed, as certain ingredients may be found revolting. (Baker’s note: Extract contains no known allergens, so not to worry. Besides, you’re not going to eat it yourself!) Product Details: Give the cookie to someone you don’t like. The cookie will mentally incapacitate the recipient for an average of two hours…...

Nom de Guerre: Butterfly

That evening, I was sitting on my bed. Tala was jumping up and down on her bed next to mine, making it squeak annoyingly. She was jabbering away but I wasn’t following what she was saying because I was busy building my own world inside my head. Tala kept running in and out of the room. I didn’t notice how long she was gone. I just sat there, lost in thought. That is, until the time the sound of Salim sobbing came into the room before Tala did. As soon as I saw him, I hurried over to my…...

In Search of the End of the World

I was brought into the world on a day of black misery. My mother, desperate and drained of strength, was nothing but skin and bones. Her body had become a frozen desert. She died in her struggle to give me life. Hunger was my first companion, and it has never left me since. It is always there, in my belly, relentlessly plaguing and torturing me within. My grandmother, old Kokum, the village midwife, attended my mother during the birth. Apparently I was no bigger than a young hare. Overwhelmed with…...

No Light in the Windows

Christmas was a weary old man when he entered the city. Puffy-eyed and heavy-legged, he dragged himself along, from street to street, from flat to flat. Our door must have been the last one on a long list, because when he finally got here, I slept through the presents and was comatose long before the oohing and aahing had faded away. There was nothing worth staying up for. I didn’t care about any of our relatives and because Dad wasn’t living here any more, half of them stayed away anyway.…...

The Art of Falling

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How can anyone predict the future if it's not already mapped out?


The Book of Denial

This story is the worst story in the world—it's just terrible. For those who don't like tragic stories, this book has a happy ending on a page near the end. I recommend you don't keep reading after it. * My mother always told me that there are books that are not for children. I didn't understand this until yesterday, when I secretly read the book my father is writing. * The Book of Denial his book is called . . . but, it wasn't because of the title that I began to read it.…...

Rasha

Red welts had appeared on Rasha’s palm from Razzak Sir's caning, which meant she had to be very careful for the next few days to keep her grandmother from seeing them. Of course, her grandmother didn't take anything very seriously, so it’s possible she would not have asked about it even if it had caught her eye. Still, Rasha wasn't taking any chances. If her grandmother asked, Rasha would have to disclose everything, which she simply did not want to do. All her classmates…...

Eduardo Halfon’s “Monastery”

At a gathering in Brooklyn to celebrate the launch of Eduardo Halfon's Monastery, the author remarked on the numbers of translators who have worked on his books. “It takes a village,” summed up a reader in the audience, describing the allied yet fraught task of a writer and his translators. Here, in the limpid language of translators Lisa Dillman and Daniel Hahn, we find a world in which words, regardless of language, are unequal to the life of the protagonist. In Halfon's Monastery,…...

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