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By Jessie Chaffee

WWB's panel at AWP: Karen Emmerich and Kareem James Abu-Zeid (top photo);
Edward Gauvin, Shabnam Nadiya, and Susan Harris (bottom photo)

Last week, WWB was in Los Angeles for the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference. Editorial director Susan Harris led a fascinating and engaging panel on “The Translator as Coauthor: Collaborative Translation” with WWB contributors, each of whom discussed their diverse experiences working with authors to bring texts into English, the nature of the writer/translator relationship, the ways in which the original text(s) influence the translation and vice versa, and the various hats translators wear in the process.

Edward Gauvin spoke about the complexities of translating the visual references inherent in graphic novels, using as an example his work on French authors Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain’s Weapons of Mass Diplomacy. Shabnam Nadiya illustrated the necessity of expanding upon the original-language text by reading the description she added around a small detail in Bangladeshi writer Shaheen Akhtar’s Beloved Rongomala in order to convey the layers of meaning that would otherwise have been lost in translation. Kareem James Abu-Zeid described his dual role as translator and editor when working with the prolific Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish on the collection Nothing More to Lose, for which he both translated and edited the individual poems and curated and gave shape to the book as a whole. And Karen Emmerich challenged the notion of there ever being a definitive “original” text—“The constellation of texts that encompass a work are all collaborating with each other,” she said, as was the case in her work on Greek writer Vassilis Vassilikos’s Glafos Thrassakis.

As Susan noted, WWB has had multiple projects with all four of the panelists and their multiple authors, and this conversation was an extension of those, as well as a rewarding collaboration in itself.

Further Reading:

“Weapons of Mass Diplomacy” by Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain, translated by Edward Gauvin (from WWB’s February 2014 Issue: International Graphic Novels, Volume VIII)

“From the Translator: On Translating Bangla Literature” by Shabnam Nadiya (from WWB’s Dispatches Blog, 2013)

“Life in Mount Carmel” by Najwan Darwish, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid (from WWB’s May 2015 Issue: New Palestinian Writing)

“The Making of Originals: The Translator as Editor” by Karen Emmerich (from WWB’s Dispatches Blog, 2013)

Published Apr 7, 2016   Copyright 2016 Jessie Chaffee

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