A Translation Smorgasbord

April 25, 2009

That end-of-semester chaotic etc. is upon us, but there have been some worthy and interesting translation happenings that deserve some mention:

– First, the Suzane Adam/Becka McKay reading at the University of Iowa, cosponsored by eXchanges, which was a delightful evening with delightful people.

– Also, U. of Iowa professor and translator Russell Valentino — who is also the man behind Autumn Hill Books, which published Adam’s Laundry last year — has written the first of what is sure to be a thoughtful series on translation and education for Words Without Borders:

Some translation scholars see the question of placing or not placing translators’ names on the covers of books as a sort of teaching moment for the general reading public, envisioned as myriad Ma Fergusons willfully ignoring the fact that Jesus didn’t speak, nor Tolstoy nor Dante write, in English. It may be such a moment, but even so it is a terribly minor one, misplaced, I would argue, in the retail bookstore, and in any case unlikely to have much consequence when pursued in isolation. The relative neglect of translation in the educational system is the larger and much more fecund teaching territory I would like to focus on, by suggesting key domains in which engaging translations—reading them and writing them—can serve a fundamentally transformative role in people’s reading practices in general, both inside and outside the classroom.

– In Semana, a wonderful profile of translator Anne McLean:

“Those of us who have been very lucky to have been translated by her end up with the embarassing impression that she makes our books better. Anne is, so far I know, the best that can happen in England to those of us who write in Spanish.”

(Via The Literary Saloon.)

– In the New York Times, Christopher Hampton discusses translation:

I think translation is very underappreciated and under-rewarded. I feel quite strongly that translation is performing an incredibly valuable service for us all. As often as not, when you read a translated novel, you have to search to find the name of the translator. Of course the translator is the person who is directly mediating the language to you and giving you access to all these worlds that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to enter.

(Via Beyond Words.)

– In an interview in Columbia’s Spectacle, William Gass comments on translation in the United States:

We don’t translate enough.  That part is true.  But we are getting better.  And we don’t buy translations.  That indicates our provinciality.

Unfortunately, his response gets a little incoherent after that. Turns out it’s actually the Europeans who are insular. Except for Robbe-Grillet, maybe? Hard to tell.



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