Translation


In 2012, I wrote an obituary over at The Millions for famed literary translator (and champion of literary translation) Michael Henry Heim. I just learned from Susan Bernofsky’s Translationista blog that this year marks the passing of another great translator:

Daniel Weissbort, the much loved and respected translator of Russian poetry who directed the MFA Program in Translation at the University of Iowa for over thirty years, passed away several weeks ago at the age of 78.

Her blog features a thoughtful obituary dedicated to Weissbort and written by Bill Martin. Head there to check it out.

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My dear friend Yardenne Greenspan just had her translation of Israeli fiction published by New Vessel Press last week (congrats!). World Literature Today ran an interview with her, where she says some really smart things about translation:

There are so many interesting theories on translation, and many of them focus on the question of foreign-ness versus seamlessness; how natural do you want the translation to sound in English versus how much of an “exotic” feel do you want to preserve. I think a good balance is necessary. You don’t want readers to have to pause and scratch their heads at weird sentence structures or grammatical awkwardness, but on the other hand, you want to give them that little something, that curiosity that comes with reading something set in a new place, where people speak differently and joke differently and love differently.

Read the full interview here, and buy Yardenne’s translation of Some Day by Shemi Zarhin here (e-book or print).

 

Screen Capture of "Russian Roller-Coaster" at VICE.com

My translation of this wonderfully crazy short story by Andrei Krasnyashykh was just published at VICE magazine, as part of their ongoing VICE Reader series that features literary fiction and other literary snippets.

An excerpt of my translation:

It’s so simple, after all. God is everywhere. A shirt button fell off because God. They were showing a movie on TV because God. I got hungry because God. Women put on makeup because God. My neighbor’s dog got lost because God, because I poisoned it, because God wanted it this way, so I, so it wouldn’t bark at me.

God knows everything I don’t know. Like, I don’t know who lives in Brazil, but God knows. I don’t know why salt is white, like sugar, but not tasty, but God knows.

Sometimes I act like a mouse, because suddenly God thinks I’m a mouse. Then I think, and then suddenly God thinks I’m not a mouse, and I start to fly, because God suddenly thinks I’m a bird. And they say: you’re flying because you know how to fly, and maybe God doesn’t even know you know how to fly. I say: if God didn’t know that I know how to fly, then I’d be swimming, and God would have known I swim.

And they say: but we swim when God doesn’t know we swim. I say: And your tail and fins, where are they? Who swims without fins? Without fins shit swims. And when God knows I can swim, I swim with fins and a tail. Like you’re supposed to.

Read the whole story here. Read other entries in the VICE Reader series here.

Ack. I love Daniil Kharms, especially when he’s translated by Matvei Yankelevich.

There lived a redheaded man who had no eyes or ears. He didn’t have hair either, so he was called a redhead arbitrarily. He couldn’t talk because he had no mouth. He had no nose either. He didn’t even have arms or legs. He had no stomach, he had no back, he had no spine, and he had no innards at all. He didn’t have anything. So we don’t even know who we’re talking about. It’s better that we don’t talk about him any more.

From Ugly Duckling Presse.

Over a year ago, I wrote:

There are hundreds of small presses cropping up all over the country, publishing in small volumes, often using handmade or letterpress technologies…One notable example is Ugly Duckling Presse (UDP), a Brooklyn-based small press that makes chapbooks, broadsides and artist books in their one-room studio. They’ve published over 200 titles in the last ten years and many of the ones they put out have some handmade element, whether it be a letterpress cover or a hand-stitched or rubber band binding. UDP books are well-made objects that encourage you to read more slowly, to really look at each page.

Last month, The New York Times shot a video about small and independent literary presses in Brooklyn, NY, and they featured Ugly Duckling Presse:

Go support UDP now, and you can say “I knew them when they were still underground…”

Photo og "Nancy" by Harry Gamboa; Cover of SUmmer 2012 issue of The MAssachusetts REviewMy translation of a personal essay by Andrei Krasnyashykh just came out in the Summer 2012 issue of The Massachusetts Review. The essay “On the Dream Within a Dream,” is about dreaming about dreaming, about not being able to wake up, about trying to escape from a dream trapped inside another dream. The essay is funny, fantastical, and strange. Typical Krasnyashykh. The cover (left) is a gorgeous photograph by Harry Gamboa. Here’s an excerpt from the essay:

In Kafka’s fantastical nighttime world, the everyday logic of daytime suddenly invaded. Nightmares became a combination of delusion and logic, or more accurately, the delusion, without rhyme or reason, suddenly stopped playing by its own rules and discovered an internal everyday logic. Reality within the unreal (by the way, in magic realism, though it often feels dissonant, it’s the other way around: the surreal is within the confines of reality, and the experience of reading Kafka is noticeably different from reading García Márquez. The latter isn’t scary, and, after all,—I keep getting further and further away from the subject of my piece, but there’s nothing I can do about it since it’s already happening—the first story of García Márquez, “The Third Resignation” (written in 1947), is considered Kafkaesque because he writes about the feelings of a dead person, not as the subject matter but rather as the atmosphere of reality within the unreal).

Read the full first page below the fold, or buy the issue for $10.00 to read the full text. This issue also includes fiction by Tabish Khair and poetry by Lawrence Raab, among others.
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Cover of the Spring 2012 Issue of The Literary Review

My translations of Russian/Ukrainian prose writer Andrei Krasnyashykh’s work appear in the latest issue of The Literary Review (an international journal of contemporary writing). I couldn’t be more thrilled to be published alongside Mary Jo Bang, a poet who is translating Dante’s Inferno, and others.

The pieces I’ve translated are from a series called “Machinations of the Genre.” Krasnyashykh invented a form he calls the intrigue, short little breaths all wrapped up in pun, wordplay, and confusion. They are something like a prose poem or flash fiction or just ruminations on a word that only lasts a sentence or two.

I am happy these translations have found a home in TLR, especially since the theme of this issue is “Encyclopedia Britannica.” These pieces are almost like short entries in a reference book, new definitions for words and thoughts.

Krasnyashykh lives and works in Ukraine but writes in Russian, a member of the Russian-speaking literary community in Kharkov. His book of short stories, The Park of Culture and Relaxation, was published in 2008 and short-listed for the prestigious Andrei Bely Prize. I am working on translating stories from that collection, after initially discovering him while studying under Idra Novey and Matvei Yankelevich at Columbia University’s literary translation program.

I will be doing a reading with TLR contributors Cindy Cruz, Martha Witt, and Geoffrey Nutter on August 2nd at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn. NY. More details forthcoming.

The full text of “Machinations of the Genre” is below the fold. His original Russian text can be read online here.

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