Slice Magazine #3: In Translation

Slice is a relatively new magazine that focuses on new voices—this issue contains pieces by a number of seventh graders—while also containing some more established writers and a number of interviews.

I first came across Slice over the summer and thought that it had a lot of potential. In terms of design (and to some degree, editorial voice) it’s informed by The Believer and A Public Space, two of my favorite lit mags.

So I was pretty impressed to get the new issue yesterday and find out that it’s all about translation:

If you stop to think about it, our lives are constantly in translation. Whether it’s the literal translation of a story, a clash of cultures, or the experience of seeing something from a fresh perspective, translation hides in the nuances of each of our days.

This Issue’s pages capture worlds of translation through fiction, nonfiction, art, and poetry, from places as far-reaching as Australia, Japan, and Puerto Rico, to our own Brooklyn streets. Dozens of new voices share their visions of translation, and they pop up in the most unexpected places, whether it is merging cultures through marriage, breaking the rules of traditional Japanese calligraphy, or the evolution of a child’s view of the devil, just to name a few.

The editors are using “translation” in its broadest sense, with pretty interesting results. There’s a list of “Titles in Translation”—book titles inspired by the final lines of poems—an interesting look at calligraphy artist Yoshiko Komatsu, and interviews with both Esther Allen and Natasha Wimmer, two of my favorite translators.

Neither of these pieces are available online, so you’ll have to pick up a copy to read them in their entirety. I will say that Esther’s story about translating Rosario Castellanos is a perfect example of the frustrations and rewards of translation.

Esther tried for years to find a publisher for The Book of Lamentations, but despite Carlos Fuentes calling it “one of the great classics of Mexican literature,” she was told over and again by U.S. publishers that “well, the author is dead, we can’t promote it, and the ending is a real downer.” It wasn’t until there was an uprising in Mexico that people were interested. (The novel is about an indigenous uprising.) Now it’s in print as a Penguin Classic . . .

Another interesting piece of Esther’s interview is a reference to a Center for Literary Translation project to:

. . . have Columbia University professors and other people with expertise tell us which books in their area, either contemporary or classic, are the most important books that have not been translated. There’s a whole universe out there that hasn’t been translated into English.

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