Ari Messer — who works at Stone Bridge Press and freelances for the San Francisco Bay Guardian — is going to be covering some West Coast translation related events for us. (And possibly some interviews as well.) Here to kick things off is a write-up of a recent “Lit & Lunch” event put on by the Center for the Art of Translation.
Continuing what has become an invaluable tradition for the literary translation community in the Bay Area, the Center for the Art of Translation held another “Lit & Lunch” reading last Tuesday at the 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco’s SoMa district. Featuring translators Sidney Wade and Erdağ Göknar, “Turkish Writing Today” wasn’t nearly as packed as W.S. Merwin’s “Lit & Lunch” last month — where he pontificated sweetly on everything from the Troubadours to Ezra Pound’s surprisingly positive influence (to paraphrase: “You are too young to have anything to write about yet. You think you do, but you don’t. Go translate.”) — but there was still a sizable turnout, including a handful of people who, judging by a show of hands, actually spoke Turkish. Both translators were grateful for a chance to speak about translation in a public forum. In Göknar’s intro, he said, “Translation is often work that is done in silence, and then . . . remains that way.” We laughed, but it’s unfortunately too true.
Wade, an acclaimed poet, highly musical translator, and professor at the University of Florida, read a striking version of Orhan Veli Kanık’s “I Am Listening to Istanbul with My Eyes Closed,” setting the mood for a string of contemplative, sensory-oriented poetry that seemed to move outward in concentric rings from initial moments of personal perception. Wade, guest poetry editor for the CAT’s next Two Lines anthology (coming soon), closed with three new translations from that book: “With Your Voice” by Zeynep Uzunbay, translated by Saliha Paker and Mel Kenne; “Done with the City” by Gülten Akin, translated by Cemal Demircioglu, Arzu Eker, and Mel Kenne; and “Rosestrikes and Coffee Grinds” by Seyhan Erozçelik, translated by Murat Nemet-Nejat. She prefaced the Erozçelik poem (#3 in a series about coffee grinds) with a statement about the prevalence of fortune telling using coffee grinds in Turkey, and while she read the poem there was a palpable sense in the room of being transported to a realm just beyond the everyday (and certainly beyond the chaos of downtown SF).
Wade, who does poetry, and Göknar, who does prose, both noted Western readers’ lack of context when reading Turkish writing in translation, especially Orhan Pamuk’s “revolutionary” and “activist” writing, labels that readers are prone to invoke while ignoring his esteemed (and vast and deeply literary) historical imagination. They also discussed how the linguistic structure of Turkish naturally leads to epic, unfolding lists (even in poetry), making it the job of the translator not to keep these unravellings engaging — they usually are already — but to organize them in a way that feels natural in English, uncluttered but full of surprises.
Göknar read from his award-winning translation of Pamuk’s My Name is Red, noting how Pamuk plays with “the linguistic genealogy of a 16th-century novel,” then gave a sneak preview of his translation of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s A Mind at Peace, coming in August from Archipelago. He noted that in the face of numerous inquiries he receives for doing new translations, Archipelago was the first press to ask him which book he thought should be translated. Good thing they did. Even the brief excerpt from the novel, which Pamuk has called “the greatest novel ever written about Istanbul,” already felt magical and haunting, and it was cool to have a sneak preview, since Göknar had just noted that Tanpınar (1901-62) was known more as a poet during his lifetime, his novels mainly existing in serialized form until after his death. International film festivals get their snazzy previews — we want our literary ones!
While looking back at an episode in his life, twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro remembers what his friend Kumamoto Akira said about poetry.
Its perfection arises precisely from its imperfection . . . . I have an image in my head. I see. . .
The central concern of Sorj Chalandon’s novel Return to Killybegs appears to be explaining how a person of staunch political activism can be lead to betray his cause, his country, his people. Truth be told, the real theme of the. . .
Spoiler alert: acclaimed writer Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte kill themselves at the end of Lauren Seksik’s 2010 novel, The Last Days.
It’s hard to avoid spoiling this mystery. Zweig’s suicide actually happened, in Brazil in 1942, and since then. . .
To call Kjell Askildsen’s style sparse or terse would be to understate just how far he pushes his prose. Almost nothing is explained, elaborated on. In simple sentences, events occur, words are exchanged, narrators have brief thoughts. As often as. . .
After a mysterious woman confesses to an author simply known as “R” that she has loved him since she was a teenager, she offers the following explanation: “There is nothing on earth like the love of a child that passes. . .
Floating around the internet amid the hoopla of a new Haruki Murakami release, you may have come across a certain Murakami Bingo courtesy of Grant Snider. It is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s funny because it’s true,. . .
The publisher’s blurb for Oleg Pavlov’s The Matiushin Case promises the prospective reader “a Crime and Punishment for today,” the sort of comparison that is almost always guaranteed to do a disservice to both the legendary dead and the ambitious. . .