Last week we featured David Bellos’s Is That a Fish in Your Ear? on our Read This Next, website and after reading the sample we made available (along with the interview and full review), I’m sure that everyone in the greater NYC area will want to go see Bellos talk about his book as part of The Bridge Series.
To be more specific, David will be talking at McNally Jackson (52 Prince Street, between Lafayette & Mulberry) on Thursday, October 13th at 7pm.
Here’s some info from The Bridge website:
“Forget the fish—it’s David Bellos you want in your ear when the talk is about translation. Bellos dispels many of the gloomy truisms of the trade and reminds us what an infinitely flexible instrument the English language (or any language) is. Sparkling, independent-minded analysis of everything from Nabokov’s insecurities to Google Translate’s felicities fuels a tender—even romantic—account of our relationship with words.”
—Natasha Wimmer, translator of Roberto Bolaño’s Savage Detectives and 2666
“In the guise of a book about translation this is a richly original cultural history . . . A book for anyone interested in words, language and cultural anthropology. Mr Bellos’s fascination with his subject is itself endlessly fascinating.”
Funny and surprising on every page, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? offers readers new insight into the mystery of how we come to know what someone else means—whether we wish to understand Astérix cartoons or a foreign head of state. Using translation as his lens, David Bellos shows how much we can learn about ourselves by exploring the ways we use translation, from the historical roots of written language to the stylistic choices of Ingmar Bergman, from the United Nations General Assembly to the significance of James Cameron’s Avatar. Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across human experience to describe why translation sits deep within us all, and why we need it in so many situations, from the spread of religion to our appreciation of literature; indeed, Bellos claims that all writers are by definition translators. Written with joie de vivre, reveling both in misunderstanding and communication, littered with wonderful asides, it promises any reader new eyes through which to understand the world.
Definitely go check this out—I can guarantee that it will be fascinating, fun, and interesting.
The next event in The Bridge Series will take place this Thursday, September 15th at 7pm at McNally Jackson, and will consist of a discussion about the writing, translation, and editing of Sergio Chejfec’s My Two Worlds.
We just brought out My Two Worlds, the first of three Chejfec books that we’re planning on publishing. Here’s the jacket copy:
Approaching his fiftieth birthday, the narrator in My Two Worlds is wandering in an unfamiliar Brazilian city, in search of a park. A walker by inclination and habit, he has decided to explore the city after attending a literary conference—he was invited following the publication of his most recent novel, although, as he has been informed via anonymous e-mail, the novel is not receiving good reviews. Initially thwarted by his inability to transpose the two-dimensional information of the map onto the impassable roads and dead-ends of the three-dimensional city, once he finds the park the narrator begins to see his own thoughts, reflections, and memories mirrored in the landscape of the park and its inhabitants.
Chejfec’s My Two Worlds, an extraordinary meditation on experience, writing, and space, is at once descriptively inventive and preternaturally familiar, a novel that challenges the limitations of the genre.
Sergio, Margaret, and E.J. are all very brilliant and entertaining, so be sure to come out to McNally Jackson this Thursday at 7 to hear them discuss the making of this fantastic novel.
And while you’re there, be sure to buy a copy along with some other book. That bit of support makes these events possible and keeps beautiful stores like McNally Jackson chugging along. And if you can’t make it, well, then you should just take out an Open Letter Subscription.
As noted yesterday, I’m way behind with web stuff right now, but I wanted to take a minute out of my NEA grant (almost done . . . almost . . .) to point out the awesome new Bridge Series, “the first independent reading and discussion series in New York City devoted to literary translation.”
Bill Martin and Sal Robinson are both involved in this, which guarantees (to me and everyone who knows them) that the series will be of the highest quality.
The first event is tonight at McNally Jackson at 7pm, and features Edith Grossman (Why Translation Matters, translator of Don Quixote and dozens of other books) and Steve Dolph (translator of The Sixty-Five Years of Washington).
Click here for all the details. And we’ll give better advance warning on all the future events . . . .
Just a reminder that the New Literature from Europe festival kicks off tonight with an event at McNally Jackson at 7pm.
This year’s festival is called “Haunting the Present,” and here’s a brief intro from the site:
Today’s Europe is a fascinating convergence of old and new, with high speed trains roaring past thousand-year-old towns. The past and present are never far away from each other, and this year’s New Literature from Europe festival explores this proximity by presenting some of the most powerful recent works of fiction by eight of the most important contemporary European authors. In Haunting the Present, the festival’s seventh annual series, the overriding theme is the continued sway of history on contemporary life. Readers will witness the changes over a century in one house in Bucharest and in another house on a lake outside Berlin as its residents flee each successive regime. They will be transported from the mythical Polish village of Primeval to a small, bucolic French town shortly after World War II, and beyond.
In this year’s New Literature from Europe, eight cultural institutes have teamed up to present a series of discussions and readings featuring eight critically acclaimed European writers: Philippe Claudel (France), Kirmen Uribe (Spain), Jenny Erpenbeck (Germany), Gerhard Roth (Austria), Radka Denemarková (Czech Republic), Olga Tokarczuk (Poland), Gabriela Adameşteanu (Romania), and Antonia Arslan (Italy). Moderators will include distinguished writer André Aciman, chair of Comparative Literature and director of the Writers’ Institute at the CUNY Graduate Center and Susan Bernofsky, Guest Professor of Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College (CUNY).
That’s a pretty sweet lineup of authors and translators, and the four events that make up this festival all sound well-crafted and interesting. Here’s a bit of info on all the goings on:
Haunting the Present: A Reading with Eight European Writers
Tuesday, November 16th, 7pm
Translating the Past that Haunts the Present: A Lecture with Jenny Erpenbeck and Philippe Claudel
Wednesday, November 17th, 3-5pm
CUNY Grad Center
Haunting the Present: A Conversation with the Authors
Wednesday, November 17th, 6:30 pm & 7:45 pm
Center for Fiction
Last week I sent out a brief message to our indie bookseller mailing list (which all booksellers can easily join by e-mailing me at chad.post [at] rochester.edu) about the Best Translated Book Award Finalists and how we’d be willing to run pictures of any displays that the stores put together for the award. (To be honest, this is mainly a means to gushing about the bookstores I love . . .)
The first to come back with pics was McNally Jackson, which one of my interns refers to as her “favorite bookstore in the world.” (I think one of the reasons she so loves McNally Jackson is because of the high propensity of Open Letter titles on display there. And really, who doesn’t love that? But seriously, it’s really cool for an intern to see something she worked on out on display in the “real world.” I’m still saving my over-the-top thrill for my subway moment: when I see someone on the subway reading one of our books, I’ll feel like we’ve really made it.) There are so many cool things about McNally Jackson that I made a list:
Anyway, here’s their BTBA display with the randomly fantastic sign advertising the University of Rochester:
Though far from the most convincing reason to read literature in translation, one common side effect is learning of another culture, of its history. Within that, and a stronger motivation to read, is the discovery of stories not possible within. . .
Despite cries that literature is dead, dying, and self-replicating in the worst way, once in a while a book comes along to remind readers that there’s still a lot of surprise to be found on the printed page. To be. . .
“I was small. And my village was small, I came to know that in time. But when I was small it was big for me, so big that when I had to cross it from one end to the other,. . .
A few weeks after moving into a farm house in the Welsh countryside, Emilie, an expatriate from the Netherlands, starts to think about her uncle. This uncle tried to drown himself in a pond in front of the hotel where. . .
Think back to the last adventure- or action-type book you read. Wasn’t it cool? Didn’t it make you want to do things, like learn to shoot a crossbow, hack complicated information systems, travel to strange worlds, take on knife-wielding thugs,. . .
In Aira’s Shantytown, while we’re inside the characters’ heads for a good portion of the story, the voice we read on the page is really that of Aira himself, as he works out the plot of the book he’s writing.. . .
Noir is not an easy genre to define—or if it once was, that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; as a quick guess, maybe Silver Lake, Los Angeles, 1935. When two books as different as. . .