Bunch of interesting stuff from the National Endowment for the Arts today, starting with the announcement of the FY 2015 NEA Literature Translation Fellowship Recipients.
You can read the whole announcement and descriptions of all the projects here, but below is the list of the winners and a few projects that caught my eye.
First, this year’s recipients:
Bruce Fulton (in collaboration with Ju‐Chan Fulton)
Katherine M. Hedeen
Adam P. Siegel
Steven J. Stewart
And a few projects:
Jennifer Croft, Tiffin, IA ($12,500)
To support the translation from the Polish of Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Runners. Runners was awarded Poland’s most distinguished literary prize (the Nike) in 2008. It intertwines travel narratives and reflections on travel with observations on the body and on life and death, offering thoughts on such topics as travel‐sized cosmetics, belly dancing, maps, relics, the Maori, Wikipedia, Cleopatra, and the effects of airports on the psyche. Born in 1962, Tokarczuk recently founded her own digital publishing house in an effort to encourage Poland’s creative younger generation.
Bruce Fulton (in collaboration with Ju‐Chan Fulton), Seattle, WA ($12,500)
To support the translation from the Korean of a compilation of multigenre literary works by Ch’ae Man‐shik. One of the great talents of modern Korean literature, Ch’ae Man‐shik (1902‐50) is known as a master storyteller who gleaned material from everyday life. His command of idiom, realistic dialogue, and keen wit produced a unique fictional style. His subject matter is couched in a particular period in Korea’s turbulent modern history – the Japanese colonization of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to1945. This compilation will include six stories (including his debut story); one novella; two sketches; one travel essay; one personal essay; one critical essay; one children’s story; two plays; and two roundtable discussions involving writers and critics. Ch’ae Man‐shik is currently represented in English translation by only a few stories and a single novel, currently out of print.
Cynthia Hogue, Phoenix, AZ ($12,500)
To support the translation from the French of Joan of Arc by experimental French poet Nathalie Quintane. This serial poem, composed of fifty untitled prose poems on the subject of Joan of Arc, raises questions about the embodied experience of the actual peasant girl who lived a short life and came to a violent end in 15th‐century France. Quintaine (b. 1964) writes a feminist corrective of an iconic national heroine, written in the margins of the dramatic, inherited myth of Joan of Arc. Quintaine is at the forefront of a generation of contemporary writers whose works interrogate French capitalist, colonialist, and nationalist narratives. This project will make Quintane’s work available to English readers for the first time.
Yvette Siegert, New York, NY ($12,500)
To support the translation from the Spanish of the collected poetry of Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik. Born to Russian‐Jewish immigrants in Argentina, Pizarnik (1936‐72) was one of the leading avant‐garde writers of 20th‐century Latin American literature. This collection will focus on the several radical stylistic transformations Pizarnik’s work underwent, from the spare, luminous lyrics of her early poems to the dense, anguished prose poems of later works, and finally to the more dialogic, sometimes absurdist structures of the work she produced before she committed suicide at the age of 36. By that time, critics had already likened the scope of her literary influence to Arthur Rimbaud’s or Paul Celan’s.
Steven J. Stewart, Rexburg, ID ($12,500)
To support the translation from the Spanish of House of Geishas, a collection of microfictions by Argentine writer Ana María Shua. Shua (b. 1951) has published over 80 books in a multitude of genres and won numerous national and international awards. House of Geishas is her second book of microfictions, which are short narrative pieces that are typically less than half a page each. Many of the pieces appear as fables or dreams, while others provide quirky retellings of familiar stories drawn from history, mythology, and fairy tales. The pieces in the collection explore such themes as the way we deal with otherness, the weight of expectations imposed on us by our roles in life, and the problematic nature of memory.
Niloufar Talebi, San Francisco, CA ($12,500)
To support the translation from the Persian of selected poetry, prose, and interviews by Iranian writer Ahmad Shamlou. Nominated for the Nobel Prize, Shamlou (1925‐2000) was a poet, writer, encyclopedist, translator, journalist, editor, and human rights activist. He published more than 70 books, including novels, screenplays, children’s books, volumes of poetry, short stories, and essays. His translations into Persian include the work of Mark Twain, Langston Hughes, and Anton Chekov. Elegies of the Earth: An Ahmad Shamlou Reader will be a representative and comprehensive volume of his work throughout his 60‐year career. It will include a biography, timeline, and list of his works.
Jeffrey Yang, Beacon, NY ($25,000)
To support the translation from the Chinese of City Gate Open Up, a lyrical autobiogaphy by poet Bei Dao. The recipient of numerous international awards and shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for many years, Bei Dao is the author of seven poetry collections. This project aims to translate the lyrical prose memoir of his childhood and adolescence in Beijing, where he was born in 1949. It is a book not only of the poet as a child, but of the wondrous metropolis itself, coming alive through the luminous memories of its neighborhoods and residents, gardens, and temples, schools and music and vibrant ways of life. Since the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, Bei Dao had been living in forced exile, moving from countryto country, forbidden by the Chinese government to return to his homeland. The compulsion to write this book began in 2001, when Bei Dao was allowed back into China to see his sick father.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .