Also announced today is the NEA’s publication of The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Literature in Translation, a free book comprised of nineteen pieces on translation from a host of translators, publishers, advocates, professors, and readers.
Here’s a bit about the collection from NEA Director of Literature, Amy Stolls:
Translation is an art. It takes a great deal of creativity and patience to do it well, not to mention a deep knowledge of a writer’s language, place, and oeuvre. But it also takes fortitude, for translators are notoriously underpaid and underappreciated, their names often left off the covers of the books they create. In fact, we owe a good deal of thanks to a good number of hardworking people and organizations who are (and were) responsible for making translated work available, accessible, and visible to us among the fray, most notably the publishers who take the financial risk to publish and promote these books in an increasingly crowded market. Over the last 15 years, I’ve seen more and more of these advocates of translation enter the game, promoting literature in translation not just from across
the borders, but from within our own communities. [. . .]
Our goal for this book was simple: to illuminate for the general reader the art and importance of translation through a variety of points of view. Each essay tells a different story; each story adds to our understanding of this little-known art form. And in case you read through these passionate essays and find yourself inspired to make the next book you read a work in translation, we’ve asked each of our contributors to recommend three books. These are not necessarily the quintessential, canonical, must-read translations from an academic point of view, but rather three books that they simply loved and wished to share.
If you haven’t already downloaded it from the link above, I think you will after reading this table of contents:
“Hearing Voices” by Angela Rodel
A translator’s journey begins with a love of Bulgarian music.
“Choosing a Twin” by Gregory Pardlo
On kinship, mental yoga, and the rebirth of a poem.
“Work of Purpose, Work of Joy” by Charles Waugh
Giving voice to the invisible and forgotten in Vietnam.
“Living with Translation” by Howard Norman
A writer’s deep and enduring immersion in the joys of translation.
“The Collaborative Approach” by Sylvia Li-chun Lin and Howard Goldblatt
A married couple explains how two translators make one work of art.
“By the Light of Translation” by Natasha Wimmer
How the slowest kind of reading leads to an act of seeing.
“An Act of Imagination” by Philip Boehm
The commonalities between a translator and a theater director.
“Daring and Doubting” by Russell Scott Valentino
The translator’s claustrophobic, questioning mind.
“The Sharable Rightness of Meaning” by Esther Allen An ode to the magnificent Michael Henry Heim.
“The Myth of the ‘Three Percent Problem’” by Chad W. Post
What the statistics on translated books in America really tell us.
“A Universe of Layered Worlds” by Olivia E. Sears
The unexpected journey from the exotic to the universal.
“Recovering the Culture” by Nicolás Kanellos
Reaching the Latino community in two languages.
“The Value of Publishing Translation” by John O’Brien
How one publisher found support from other countries.
“Toward an Understanding of Translation” by Rainer Schulte
A reflection on how we communicate and translate in modern-day life.
“Engaging the World” by Susan Harris
The value of writers’ firsthand perspectives.
“Brokers of Babel” by Edward Gauvin
An argument against fidelity.
“A More Complex Occasion” by Pierre Joris
Enriching poetry through the imperfect nature of languages.
“Carrying Words Through Time” by Kazim Ali
The transformation of a poet who translates.
“The Art of Empathy” by Johanna Warren
Learning how to listen.
Go get it now. And for those of you out there who teach, this is a perfect—and free!—book to use in a class on international literature and/or publishing and/or translation.
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .