12 August 14 | Chad W. Post

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.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Morse, My Deaf Friend
Morse, My Deaf Friend by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in _Morse, My Deaf Friend_— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .

Read More >

The Crimson Thread of Abandon
The Crimson Thread of Abandon by Terayama Shūji
Reviewed by Robert Anthony Siegel

The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .

Read More >

Life Embitters
Life Embitters by Josep Pla
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .

Read More >

The Physics of Sorrow
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov
Reviewed by Izidora Angel

“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .

Read More >

Vano and Niko
Vano and Niko by Erlom Akhvlediani
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .

Read More >

The Indian
The Indian by Jón Gnarr
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .

Read More >

Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories
Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Mahasweta Devi is not only one of the most prolific Bengali authors, but she’s also an important activist. In fact, for Devi, the two seem to go together. As you can probably tell from the titles, she writes about women. . .

Read More >

Tristana
Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

The prolific Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós wrote his short novel, Tristana, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a time when very few options were available to women of limited financial means who did not want a husband.. . .

Read More >

The History of Silence
The History of Silence by Pedro Zarraluki
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .

Read More >

Flesh-Coloured Dominoes
Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .

Read More >