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.
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. . .