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.
In Josep Maria de Sagarra’s Private Life, a man harangues his friend about literature while walking through Barcelona at night:
When a novel states a fact that ties into another fact and another and another, as the chain goes on. . .
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .