So after the first ALTA panel—on the “subversive” translator and the idea of making the translator “visible” without interfering too much with the original text—Megan McDowell (pictured above) and I came up with a project idea. (Or what some may call a gimmick.) We thought that we could help literally make translators visible by posting pictures of ALTA attendees and asking a few questions. We thought it would be a cool way of letting non-translation world people get to know who these “invisible” translators are, while pointing out how cool the ALTA conference attendees are, and getting some good book recommendations along the way.
I think we did about 25 profiles, which I’ll be posting over the next couple weeks. I’ll include everyone’s answers, maybe another anecdote or two, and possibly some additional information about these people. (Translators tend to be pretty humble people and not very good at self-promotion . . .)
Anyway, re: Megan—I first met her ages ago, when she was a fellow at Dalkey Archive’s short-lived Chicago office. She was one of the best fellows we ever had. Very energetic, and very bright. Post-Dalkey, she spent some time in Chile, attended the University of Texas-Dallas where she studied translation, and got heavily involved with ALTA. (She was at the conference as the official photographer, making her the perfect partner for this project, and a good reason to feature her first.)
On with the questions with my comments in italics below:
Favorite Word, in any language: murcielago, which is Spanish for “bat.”
Weirdly, another translator picked this word as well . . . I’ll point this out again when I feature her, but not only did Robin Myers try and choose “murcielago,” but her other favorite word happens to be Megan’s second choice. It’s like translator telepathy.
Best Translation You’ve Done to Date: The Private Lives of Trees by Alejandro Zambra.
Which will be published by Open Letter this May . . . And in the meantime I HIGHLY recommend checking out Zambra’s Bonsai, which Melville House did last year, and which was a 2009 Best Translated Book finalist.
Book that Needs to be Published in English Translation: Ayer by Juan Emar.
We actually have this on submission . . . I have a feeling I’ll be able to repeat that a number of times over the course of this project, usually followed by “for the past eighteen months.” Which is not so cool. But seriously, Emar sounds very interesting and was featured in RCF a couple years back.
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. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
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. . .
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. . .