Since I already wrote about her once, it only seemed fitting to make Pam Carmell a bit more visible . . . I met Pam at the first ALTA conference I ever attended. If I remember right (and trust me, I probably don’t), we ended up standing next to each other in a line for something (food?) and Cristina de la Torre introduced us. Pam’s big interest is in translating Cuban literature, and the special Cuban fiction issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction came out of this meeting. (As did Pam’s translation of Jose Lezama Lima’s Oppiano Licario, which won her a NEA fellowship, but now may or may not see the light of day.)
Anyway, on to happier and more fun moments—questions and italicized comments!
Favorite Word in Any Language: Serendipity
No need to define this word . . . But to wax longingly for a second, serendipity is a perfect word to apply to conferences like ALTA. Or Frankfurt. Or BEA. Things just sort of happen at these gatherings. You randomly meet someone in line for food who loves Lezama Lima. There are happy accidents that lead you to finding out about some great writer from some more remote corner of the world. It’s great. Almost magical. Serendipitous discoveries make up part of the unquantifiable good that makes it worth investing in attending conferences like these.
Best Translation You’ve Done to Date: Women on the Frontlines by Belkis Cuza Male
This collection of poetry was published in 1987 by Unicorn Press (Greensboro). I was hoping to find a poem of hers to reproduce here, but I’m not having any luck with that . . . Nevertheless, you can check out her blog, and her bio is pretty fascinating:
Belkis was born in Guantánamo, Cuba. She studied Humanities in la Universidad de Oriente. In 1967 she married Cuban poet Heberto Padilla. Though initially a supporter of the Castro Revolution, Belkis later became a censor critic of his regime. She was jailed with Padilla in 1971 charged with “subversive writing”, It was known later as the “Padilla affair”. She went into exile in the United States with her little son in 1979, until the Cuban goverment authorized him to leave Cuba. She founded Linden Lane Magazine, a review of Latin American and North American writers in 1982. And in 1996, La Casa Azul.
Book that Needs to Be Published in English Translation: Cien botellas en una pared by Ena Lucia Portela
_Portela is a very young Cuban writer who has published a number of books over the past decade. (Her Wikipedia page has more details and general information.) Full publishing disclosure: Pam sent Open Letter a sample of this book, but unfortunately, we can’t fit it into our schedule . . . So, if any publishers out there are interested in taking a look, e-mail me (chad.post [at] rochester [dot] edu) and I’ll put you in touch with Pam . . . We are a full-service blog . . .
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. . .