Robin Myers is one of the very cool young translators that I met for the first time at this year’s ALTA conference. In many ways, she’s the perfect example of the benefits of ALTA’s fellowship program . . . A student at Swarthmore who is focused on translating Spanish poetry, I can’t imagine she would’ve ever attended ALTA if she hadn’t have received a fellowship. But thanks to that, she was able to attend a lot of panels (which I think she liked), meet a lot of fellow translators (such as Stephen Kessler who talked to her about translating Luis Cernuda), present her own translations (which must be an amazing experience), and have a great night out at Liquid Kitty (and yes, I’m just going to let that statement ride).
It’s meeting people like Robin (and Erica and Sarah and Andrea and Wendy and Lucas and Jason and J.P. and a host of other young, hip translators, many of whom will be featured here in the near future) that makes the ALTA conference so much fun, and gives me a great deal of hope about the future of the organization and translation as a whole. That there are so many energetic, brilliant, passionate people involved in this field is incredibly encouraging and exciting.
Anyway, on to the questions and comments:
Favorite Word in Any Language: Luciernaga (“firefly”)—for the sound!
This really is a beautiful word to pronounce—or hear pronounced. Much more so than “firefly.” What’s really funny about Robin’s answer is that “luciernaga” was Megan McDowell’s second favorite word, and at one point, Robin tried to change her answer to “murcielago,” which is Megan’s absolute favorite word.
Best Translation You’ve Done to Date: “Don’t Copy Pound” by Gonzalo Rojas
Again, I can’t find a copy of the English version of this poem online (Robin—you should post it in the comments or e-mail it to me), but here’s a write up on Rojas from Poetry International that mentions it:
Rojas is a hard-to-classify, somewhat enigmatic poet, whose work nonetheless convinces instantly. He admonishes, jokes, complains and protests, in a poetry that defies all existing hierarchies. It is even anarchistic, in every possible way. There is a constant tension between colloquial speech and poetic license, between the ordinary and the absurd.
Rojas likes to drop names, from the past as well as the present. Past and present freely intermingle. Nor does he leave out the future. The dramatic unities of time, place and action are abandoned with an obvious vengeance and even the syntax is free. All in all, one might argue that he is not unlike Ezra Pound. Significantly, one of Rojas’s funniest poems bears the title ‘Don’t copy Pound’. Rojas does not copy Pound, but he shares the American’s awesome vitality. And he, too, needs many words. There is, indeed, a talkative quality to this poetry. We are continually being talked to, engaged in polemics, in dialogue. We, the readers, are kept on our mettle. The poem rarely shows us where it is going until we have reached the end. While reading, we seem to be determining the outcome ourselves.
‘Desocupado lector’ (To the idle reader) has such an ending, which determines the perspective in retroaction. In this case the perspective is abysmal, yet the effect is bracing rather than depressing. It is all part of Rojas’s careful design.
Book that Needs to Be Published in English Translation: Poems of Ezequiel Zaidenwerg (Argentina) and Hernan Bravo Varela (Mexico). Both are young gifted poets, and are themselves wonderful translators into Spanish.
Not a lot available online about either of these poets, but is that all that surprising? I’m echoing something Erica told me (and hopefully not overlooking some kick ass website), but there really does need to be a better hub for information on international poets. There is lyrikline.org but they can only do so much . . .
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. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .