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 . . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .
From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Egypt was going through a period of transition. The country’s people were growing unhappy with the corruption of power in the government, which had been under British rule for decades. The Egyptians’. . .
Miruna is a novella written in the voice of an adult who remembers the summer he (then, seven) and his sister, Miruna (then, six) spent in the Evil Vale with their grandfather (sometimes referred to as “Grandfather,” other times as. . .
Kamal Jann by the Lebanese born author Dominique Eddé is a tale of familial and political intrigue, a murky stew of byzantine alliances, betrayals, and hostilities. It is a well-told story of revenge and, what’s more, a serious novel that. . .