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 . . .
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. . .