Simply put, Jason Grunebaum is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Super energetic, witty as all get out, he should have his own reality show. (Or something.) At least a podcast. Or a regular guest spot on someone else’s podcast. (Jason: you going to be at MLA? If so, let’s talk.) He’s also one of the only Hindi translators I know . . . and I’m hoping that one day Open Letter will publish a translation of his.
There’s a slew of soon-to-be-profiled translators (like Becka, J.P., and Edward) that I first met at ALTA Richardson, which, though it wasn’t in the most hip, or interesting of surroundings (I mean, damn, the most entertaining thing we found was a 24-hour Casket Store—how’s that for nightlife?), was one of the first ALTA conferences I attended where I hooked up with a lot of young, fun translators.
Anyway, I feel like Jason and I have a special bond thanks to our time together at the Salzburg Seminar last February. After five days in a palace drinking beer on the honor system in the bierstube, we developed a certain rapport . . .
Jason is another person I’d point to as one of the key figures in the future of ALTA as an organization. He’s literally boiling over with ideas. His massive social network for translators, the Hindi translation competition, etc., etc. I can only imagine how much fun his classes at the U of Chicago must be, and I’m excited to read the novel that he’s been working on . . . Anyway, onto the questions and comments:
Favorite Word from Any Language:
“garbar”—a mess, fiasco, Benny Hill style descent into chaos
This is the perfect word for Jason to choose. I have no other comments.
Best Translation You’ve Done to Date: The Girl with the Golden Parasol by Uday Prakash
This came out last year (?) from Penguin India, but has yet to be released in the U.S. (Which maybe isn’t terribly shocking, but is a bit disappointing. There are so few Hindi books published in America—there’s only one listed in the translation database—and to have Jason helping promote . . . ) You can read a sample of this by clicking here. And here are links to a few reviews: Dawn.com, Tehelka, and The Telegraph (India).
Book that Needs to Be Published in English Translation: Basharat Manzil by Manzur Ahtesham
Another surprise: not much information online about this book. But here’s a (fairly generic) description I found:
Set in pre-independence Delhi, centred around a quiet building, Basharat Manzil, home to Billo and Bibbo. A story of love, patience and understanding. A story of ghazals, tawaifs, Batashonwali Gali, unfulfilled dreams and unrequited love.
The lives of the residents of Basharat Manzil, in particular that of Amina Begham, reflect the lives of millions of Indians. In this is the triumph of the novellist, that the reader easily identifies with the protagonists of his novel and as we read the novel, the story of Basharat Manzil quickly becomes the story of our own lives.
Hopefully as time goes on, people will start to read more Indian literature not originally written in English, and Jason will be there to translate and promote it.
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. . .