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.
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
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. . .