Gary is another great example of the hyperactively funny male translator. He’s incredibly fun, warm, and without going into any ALTA politics, one of the important people on ALTA’s board and committees who is liked by all sides. In addition to his ALTA work, and serving as review editor for Translation Review, Gary teaches at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus (in contrast to the most excellently named C. W. Post campus).
Anyway, this ALTA conference was the first time I met Gary in person, although I’ve talked with him by phone and e-mail over the past year or so while serving on ALTA’s publications committee. He really does have boundless enthusiasm, and I’m sure will be a huge player in ALTA’s development—especially in terms of its publications, website, and involvement with younger translators.
On to the questions:
Favorite Word in Any Language: carpetovetonico, which refers to a fustian madrileno
I so love the specificity of this word. Not just a pompous Spaniard, but a fustian Madrileno. Now I just need to find a good moment in which to use this . . . Hopefully without starting a bar fight . . .
Best Thing You’ve Translated to Date: La vida es sueno (Life Is a Dream) by Pedro Calderon de la Barca
Calderon (1600-1681) is considered by many to be one of Spain’s greatest playwrights, and, according to Wikipedia (the internet’s greatest quick hit informational resource), he “initiated the second cycle of Spanish Golden Age theater.” Here’s a description of Life Is a Dream (also from Wikipedia—which I feel the need to apologize for, but seriously, this description kicks ass all over the one you can find on the Penguin Classics website):
In the play, the king of Poland has had his son Segismundo imprisoned all of his life because it has been prophesied that the son will bring disaster to the country. The king tells his subjects that his son died after childbirth. After his son has grown to be a man, the king reveals to his court that his son lives, and allows the court to vote in favor of allowing the son to become heir. However, the son turns out to be violent, killing a man and attempting rape. For this he is drugged and returned to his prison, and told upon waking that the previous day’s events were merely a dream. Still, his jailer scolds him for his un-princely behaviour, which prompts remorse in Segismundo. Rebels who are working against the king, who have found out about the treatment of Segismundo, break him out of prison. The rebels defeat the king’s army; however, Segismundo doubts again if he is in reality or a dream, finally deciding that even in a dream we have to behave well because “God is God” and forgives the king . The play ends in a wedding.
(Totally side note, but I think it would be great to do some special panel/podcast/interview with drama translators to talk about the special issues involved in translating plays . . .)
Book that Needs to Be Published in English Translation: Retranslation of Jose Hernandez’s Martin Fierro
As one of the most important Argentine works of all time, I approve this recommendation. In fact, it’s almost shocking that there aren’t new translations of this every few years . . . Maybe it’s time for a Penguin Classics edition?
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
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. . .