Special thanks to Megan McDowell for sending me a whole new batch of translator photos so that I can continue this series.
For those who don’t know, this series grew out of an idea I had at the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) conference that took place back in November. Megan McDowell (the official ALTA photographer) and I thought it would be fun to ask a bunch of translators a few questions and thus make them more “visible.”
A few short weeks after the conference, and just as this series was getting into high gear, ALTA sent out an e-newsletter that posed the question, “Do You Recognize Any of These Translators?” and included a link to a page on their site where a picture of me was identified as Lucas Klein. (It’s now fixed.) This was a source of great amusement to a few people, and thankfully Lucas and I were both able to appear at the same party at the same time to put to bed all those Clark Kent/Superman rumors. (No, I don’t know which is which either.)
I do feel like there is some sort of weird connection between the two of us though . . . I mean, that picture does sort of look like Lucas. And more to the point, my grandfather’s name was “Klien,” so maybe we’re inverted doppelgangers or something. The least we could do is have a shibboleth to identify other mislabeled translators that are part of our little clique . . .
Onto the questions:
Favorite Word in Any Language: Cipher
Tying this back into “shibboleth,” I think Mr. Klein has a bit of an obsession with secret societies and codes . . .
Best Translation You’ve Done to Date:
“I’ll come is empty talk I’ll go and then no trace”
Lucas was the first (and I believe only) translator to take my question and reinterpret it in a much more precise, micro sort of way. I was really hoping someone would give us a single line instead of a full work—there’s something powerful about this sort of focus.
Book That Needs to Be Published in English Translation: Poems of Li Shangyin
Li Shangyin was a poet of the late Tang Dynasty, but the most interesting facts from his Wikipedia entry are:
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. . .