18 November 11 | Chad W. Post

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:

  • In 1968, Roger Waters of the rock band Pink Floyd borrowed lines from his poetry to create the lyrics for the song “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” from the band’s second album A Saucerful of Secrets; and
  • Part of a poem by Li Shangyin is recited by a minor character in the Mortuary in the computer role-playing game Planescape: Torment.

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