This year’s ALTA kicks off officially on Wednesday night with the special opening event celebrating Open Letter’s poetry series—in particular Eduardo Chirinos’s Smoke of Distant Fires, translated by Gary Racz, and Juan Gelman’s Dark Times Filled with Light, translated by Hardie St. Martin—but the real meat of the conference gets going at 9:15 Thursday morning . . . Here are a few of the highlights from those first couple sessions (remember, you can download the entire schedule here):
Thursday, October 4th
9:15 – 10:45
It’s No Pun Anymore: The Loss of Wit & Other Cultural Misunderstandings in Persian Verse Translation
Despite a rich 2,000-year literary tradition, linguistic as well as cultural elements integral to Persian poetry continue to get slighted in English renderings. This panel surveys both the classical and modern tradition of Iranian verse, foregrounding key problems that considerably limit the appreciation of style and theme in translation.
Roger Sedarat: Moderator
Mojdeh Marashi: “Saffron Paper: Rosewater Ink”
Kaveh Bassiri: “The Text Is in the Context”
Sara Khalili: “On Navigating Cultural Misunderstandings in Persian Literature”
Translating Murakami in Europe
This panel gathers three European translators of Haruki Murakami to discuss his translation into languages other than English. Focusing upon Murakami’s latest novel, 1Q84, panelists raise such problems as shifting tense, visual wordplay, and strategies for handling the English expressions and American references that appear natural in the English translation, but which stand out in other European languages, as they do in Japanese.
Mette Holm: “In Search of Lost Time in Murakami: Movement Between Past and Present”
Ika Kaminka: “Style and the Translator: Re-Exporting English Idioms out of Japanese”
Anna Zielinska-Elliott: “Visual Presence and Subjective Absence: Conjuring Japanese in European Languages”
11:00 – 12:15
Linguistics & the Culture of Humor
What makes an original text humorous and what should a translator understand about language, culture, and linguistics—both in regard to the source and target languages—to make this humor translatable? This panel also considers challenges translators may encounter.
Kaija Straumanis: “On the German Translation of George Saunders’s Pastoralia”
& Helen Anderson: “The Elephant, the Hellephant, and the Quest for Dynamic Equivalence”
Matt Rowe: “Turning The Alienist up to 11”
Emily Davis: “Hypervelocity Cloudlets: Linguistic Precision and the Importance of
Register in Damián Tabarovsky’s Medical Autobiography”
Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .
In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .
Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .
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. . .