A couple years back I wrote a blog post about my first ALTA experience for Words Without Borders entitled “Why I Love ALTA.” It was right after the Montreal American Literary Translators Association Conference where I met Niloufar Talebi, Dwayne Hayes, Pam Carmell, Rachel Galvin, Susan Harris, and hosts of other translators.
This has vanished from the internet, but basically it was about how I was blown away by just how much fun all the translators had together. And the fact that almost everyone was shorter than me. Which, I admit, is something that I find very important.
Anyway, this was my second ALTA Conference, and although Dallas is no Montreal, it was just as fun and interesting. So in addition to the panels described in the upcoming posts, I thought it would be worthwhile sharing some more general observations.
First off, aside from Idra Novy, who has no business being so tall for a Jewish girl (Rebecca McKay’s quote, not mine, I swear), once again, most everyone was around my height. And as a group, translators are incredibly witty, funny, and enjoyable to hang out with. (Who else would call Casket Store to find out if it’s open 24 hours? BTW, the answer is no. They are, however, on call for “casket emergencies” . . . )
Translators are also resilient. They’re underpaid, underappreciated, run into hundreds of problems with their editors—those lucky enough to have them—yet at the ALTA conference, there’s a general buzz about projects, books, and authors that is really refreshing. Part of the reason is thanks to programs like the ALTA fellowships, through which a number of younger translators are able to attend the conference.
It’s important that people like Megan McDowell and Edward Gauvin have a chance to meet figures like Peter Bush, Olivia Sears, Marilyn Booth, and Esther Allen. It’s a great way of encouraging people to continue on in the profession, an invaluable learning experience, and one of the reasons this organization is so vital and its conference so much fun.
Though far from the most convincing reason to read literature in translation, one common side effect is learning of another culture, of its history. Within that, and a stronger motivation to read, is the discovery of stories not possible within. . .
Despite cries that literature is dead, dying, and self-replicating in the worst way, once in a while a book comes along to remind readers that there’s still a lot of surprise to be found on the printed page. To be. . .
“I was small. And my village was small, I came to know that in time. But when I was small it was big for me, so big that when I had to cross it from one end to the other,. . .
A few weeks after moving into a farm house in the Welsh countryside, Emilie, an expatriate from the Netherlands, starts to think about her uncle. This uncle tried to drown himself in a pond in front of the hotel where. . .
Think back to the last adventure- or action-type book you read. Wasn’t it cool? Didn’t it make you want to do things, like learn to shoot a crossbow, hack complicated information systems, travel to strange worlds, take on knife-wielding thugs,. . .
In Aira’s Shantytown, while we’re inside the characters’ heads for a good portion of the story, the voice we read on the page is really that of Aira himself, as he works out the plot of the book he’s writing.. . .
Noir is not an easy genre to define—or if it once was, that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; as a quick guess, maybe Silver Lake, Los Angeles, 1935. When two books as different as. . .
Some time ago I read this phrase: “The page is the only place in the universe God left blank for me.”
Pedro Mairal’s short novel The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra is more about these blank spaces than the usual full. . .
“What if even in the afterlife you have to know foreign languages? Since I have already suffered so much trying to speak Danish, make sure to assign me to the Polish zone . . .”
So reads a typical aphoristic “poem”. . .
If you somehow managed to overlook the 2012 translation of Andrés Neuman’s breathtaking Traveler of the Century (and woe betide all whom continue to do so), you now have two exceptional works of fiction from the young Argentine virtuoso demanding. . .