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.
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .