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.
“Rambling Jack—what’s that?”
“A novel. Novella, I guess.”
“Yeah, it looks short. What is it, a hundred pages?”
“Sorta. It’s a duel language book, so really, only about… 50 pages total.”
“And this—what. . .
Many authors are compared to Roberto Bolaño. However, very few authors have the privilege of having a Roberto Bolaño quote on the cover of their work; and at that, one which states, “Good readers will find something that can be. . .
In Josep Maria de Sagarra’s Private Life, a man harangues his friend about literature while walking through Barcelona at night:
When a novel states a fact that ties into another fact and another and another, as the chain goes on. . .
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
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. . .