Unfortunately, because of my stupid decision to spend two hours taking the “subway” from DFW Airport to the hotel, I missed Steve Wasserman’s keynote speech, which I heard was pretty fantastic. I did make it to Esther Allen’s panel about the recent PEN/Ramon Llull report To Be Translated or Not To Be, which has been mentioned here before, and which I plan to talk about in detail in a couple weeks.
Outside of the report’s findings, this panel featured a lot of interesting statistics worth noting:
One of the most interesting aspects of the panel was Roger Greenwald’s presentation about the situation regarding Sweden’s recent decision to end—and then reinstate—funding for translations of Swedish works into other languages.
I knew a bit about this from the London Book Fair, but didn’t know many of the specifics. Basically, on April 11th, the Swedish Institute announced that they were ending support for translations abroad. At this time they had been funding a total of about 100 translations a year, giving translators approx. $3,000 on average. Not a ton of support, but enough to make the publication of many of these books possible.
Shortly after this announcement, various protests sprung up, including Christopher MacLehose’s outraged statement at the Nordic cocktail during the London Book Fair. . . .
That was the last I had heard of this until ALTA. Apparently, in July, the Swedish government announced that they were going to re-establish funding for the translation of Swedish literature, including nonfiction and children’s books. The situation of how these funds will be disbursed is complicated, and I won’t go into it here, but it’s worth noting that the government is allocating $7 million SEK to this, up from $2 million SEK in 2006 . . . Not bad, not bad.
To be honest, after the announcement at the LBF, I started ignoring all Swedish recommendations and submissions. Not so much because there wasn’t funding available for the translation, but because they had taken it away. That seems so insulting and short-sighted that I basically gave up on Sweden. This changes things . . .
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. . .