6 August 08 | Chad W. Post

Over at A Journey Round My Skull, Will Schofield has a fascinating interview with the translator Gilbert Alter-Gilbert. Alter-Gilbert has translated a number of interesting authors, including Miguel Angle Asturias, Vincente Huidobro, Oliverio Girondo, Marie Redonnet, and Leopoldo Lugones.

Since Alter-Gilbert is also a critic and literary historian, this interview is chock full of semi-obscure authors and movements to pursue. (As mentioned in the preface to the interview, Will is in the process of adding links to all these authors and movements.)

This is a long, captivating interview with any number of highlights, such as the bit about John Calder:

Calder is a fascinating figure. A gentleman of the old school, he will always hold a shining place in my memory as the perfect picture of a proper British publisher, in his double-breasted navy blue blazer, with one brass button missing, stoically holding forth about toeing the line against the predations of all-encroaching barbarism. Calder authored an indispensable apologia for literary endeavor entitled The Defence of Literature, in which he asserted that writers ought to be coddled and cherished and supported in every possible way as a priceless cultural resource. Now, here are the thoughts of an enlightened individual!

And a section about Lugones and Macedonio Fernandez:

Borges was influenced by another important contemporary: the eccentric, if avuncular, philosopher manqué Macedonio Fernandez who, though a fully licensed attorney, preferred to spend his days (and most of all, his nights) strumming his guitar and indulging in fanciful metaphysical speculation. A sort of offbeat eminence grise of the Pampas, Fernandez was better known for his personality than for his writing, the best of which is marked by satire and sardonic paradox. Perhaps it was Fernandez who, with his twisted humor, fostered in Borges the acerbic wit and penchant for the felicitous phrase which led him to mint such gems as “the original is unfaithful to the translation” and, when someone clumsily attempted to slight his friend Santiago Dabove by remarking that he had written only one book, Borges quipped, “Yes, but how many people have written even one?” Borges must be credited with formulating his own literary modalities, original and distinct. Despite being thoroughly steeped in the grand cosmopolitan tradition of fantastic fiction, Borges managed to fashion a body of work that is not discernibly derivative and, for the most part, is cut from whole cloth. But he didn’t spring from a vacuum . . .

His history of nineteenth-century French literary movements is great, especially since he highlights some of the lesser known, and more edgy, groups:

The gothic novel created a huge sensation in its day, and stock features of crumbling, fog-enshrouded ruins, forsaken glades, haunted castles, chain-rattling ghosts and doom-laden protagonists filled readers with dread, frenzy and hysteria; hence the term “frantic.” The Frantic School is also known as the Frenetic School. A good example in this vein is Nodier’s collection of tales and anecdotes Infernaliana. I like to think of Aloysius Bertrand, too, as a writer of this brand. Among the public-at-large, Frenetic School came to be known as one of the synonyms for the Bouzingo. The Bouzingo (sometimes called Bousingo or Bousingots, and meaning noise, racket, uproar, ruckus) were a collective of flamboyant Bohemian writers and artists probably named after the roaring boys of seventeenth century England. Forerunners of Anthony Burgess’s Droogs, the roaring boys were drunken rowdies who traveled in packs, blustering boisterously through the moonlit streets of London, roughing up passersby, ambushing maidens and generally wreaking havoc and raising Cain. Jaded, disaffected youth out on a tear, they were amoral pranksters intent on amusement at any cost.

And his diatribe against academics:

Marxist troglodytes who stalk the groves of academe have deemed that writers with religious foundations should not be taken seriously. It’s inexcusably petty to dismiss such writers out of hand merely on account of their religious proclivities. Cotton Mather is arguably more interesting to read than the majority of recent Nobel laureates and Bloy and Papini endured personal hardships and spiritual struggles that put to shame those of Augustine and St. John of the Cross and make them look like namby-pambies. The precious, hand-wringing academic mafiosi who blackball such writers are a pack of pretentious, politically-correct poltroons. Countless brilliant writers have been suppressed or, worse, ignored, simply on account of unorthodoxy.

Overall, this is an awesome interview — in part because of its focus on the translator as a literary historian more aware of trends and writers than most other people. It looks like some excerpts of Alter-Gilbert’s translations will be available on A Journey Round My Skull in the near future, which is also extremely valuable. Kudos to Will Schofield for such a great project.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

Read More >

The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

Read More >

Agnes
Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >