11 June 09 | Chad W. Post

The Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Symposium (participants pictured above) took place earlier this week, and was one of the most interesting symposiums I’ve ever attended.

The Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize—which goes to the best translation from German published in the past year—was awarded to John Hargraves for his translation of Michael Kruger’s The Executor, and the symposium that took place the next day was very focused, very enlightening, and very exciting.

This year’s topic was “Interpretation and Translation,” and each of the panels addressed the idea of how personal interpretation of a work influences how the translator approaches it. This topic was especially interesting in relation to the panels of poetry translation, especially the opening one on lyric translation, which gave Pierre Joris a chance to talk about his careful—and extremely thoughtful—translation of Paul Celan’s “Todtnauberg.” (Which you can find on Celan’s Wikipedia page.) He claimed that because of the very nature of poetry, a translated poem must be more difficult than the original—to smooth it out and make a poem easier to understand is to fail as a translator.

Nick Hoff’s self-analysis of his decisions regarding his translation of Holderin’s poetry was very astute and fascinating, especially when he compared his translations to Michael Hamburger’s, detailing how Hoff’s interpretative bias towards musicality and emotive force lead to very different translations from Hamburger’s, which favor meter over everything else. Ross Benjamin—who translated Holderin’s Hyperion for Archipelago—also gave a great presentation about his decision-making process, and really made me want to read this novel.

I don’t think I was the only person in attendance who was blown away by Nick’s and Ross’s attention to detail and quality. The perceptiveness of these two young, very talented translators is a great sign for the future of German literature in translation.

The prose side of things was interesting as well. Breon Mitchell talked about the process of retranslating The Tin Drum and Krishna Winston talked about Grass’s translator meetings. In relation to My Century, Michael Henry Heim gave a wonderful speech about how to treat dialect in translation, addressing the many problems, the different traditions present in other cultures (for instance, French translators frequently translate English first names in to their French equivalent), and proposing that translators invent dialects.

All that said, it was a bit of a bittersweet occasion. For the past seven or eight years, Dr. Ruediger van den Boom has done a remarkable job putting on this prize ceremony and symposium. Unfortunately, he’s retiring from the Goethe Institut this summer and returning to Germany, leaving behind some (literally) big shoes to fill. Nevertheless, I believe the symposium will continue—it’s an extremely valuable opportunity for the best German translators in the country to discuss the ins-and-outs of the craft at a very high level. And to be able to hang out with people like Drenka Willen and Helmut Frielinghaus and hear these translators talk shop is something else . . .


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
The Odyssey
The Odyssey by Homer
Reviewed by Peter Constantine

Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.

–(The Odyssey, Book I, line 10. Emily Wilson)

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs. . .

Read More >

I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

Read More >

Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

Read More >

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 >

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