When it comes to the representation of lesser-known countries and their literatures, I’m clearly one to have a personal bias toward pitching anything Latvian to the world at large (moment of self-promotion: Open Letter Books will be publishing the English translation of Latvian author Inga Ābele’s novel High Tide in fall 2013), but the fact of the matter is that the problems behind spreading the love of translated literature—be it an issue of finding translators, publishers, or readers—applies to any small country that’s trying to introduce itself to the English-speaking literary market (and also applies to the translation and publishing of foreign literatures in general). So it was much to my delight that an article titled “Unchain My Language!” popped up on Euronews.net a few weeks ago showcasing Latvian author Inga Žolude, one of the 2011 European Union Prize for Literature winners.
The video and transcript of the interview were prepared by Euronews.net’s “Generation Y,” who traveled to Latvia (FATHERLAND!!!) to talk with Žolude, as well as her translator, Suzanne McQuade, and others involved in the Latvian literary and publishing industry on the topic of Latvian literature in translation. In addition to lauding Žolude’s accomplishments as a young writer, the article touches on the difficulties of getting foreign literature published abroad, especially when that literature is being written in languages largely unspoken outside its respective country’s borders.
While it’s not entirely clear why the good people of Generation Y (and their endearingly questionable use of video graphics) came to pick Latvia as their destination, their choice was a good one, and the interview gives Žolude and the other interviewees the opportunity to make some excellent statements and observations on literary translation and its finer points. And though they ultimately bring up topics that are often discussed in the world of literary translation, the importance of these topics cannot be stressed or repeated enough.
Generation Y traveled to Riga to meet Inga Zolude, a 28-year-old Latvian writer, who was one of the winners of the European Union Prize for Literature last year.
“I think there should be an interest in Latvian literature because Latvian Literature is unique, it is different and specific, it’s very high quality literature. I hope that the time when it is fully discovered on a bigger scale is approaching,” she says.
That is what this is all about. The European Prize for Literature aims to promote the circulation of books in a continent where the diversity of languages is often a barrier.
In addition to the video, Generation Y also linked to translation samples of Žolude’s work, the English sample of which you can find here.
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. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .