- A small Dutch town with the incredible name of ’s-Hertogenbosch is planning a truly legendary celebration of Hieronymus Bosch: “The whole city (already famous in the Netherlands for its wild Shrovetide carnival) is planning to go slightly bonkers with Bosch fever. There will be moving projections of Bosch paintings in the marketplace and 3D recreations—erupting through pavements or hanging from lampposts—of angels, demons, damned souls, mermaids riding on flying fish, drunken priests, lascivious women, and monsters with the legs of a giant chicken and the body of an egg. More images will be projected under the bridges and in the tunnels of the river and canals, for an adventure billed as ‘The Boat Trip of Heaven and Hell.’ ”
- Meanwhile, in London, the art scene is drawing its inspiration from a more contemporary source: One Direction fan fiction. The artist Owen G. Parry’s latest work “explores the world of ‘Larry Stylinson,’ that is, fanfiction and fanart that explore a sexual relationship between One Direction band members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson … Parry’s pieces include Larry Underwater Kiss, a digital silk print, Larry!Hiroglyfics, etched drawings of the couple on Perspex alongside the slogan ‘ship everything,’ and Larry!Domestic: masks of Louis and Harry in pink containers, alongside a wearable pregnant belly marked with Harry’s tattoos.”
- Olly Moss’s new video game Firewatch derives its subversive power from something you don’t find often in the medium: solitude. It does, after all, feature a pair of “rudderless forty-somethings” who keep their eyes to the horizon for a living: “The game is set in a few acres of a fictional national park in Wyoming, where you play as a fire lookout who intends to spend the lingering days of summer working alone at his typewriter, occasionally scanning the horizon for curls of smoke … The core of the game is the relationship between Henry and Delilah, a neighboring lookout with whom Henry keeps in near constant contact on his battery-powered radio. Delilah, who has spent many summers here, is by turns a mentor, a therapist, and a flirt. You choose how Henry responds to her jibes and inquiries, selecting from a range of options to reply either in kind, in defense, or with silence.”
- From 1940 to 1948, New Yorkers could enjoy the the New York PM Daily, a distinctive tabloid that served as a progressive voice for the city, complete with unflinching photography and a mission statement that feels positively Sanders-esque: “PM is against people who push other people around. PM accepts no advertising. PM belongs to no political party. PM is absolutely free and uncensored. PM’s sole source of income is its readers—to whom it alone is responsible. PM is one newspaper that can and dares to tell the truth.”
- Most of us (i.e., me) assume that translating is a total paradise—a famously lucrative sideline free of pressure, stress, or neurosis of any kind. The translator Natasha Wimmer sets the record straight: “By translating something you’re implicitly recommending it. I always think about that when I choose a project. I was just reading an interview with the translator Michael Hofmann who translates from German, and he was saying that in his ideal world people would consider his name an imprimatur. I’m really not sure how many people look to the translator to see what to read next, but I do try to make coherent choices … There’s a reason I’m translating a woman next. I think about that; I think about the question of women writers in translation. I’ve translated on commission a lot, so I tend to just choose the best of what I’m offered, and that’s happened to be male writers. But I do think that it’s my responsibility to seek out women writers and to translate them.”
To celebrate the publication of Roberto Bolaño’s collected nonfiction, New Directions and Galapagos Arts Space host translator Natasha Wimmer, novelist Francisco Goldman, writer and Believer editor Heidi Julavits, Harper’s contributing editor Wyatt Mason, and our very own Lorin Stein as they they read from and discuss Between Parentheses, a collection of the late Chilean author’s essays, reviews, speeches, and personal musings. The event is free; doors open at 7:00 P.M. Galapagos Arts Space, 16 Main Street, Brooklyn, New York. Further details here.
Each year, the Center for the Art of Translation publishes an anthology series called Two Lines that focuses on literary translation. This year’s anthology is titled Some Kind of Beautiful Signal, and it was edited by the translator Natasha Wimmer and the poet Jeffrey Yang. If you’re like me, you’re probably familiar with Wimmer’s work on Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 and The Savage Detectives, though Wimmer has also garnered praise for her translations of the novels by Mario Vargas Llosa. Last week, Wimmer was part of a collective response to Lydia Davis’s musings on translating Madame Bovary. But this week, Wimmer has been blogging on the Center for the Art of Translation’s Web site, where she describes discovering the writing of Bioy Casares and his novel The Invention of Morel:
Not only had I not read it, I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t even heard of it. As anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with Argentinian literature will tell you, this was a travesty. Once you’ve read Borges, you read his great friend and collaborator, Bioy. The cult classic The Invention of Morel is perhaps the defining work of fantastic literature in Spanish, and as Rodrigo would say, fantastic literature may be the Argentinian literature par excellence.
Scott Esposito: Lastly, I wanted to ask you about the piece you translated for this volume, Roberto Bolaño’s essay “La traduccion en un yunque,” which you translated as “Translation Is a Testing Ground.” It’s an interesting piece about the limits of translation, which it illustrates by talking about those authors who will and can be translated versus those who can’t or won’t. What was the thought-process that got you from “yunque” to “testing ground”? And did your own extensive experience with translation inform your decision to go for this interpretation of “yunque”? Read More
For the last three weeks, Lydia Davis has shared her thoughts and experiences in translating Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. She writes, “I did not study the other translations during my first draft because I had to establish my own style and my own understanding of what I was reading before I could risk the rhythms and eccentricities of the others striking my ear and possibly creeping into my prose.” We asked others to weigh in on the matter from their own work in the field. Here is what they had to say.
Edith Grossman, translator:
I admire Lydia Davis’s writing, and it is always extremely interesting to learn how another translator works, especially one as eloquent as Davis. I don’t often have the opportunity to read about another translator’s methods and attitudes toward the work, and I was intrigued by her essay.
The one point on which I disagree with her absolutely concerns reading other people’s translations. Although most of my translations, like hers, have been of texts not previously brought over into English, in the past few years I’ve had occasion to translate classic Spanish works, each of which has had countless versions in English. But it always seemed crucially important to me not to consult them or study them—to what end, I asked myself, when the point of a new translation is to be a new translation, with a fresh voice and a different point of view.
On the other hand, I agree with her absolutely regarding the importance of the translator’s ability to write the second language. Hearing the first text, and finding appropriate phrasing that recreates its tonalities and intention in the second, is the fundamental translating skill. Nothing else compares.
I’m curious about her not reading the entire text before beginning the translation. Even though she states her reasons, I still don’t quite understand why she doesn’t. We are the translators, after all, not ordinary readers, and we have a different kind of obligation to the text.
I assume there are seven translating sins to match the seven mortal ones. I’ve never thought about this in terms of sins, deadly or otherwise, but I imagine the first—right up there with pride—is having a tin ear in English.
Wyatt Mason, translator and critic:
Every translation is an interpretation. As with all acts of literary criticism of which translation is only the most thoroughgoing, there are richer and poorer specimens. Not unreasonably, when a translation doesn’t seem to cohere, when its parts do not quite cleave together, we look at its string of choices and worry its beads one by one. This is not heavy work. Any state trooper with a bilingual dictionary can ticket any translation for the betrayal of its original. A more complicated undertaking is to divine why, when a translation does cohere, it does cohere. The same trooper with the same bilingual dictionary will, as often as not, discover that the coherent translation is no less a word by word betrayal of its original than its incoherent demon twin. To succeed, then, a translation depends as much upon deliberate choices as upon indiscriminate magic. A steady accretion of dutiful particulars cannot alone compound into something finer than the merely finely wrought: Fine writing is not made by magic, only industry. The magic of the achieved work of literary art, whether borrowed or made, is always nested deeper than its visible pieces. The magic of the achieved translation, like its maker, and no less inexplicably, is that it is a thing that possesses a living soul, or does not.