Posts Tagged ‘translation’
March 16, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Ta-Nehisi Coates has offered a glimpse of what we can expect from his new series of Black Panther comics, and it involves, as all good stories do, a superhuman terrorist group called the People. “In my work for The Atlantic I have, for some time, been asking a particular question: Can a society part with, and triumph over, the very plunder that made it possible? In Black Panther there is a simpler question: Can a good man be a king, and would an advanced society tolerate a monarch? … The Black Panther I offer pulls from the archives of Marvel and the character’s own long history. But it also pulls from the very real history of society—from the precolonial era of Africa, the peasant rebellions that wracked Europe toward the end of the Middle Ages, the American Civil War, the Arab Spring, and the rise of ISIS … Chris Claremont’s The Uncanny X-Men wasn’t just about an ultracool band of rebels. That series sought to grapple with the role of minorities in society—both the inner power and the outward persecution that come with that status. And so it is, I hope, with Black Panther. The questions are what motivate the action. The questions, ultimately, are more necessary than the answers.”
- Take some time away from your busy day and think about the logistics of nineteenth-century feces disposal, won’t you? Adee Braun can help: “Night soil was the name euphemistically given to human waste because it was removed from privies under the cloak of darkness so that polite society would be spared from confronting its own feces as the men carted the crap away, leaving a trail of stench in their wake … Night soil collection was big business. Hundreds of men were employed in cities—mostly African-Americans and immigrants who were either independent entrepreneurs or employees of city contractors. The night men, with their ‘rude carts,’ were considered a nuisance at best. Their night work also left them vulnerable to hoodlums who sometimes stoned the men and occasionally shot their horses. At least the pay was decent, even if the work was not. The night soil men used rudimentary long-handled dippers or buckets to scoop the mephitic waste into barrels or tanks on a wagon.”
- Tim Parks continues his dissection of the politics and vagaries of professional translation, that most unsung of literary pursuits: “Does translation matter? Does the choice of translator matter? Some translators’ associations (in Germany for example) insist that a translator ought to be paid a royalty for the translation and share in the commercial success of the work, as if the individual translator had the same impact on the work as the author. This is nonsense. Umberto Eco was better translated by Geoffrey Brock and Richard Dixon than by William Weaver, but The Name of the Rose, which Weaver translated, was an infinitely better book than The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (Brock) or Numero Zero (Dixon). Why should the one translator grow rich and the others not? … To introduce royalties would be to encourage the finest translators to drop literary work altogether and concentrate on genre novels.”
- Speaking of unsung careers in the arts, I don’t spend enough time thinking about the production designers of the world, and so was grateful to learn about Ken Adam, whose set designs for Dr. Strangelove, Barry Lyndon, and Goldfinger, among others, changed the game. Adam died last week, at ninety-five: “Adam’s magnificent designs, vast and lucid and expressive but often with an undercurrent of chilling horror, transformed those films in which they were featured … He decided, he said, to ‘forget the old way of making sets—wood and paper and so on—and try to do it all for real. I had the chance to let myself go because there was nobody looking over my shoulder.’ ”
- While we’re reminiscing: Sunny Balzano, the proprietor of a bar called Sunny’s in Red Hook, Brooklyn, died last week. Tim Sultan, whose memoir Sunny’s Nights just came out, remembers his friend: “Instinctually, he was familiar with men’s inner lives, giving direction and guidance even to those he had only just met. Many came to him for this, and in his very genuine attentiveness and his gentle conversational manner he unfailingly gave it. The final destination was always this: arriving at a place where one valued oneself. Sunny had a great appreciation for each person’s significance and he reflected that worth back on us. One always seemed to feel better after a visit with Sunny.”
February 19, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
In 1912, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire published “Le Pont Mirabeau” in the journal Les Soirées de Paris; a year later the poem appeared in his collection Alcools. Even in Apollinaire’s lifetime, the melancholy piece—which uses the image of the ornate bridge spanning the flowing Seine to explore love and the passage of time—was one of his best known. In the years since, its fame has only grown: it was set to music in a much-covered 1953 song by Léo Ferré, made into a choral arrangement by Lionel Daunais, and later interpreted by the Pogues. A plaque bearing the last lines can be found on the bridge’s foot.
In a rare recording, you can hear Apollinaire himself read “Le Pont Mirabeau”:
In issue 202, the Paris Review staff contributed unsigned translations of ten Apollinaire poems. The following translation of “Le Pont Mirabeau” is by Frederick Seidel.
Le Pont Mirabeau
Under Eads Bridge over the Mississippi at Saint Louis
Flows the Seine
And our past loves.
Do I really have to remember all that again
Joy came only after so much pain?
Hand in hand, face to face,
Let the belfry softly bong the late hour.
Nights go by. Days go by.
I’m alive. I’m here. I’m in flower.
The days go by. But I’m still here. In full flower.
Let night come. Let the hour chime on the mantel.
Love goes away the way this river flows away.
How violently flowers fade. How awfully slow life is.
How violently a flower fades. How violent our hopes are.
The days pass and the weeks pass.
The past does not return, nor do past loves.
Under the Pont Mirabeau flows the Seine.
Hand in hand, standing face to face,
Under the arch of the bridge our outstretched arms make
Flows our appetite for life away from us downstream,
And our dream
Of getting back our love of life again.
Under the Pont Mirabeau flows the Seine.
February 11, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- 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.”
February 3, 2016 | by László Krasznahorkai
There is nothing more hopeless in this world than the so-called Southwestern Regional Bus Station in Nanjing on May 5, 2002, shortly before seven o’clock in the drizzling rain and the unappeasable icy wind, as, in the vast chaos of the buses departing from the bays of this station, a regional bus, starting from the No. 5 bus stop, slowly ploughs onward—among the other buses and the puddles and the bewildered crowd of wretched, stinking, grimy people—up to the vortex of the street, then sets off into the wretched, stinking, grimy streets; there is nothing more hopeless than these streets, than these interminable barracks on either side, numbed into their own provisional eternity, because there is no word for this hopeless color, for this slowly murderous variation of brown and gray, as it spreads over the city this morning, there is no word for the assault of this hopeless din, if the bus pauses briefly at a larger intersection or a bus stop, and the female conductor with her worn features opens the door, leans out, and, hoping for a new passenger, shouts out the destination like a hoarse falcon; because there is no word which in its essence could convey whether the direction in which he now travels with his companion, his interpreter, exists in relation to the world; they are headed outward, moving away from it, the world is ever farther and farther away, ever more behind them; they are shaken, jolted in advance in the disconsolate brown and yellow of this ever-thicker, indescribable fog; headed to where it can hardly be believed that there could be anything beyond the brown and the gray of this frighteningly dreary mixture; they sit at the back of the ramshackle bus, they are dressed for May but for a different May, so they are chilled and they shiver and they try to look out of the window but they can hardly see through the grimy glass, so they just keep repeating to themselves: Fine, good, it’s all right, they can somehow put up with this situation, not to be eaten up from without and within by this grimy and hopeless fog is their only hope; and that where they are going exists, that where this bus is supposedly taking them—one of the most sacred Buddhist mountains, Jiuhuashan*—exists. Read More »
February 3, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Sarah Manguso holds up the many sources of writers’ envy—“of money, of accolades, of publication in this or that place … of profligacy and of well-managed scarcity … of accomplishment and of potential”—to remind us of how easy it is to mess things up: “The purpose of being a serious writer is not to express oneself, and it is not to make something beautiful, though one might do those things anyway. Those things are beside the point. The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair. If you keep that in mind always, the wish to make something beautiful or smart looks slight and vain in comparison. If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.”
- In which Dan Chiasson attempts to peer through Frederick Seidel’s voluptuary persona in search of the man himself: “Whenever Seidel publishes a book, a portion of his readers recoil in offense, while others celebrate his courage and cunning … The louche vampire who sniffs his fingers and spurns the poor isn’t Frederick Seidel—even though, as we learn elsewhere, this ‘character’ who has so little to do with Seidel lives in Seidel’s apartment, socializes with his friends, and shares his tastes in wine, shoes, and motorcycles. In photo shoots, Seidel stands in his Upper West Side living room, dressed up like ‘Frederick Seidel,’ surrounded by décor whose provenance we have come to know from his poems. The troubling power of this work isn’t its distance from its author but its stifling proximity … His style favors successive tremors of bile and animus, often crudely rhymed so as to suggest doggerel or ad copy.”
- How Chris Jackson, executive editor of Spiegel & Grau, is building a list of writers from the margins: “ ‘I want to protect the writer, of any race, from the dishonesty of racism, and how it can inflect any kind of work,’ he said. ‘And, for writers who are trying to challenge the pandering of the white gaze, if you have to go through a series of gatekeepers who are uniformly white, you’re going to end up with something that’s’— here came a considered pause—‘it’s going to be tough to preserve the integrity in the end.’ ”
- Reading Primo Levi in translation, Tim Parks stumbled on the word ankylosed, prompting some thoughts on diction between languages: “A certain credit or self-esteem now attaches itself to reading translations; it is something that intelligent, broad-minded people do. Above all, it is understood that the books will be literary and challenging, perhaps with something of their exotic origins still clinging to them … The American reader of translated novels is predisposed to read a rather different, non-standard English. No one need be anxious that quintals or ankylosed might force themselves into standard vocabulary; rather, they will remain pleasant curiosities, or perhaps even pretentious markers, catering to a self-consciously ‘informed’ reader of foreign novels … We know what it sounds like when an Italian speaks English with an Italian accent. But how can we possibly recognize the flavor of written Italian in written English, if we can’t read in Italian? How can we distinguish it—in English—from the flavor of Spanish or French or Russian or Czech? What can we experience beyond a muddled exoticism?”
- Book trailers: Those are funny, right? Watch as writers who’d normally object to crass consumerism sit down in the front of the camera to sell some hardcovers. It’s a uniquely self-loathing spectacle, as Katy Waldman writes: “Perhaps everyone is embarrassed by the apparent fact that a soft-shoeing writer gets people’s wallets out faster than flashes of plot and craft. Perhaps authors resent that it’s so hard to sell their actual books, or phone it in because the clips feel tangential to this tower of words they’ve made. Perhaps hustling your person is just grosser than hustling an object. Or perhaps writers appreciate not having to ‘pimp’ their novels, retreating, instead, inside their winning personalities, if applicable, and the self-mockery represents a kind of nervous laughter.”
January 26, 2016 | by Danniel Schoonebeek
In the afterword to Bright Scythe, her new translation of Tomas Tranströmer’s selected poems, Patty Crane tells a fascinating, fatalist story about how she came to translate the late Swedish poet and Nobel Prize recipient. Crane moved with her family to Tumba, Sweden in 2007, after her husband took a job overseas at a paper mill. A year into her relocation, she took a summer residency at Vermont College and began flying back to the United States in order to focus on her writing. One evening she sat next to poet Jean Valentine in a cafeteria, and because Valentine had heard that Crane was living near Stockholm, she asked if Crane might deliver a book to her friend Tomas. A year later, Crane was sitting in Tomas Tranströmer’s home, speaking to him in Swedish, and beginning to translate his poem “The Station” into English. A few more years later—and this isn’t part of that fatalist afterword, but it’s part of our story today—a galley of Bright Scythe arrived at my studio in the Catskills and the doors that seemed to bar me from Tranströmer’s work for so many years were blown off their hinges.
Is it weird for you to think that if even one of these events never took place you and I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation?
It is weird. If it weren’t for a flat bicycle tire, we definitely wouldn’t be having this conversation! That’s how I met my future husband, whose future job brought us to Sweden. I imagine there are events in your own life, maybe even a chance encounter, that led to this exchange we’re having. Turn of events such as the ones I experienced—the move to Sweden, learning the language, re-discovering Tranströmer, my chance encounter with Jean, and everything that flowed from that—seem to me to be less about what happens to you in a given set of circumstances and more about what you make happen. I guess I’m talking about opportunity. A door opens and you enter. And look, a new room with more doors. Here I am in Stockholm, taking Swedish-for-Immigrants classes. Here I am reading Tranströmer in the original Swedish. Here’s an early draft of my translation of “From July ’90” with Tomas’s faint pencil lines under the word pit. And here we are, Danniel, having this conversation. How do I reconcile that? I hope with sufficient gratitude, humility and hard work. Read More »