Translation Roundup

By Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren

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Awards and Honors

The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced its 2012 Literature Translation Fellowships. Winners include translators and WWB contributors Katherine Silver, Rika Lesser, and Christian Hawkey, as well as two recipients of 2012 PEN Translation Fund Grants: Deborah Garfinkle and Matt Reeck. Congratulations!

Last Thursday, the 2012 Man Booker Prize longlist was announced. The 12 books were selected from 145 entries, and include novels by British, South African, Indian, and Malaysian writers. The shortlist will be revealed in London on September 11. 

Interviews, Articles, Reviews

"I wanted to finally speak in what you might call my primal voice, the first voice that I have always had and needed to speak with," writer and WWB contributor Abdellah Taïa tells Jason Napoli Brooks about the origin of his open letter, "Homosexuality Explained to My Mother." In the Asymptote interview, Taïa discusses Morocco's "I" generation, Egyptian movies, and how thinking in Arabic while writing in French fuels his art.

"I began to read on the bus, and missed my stop," writer, translator, and WWB contributor Aamer Hussein reveals in his review of The Complete Short Stories of Natalia Ginzburg, translated from Italian by Paul Lewis, also in the current issue of Asymptote. Hussein traces his connection to the famed Italian author—whom he discovered as a 22-year-old living in Rome—recalling how her work taught him "to deploy [literary Italian's] wisecracks and refinements in my speech." Also in the current issue, Aditi Machado reviews writer and WWB contributor Amina Saïd's poetry collection Present Tense of the World: Poems 2000-2009, translated from French by translator and WWB contributor Marilyn Hacker.

"Notoriously fickle American readers . . . can sink their mindsteeth into Marian Schwartz’s incredible translation of Shishkin’s novel and marvel in the fact that Maidenhair harkens back to the great classic Russian novels of ideas in every way," Will Evans declares in his effusive Three Percent review of writer and WWB contributor Mikhail Shishkin's novel Maidenhair, translated from Russian by translator and frequent WWB contributor Marian Schwartz

Digital Geishas and Talking Frogs: The Best 21st Century Stories from Japan, edited by Helen Mitsios, was reviewed by World Literature Today. The anthology takes off where Alfred Birnbaum’s Monkey Brain Sushi and Helen Mitsios’s New Japanese Voices 1991 anthologies left off—capturing a Japan shaken by economic collapse, and struggling for a new sense of identity.

Translation News

We're delighted to report that Zeina Abirached's graphic novel, A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return, translated from French by star translator and WWB contributing editor Edward Gauvin, was published August 1 by Lerner Books. The first English excerpt from the book appeared in WWB's February 2010 graphic novel issue. Abirached grew up in Lebanon during the civil war, and her book depicts one fraught day of bombing from a child's viewpoint. As Gauvin notes, Abirached deploys maps, floor plans, and scrupulous detail to convey the increasing confinement and shrinking options of the family, as "snipers, oil drums, containers, barbed wire, sandbags carve out a new geography."  The book landed a translation grant from the French Voices program of the French Embassy—the first graphic novel so recognized—and was selected by the Junior Library Guild; the publisher has positioned it as a YA title, but as these disparate honors suggest, this is a book for all ages. Abirached becomes the twelfth author to secure a book contract thanks to publication in WWB. 

The Center for Translation recently announced the launch of Two Lines Press. Look for their first two books of translated literature, from acclaimed international authors, this spring: Santigo Roncagliolo's phone sex novella, Hi, This Is Conchita, and Marie NDiaye collection of stories and novellas, All My Friends. 


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