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April 2005

Pen World Voices


From April 16th through 23rd, one of the largest ever convocations of foreign writers in the U.S. will be gathering around the hotel bars (not to mention the stages of venues both venerable and hip) of New York City, in a festival sponsored by PEN American Center and supported by donors as glamorous as Diane von Furstenburg. Can it be-translation is in vogue? Here at WWB, we've pulled together an extraordinary smorgasbord of newly translated work from eleven of these authors-from the crowd-pleasing comic absurdity of "Hair Tax" by Yoko Tawada and sly satire of "Hameed Nylon" by Fadhil Al-Azzawi to the sheer elegance of Antoine Audouard's "Passage of Eden" to the linguistic ingenuity of Pedro Rosa Mendes's "German Dolls" and the erotic haze of Oksana Zabuzhko's "Girls." Pure wit enables one woman to indulge a taste for freedom and sensuality in Hanan al-Shaykh's "God, It's as Though You're Sewing a Dress for a Flea"; while a tense border-crossing keeps another trapped in political and romantic limbo in Anouar Benmalek's "Feral Love." For two sides of idealism, see Jakob Arjouni's knowing take on philanthropic opportunism, "The Rudolf Family Does Good Works," and Patrik Ouředník's exploration of nineteenth-century utopian communities in "The Opportune Moment, 1855"; and for two views of Russia, see Svetlana Alexeivich's Stalinist work camp survivor's widow in "The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt" and Yuri Rytkheu's Scottish sailor stranded in Siberia in "A Dream of Polar Fog." And click here to link to the works of PEN Festival authors previously published in WWB. We hope you'll fall in love with many and travel to hear at least a few. If a visit to NYC is not an option, participate in one of our festival forums with renowned translators André Aciman, Esther Allen, and Lawrence Venuti -- preregister now -- and come back to this space in May for streaming audio/video of some of the events.

UPDATE: If you missed the PEN World Voices Literary Festival, click here to hear audio clips of WWB-featured authors and to see video of the WWB-sponsored panel discussion on "Love and Hate."

The Rudolf Family Does Good Works
By Jakob Arjouni
“Herr Rudolf! Wait a minute.” The caretaker’s old wife straightened up, dropped her rag into her bucket, and limped over to the stairs. Herr Rudolf stopped and removed his tasseled hat.…
Translated from German by Anthea Bell
from The Opportune Moment, 1855
By Patrik Ouředník
Patrik Ouředník’s forthcoming novel imagines one of the most striking phenomena of the nineteenth century: the founding of “free” settlements in North and South America by Europeans…
Translated from Czech by Alex Zucker
The City, the Spirit, and the Letter: On Translating Cavafy
By André Aciman
No poem by Cavafy is as simple or as complicated as “The City.”
from Feral Love
By Anouar Benmalek
The day had advanced resolutely into evening. He returned to his hotel, anticipating an early departure in the morning; once in his room, he stretched out on the bed. Outside, blackest night.He rose to…
Translated from French by Justin Goldberg
German Dolls
By Pedro Rosa Mendes
“German Dolls” takes Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) to Berlin. It is a text about memories–false and inaccurate, as memories always are–and how they interfere with…
Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers
Hameed Nylon
By Fadhil al-Azzawi
Hameed, who had yet to learn the nickname by which he would be known for the rest of his life, entered the house, which emitted a fresh country scent. With his foot, as usual, he shoved open the heavy…
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
By Oksana Zabuzhko
Darka saw her in the trolley, the sweaty, June-soaked trolley, brimming with people and their smells: sweet, almost corpselike, female, heavy, equestrian, yet oddly palatable, and even stimulating, sexual,…
Translated from Ukrainian by Askold Melnyczuk
Passage of Eden
By Antoine Audouard
The old man was standing cautiously behind the table on which he displayed the treasures of the passage's bookshop: used English paperbacks, bound photocopies, ancient and incomplete collections of…
Translated from French by Antoine Audouard
Hair Tax
By Yoko Tawada
After months of controversy, the new hair tax was approved. The Hamster Lovers' Guild was said to be the driving force behind the reform. The Guild had always found it objectionable that the tax levied…
Translated from German by Susan Bernofsky
from A Dream in Polar Fog
By Yuri Rytkheu
She moved quickly and purposefully, as though she were handling walrus flippers or deer legs, not human hands.
Translated from Russian by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse
The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt
By Svetlana Alexievich
He was a wildly lonely person. I loved him.
Translated from Russian by Marian Schwartz
Doors, Windows, and the Office of Foreign Assets Control
By Esther Allen
Lex and I came to the strange realization that we, and Alejo Carpentier, had effectively been censored by the United States government.