How Loving Your Source Can Make Your English Translation Into Doggerel

I think that some translators must have a terribly sad streak inside, but let me start with doggerel since it’s lighter. By doggerel I don’t only mean the unintentionally funny or the inventive and exploratory. To get a sense of these, for the funny end of the spectrum, try William McGonagall’s “The Tay Bridge Disaster”: … Continue reading How Loving Your Source Can Make Your English Translation Into Doggerel

Ars Prosaica

I’m in the production tunnel now and finding it difficult to comment on my work. This happened to dozens of my students at Iowa when they were in the midst of finishing translation MFA theses and were then expected to write something about them. This required a shift of thinking and approach that they had… Continue reading Ars Prosaica

The Bizarre Task of the Translator

Janet Malcom’s “Socks” is the latest in the healthy or interminable (depending on your level of interest) debate regarding translations of nineteenth-century Russian fiction into English. The touchstone, yet again, is Anna Karenina, which I wrote about here some time ago on the occasion of a review by Masha Gessen. The primary target of Malcom’s… Continue reading The Bizarre Task of the Translator

Translation and Rhetoric

And with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Indiana University: Call for Papers Special Issue of POROI on Rhetoric and Translation Guest Editor: Russell Scott Valentino, Indiana University Rhetorical theorists since Aristotle have known that rhetoric is a temporally and spatially situated form of communication that forges (or fails to… Continue reading Translation and Rhetoric

Communication, Literature, Translation

A couple of readers of a recent post of mine objected to my claim that literature makes very little use of the common tools of interpersonal communication. I suspect this is a simple case of miscommunication, not a disagreement about principle. Interpersonal communication makes use of a wide and rich spectrum of sensations, an extensive… Continue reading Communication, Literature, Translation

Prehistoric Times

Alyson Waters has a fantastic translation of Eric Chevillard’s Prehistoric Times, which was published a couple of years back by Archipelago Books. I liked it so much that I reviewed it. Here is the first paragraph: “Under the influence of having just completed this book—and let me note at the outset that the influence is… Continue reading Prehistoric Times

The Man Between the Woman in the Window

One of the reasons The Woman in the Window took so long to finish is that I was always working on other things at the same time. I think all seven of the books I’ve translated came out during the time I was writing WiW, suggesting that it might be a very good thing for… Continue reading The Man Between the Woman in the Window

Crossing Seven Silences (in two parts): 1

I am tempted by phrases such as the silence of ignorance, and the silence of hatred, but ignorance is so very rarely silent, and hatred even less so. I am also tempted—let’s get these all out at the start—by the definite article, that “the” that would suggest these silences are the silences, the only ones… Continue reading Crossing Seven Silences (in two parts): 1

This book again

We’ve launched a new magazine, Em Dash. Here’s the pithy content description: translation is a crossing over. an exchange. a removal. an addition. a destruction. a replacement. a building. a violation. a transformation. an in-between. a movement. a book. an EM DASH. This, and the magazine as a whole, is the exemplary work of AHB’s… Continue reading This book again

Writing for your friends

I remember a translation exchange that was put together by Iowa’s International Writing Program some years ago, in which several French poets and several American poets got together and exchanged their work, the French translating the Americans into French, and the Americans translating the French into English. One of the Americans, David St. John, on… Continue reading Writing for your friends