Translators of the World, Unite! Asymptote interviews Lucas Klein

Patty Nash of Asymptote interviewed me about my thoughts on translation as a social movement. Here’s an excerpt:

As I understand it, the fact that we have “movie stars” developed out of a need for movie studios to mitigate risk. Basically, there’s no way for us to tell if a movie’s any good before we see it, but we’ll pay for anything our favorite star is in. The story goes that translators get reduced to invisibility because of how publishers want to mitigate risk—as in, they see publishing translation as even more of a risk than publishing anything else, even though translations also come with sales figures in other languages—but it’s conceivable that it could work the same way as it does with movie stars. I know I’ve bought books by authors and poets I’ve never heard of because I trust the taste and style of Gregory Rabassa, Suzanne Jill Levine, Eliot Weinberger, Rosmarie Waldrop, Clayton Eshleman, John Nathan, Susan Bernofsky…

Click on the image above for the full interview.

The Translators behind In Translation: A Conversation with Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky

Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky

Translators in the anglophone world are sometimes perceived as being on a “lower rung.” The essays in our book certainly don’t subscribe to that view. Would we say that an actor is on a lower rung than the screenwriter who wrote the lines the actor delivers? Or that the literary critic is on a lower rung than the writers whose works she analyzes? The contributors to our book all write and translate and have made careers that conjoin the two practices—that conjoining is what many of the essays we’ve included are fundamentally about.

Click the image above for the full interview.

PEN Translation Grants for Chinese Poetry

The PEN/Heim Translation Fund has announced its 2013 winners.

The Fund’s Advisory Board are: Susan Bernofsky, Barbara Epler, Richard Sieburth, Lauren Wein, Eliot Weinberger, Natasha Wimmer, Matvei Yankelevich, and chair Michael F. Moore.
Special congrats to:

Chloe Garcia Roberts for her translation of Escalating Derangements of My Contemporaries by the 9th century Classical Chinese poet Li Shangyin. Garcia Roberts’ translation of these spare, immediate poem-lists is lyrical and intuitive. (To be published by New Directions)

Not Poor: Indications

Thoroughbreds sighing.
Wax tears on candles.
Chestnut shells.
Lychee husks.
Stacks and heaps of money, rice.
Mother of pearl hairpins, abandoned.
Jargon of orioles, swallows.
Eddies of fallen blossoms.
Songs sung atop a tall building.
Books read aloud.
Sounds of grinding medicine, rolling tea.

Eleanor Goodman for Something Crosses My Mind, selected poems of Wang Xiaoni. Xiaoni’s sharp apprehensions of daily life have made her, since the 1970s, one of China’s most influential poets. Goodman’s pitch-perfect translation makes Xiaoni’s work available for the first time in book form in English. (To be published by Zephyr Press)

Typhoon, No. 1

The night of the typhoon, the sky was full, the world destroyed.

From west to east, herds of black cattle rolled on their heads
the wind’s hoofs beat at the windows
everything on the ground rose to the sky.

The people were packed into the night
the night was packed into an exploding drum.
The wildly arrogant air
presented rolling tanks from another world.
There was no sign of resistance
that’s just the way the extraordinary happens.

And also:

Jeremy Tiang for Nine Buildings by Chinese playwright Zou Jingzhi. These blunt, tamped-down translations of tales of youth during cultural revolution in Beijing address the grim cruelty of that time. Tiang’s language has a tang and matter-of-factness that effectively communicates the harshness of this text. (Available for publication)

Asian American Writers’ Workshop Translation Night

October 17, at 7:00 PM at 110-112 West 27th Street, Manhattan, AAWW and Archipelago Books are hosting Fady Joudah, Sinan Antoon, Susan Bernofsky, Jeffrey Yang, and Ghassan Zaqtan for Translation Night, to “read literature spanning China and Japan to new innovations in Palestinian poetry, including work by Mahmoud Darwish and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo [刘晓波].”

Click the images for more details.

New Directions May 2012 Newsletter

New Directions PublishingThe May 2012 newsletter is out from New Directions, with links and news about events, readings, and new publications, including celebrations of Kenneth Rexroth in Corte Madera and San Francisco, Nathaniel Tarn reading in Chicago and Ann Arbor, and a new book by by Robert Walser translated by Christopher Middleton with Susan Bernofsky, and of course Xi Chuan.

2012 Best Translated Book Award Finalists for Poetry

It’s nearing on old news by now, but I wanted to offer congratulations to my three friends whose translations have been selected among the six finalists for the 2012 Best Translated Book Award for Poetry (follow the link for a full list, including the ten fiction finalists):

Spectacle & Pigsty by Kiwao Nomura
Translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander

A Fireproof Box by Gleb Shulpyakov
Translated from the Russian by Christopher Mattison
(Canarium Books)

False Friends by Uljana Wolf
Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky
(Ugly Duckling Presse)

Good luck to all of you–I hope for a three-way tie.