All posts tagged: Translation

Translation and Q&A: Ida Vitale’s The Sensitive Toad

Piece by IDA VITALE

Translated from the Spanish by SEAN MANNING

A Q&A with the translator follows the piece.

This piece is a selection from Byobu, out this November from Charco Press.  

 

The Sensitive Toad

From the bottom step, where the stairs rise from the stone path between two patches of grass, Byobu sees a toad cross in front of him, hopping from green to green. It’s followed by another, just as quick. Not long ago, Byobu read a horrendous list of little tragedies that could befall an Englishman in the nineteenth century: it included stepping on a toad, believing it to be a stone in the road. Byobu is not English, nor is he from the nineteenth century, but there he stands on one foot, like a heron, which luckily for these batrachians he is not. On a magnificent summer night like this it’s normal to hear them, but seeing them is not so common, thought Byobu when the third little fellow appeared. Why the third fellow? Well, because as we all know three is a sacred number, and besides, there were three.

Translation and Q&A: Ida Vitale’s The Sensitive Toad
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Untitled (Letter to Rügen)

By GUNTHER GELTINGER

Translated from the German by CRISTINA BURACK

Letter appears below in both English and German.

Kreptitz Cliff in Rugen, GermanyRügen, Germany

Translator’s Note: I did not come across this text; rather, it came across me, arriving in my postbox in an orange envelope, complete with wax seal. It was part of a project called LitBrief-19, which was organized last spring by the Literaturhaus Bonn, in Germany, as a way to keep the literary community together despite the pandemic.

Every month, a writer pens an original letter that gets mailed out to subscribers. While I’ve enjoyed every letter, Gunther Geltinger’s text particularly moved me. It was both very specific to his beloved Rügen, a large German island in the Baltic Sea, and yet very universal in its emotions: how it expresses the unique personal relationship people can have with a place that plays an integral role in their identity, how the pandemic has upended our ability to be in such places, and how, despite a rapidly changing world environment, such places as experienced remain formative for life. It is an intimate text, and it’s packed with thoughtfulness, nostalgia, poetry, humor and a reassuring sense of being rooted in a place that is physical, geographical and above all else, emotional.

 

October XX, 2020

How should I start this letter? Using “Dear Sir,” “Dear Madam,” or “My sweet dear” to address you doesn’t do you justice. You’re not dear, and you’re hardly ever sweet. Your grammatical gender is neutral, but “the island,” die Insel, is feminine, and a friend of mine who recently visited me and expected a lighthouse surrounded by dunes, overlooking the sea in four directions, she even called you a continent. The fields of flint rock bordered by the moors struck her as being from another hemisphere; on the Zicker Mountains she felt as if she were in Scotland; and the Kreptitz Cliff, with its windblown hawthorn bushes and allure for amber seekers, reminded her of a secluded coast in New Zealand, where she’s never been. When I told her about an acquaintance who lives on the southern tip of the island and has never been to Gellort, the northernmost point, where my mobile service provider sends me a text message welcoming me to Sweden, she said: Well, it’s not like you would expect a Tunisian to have seen the Cape of Good Hope. My friend would probably understand why I am writing to you and would advise me to post the letter in a bottle. Someone on some other island, somewhere else in the world, would fish it out of the sea and think it was for them.

Untitled (Letter to Rügen)
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Translation: Poems by María Paz Guerrero

Poems by MARÍA PAZ GUERRERO

Translated from the Spanish by STEPHANIE MALAK

Poems appear in both Spanish and English below.

 

Translator’s Note

María’s poems from Los analfabetas are gut punches. But tender ones. Questions of identity, colonialist practices and education, and the body in its many forms interpolate delicacies of syntax and form. She writes the trammels of Colombia by digging at the splinters of humanity’s illiteracy.

Both poems “India weaves necklaces” and “She heads out to the forest to unearth roots” clip along with a degree of ease perhaps counter to their themes. They conclude in moments of spiritual praxis: the poetic voice subsumes the complexity of the body (and its wounds) and with it some resolution. Finding that same crispness of language between short verse and proximate observation of the human condition made for rich exercise. 

—Stephanie Malak

Translation: Poems by María Paz Guerrero
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Translation: “The House” by José Ardila

Story by JOSÉ ARDILA 
Translated from the Spanish by MATTHEW SHORTER 

Story appears below in both Spanish and English. 


Translator’s Note

In common with the other tales in his Libro del tedio (The Book of Tedium), José Ardila performs in “The House” a kind of alchemy with his autobiography, taking inspiration in childhood events and feelings, but stripping them of their specificity to conjure an alternative reality in which the contours of the particular give way at once to the schematic clarity of myth and to the uncanniness of dream.

The story carries what seem to me unmistakeable echoes of One Hundred Years of Solitude both in the inexorable descent of its narrative arc and the subtle magical realism that inflects it, and reminders (the flood, the chaotic fecundity of the vegetation, the demotic rough and tumble of family relations and of course the gallows humour) of its Colombian setting. And yet, shorn of clear markers of time and place and (largely) of names, both the eponymous house and the anxieties of its unnamed narrator become universal.

Translation: “The House” by José Ardila
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Sample Lesson Plan for Literature in Translation

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Living with an Author and a Translator

Adapted from Curtis Bauer, The Common’s Translation Editor, and Director of Creative Writing Program and teacher of Comparative Literature at Texas Tech University.

In this exercise you will explore the multidimensionality of a poem, essay, or story by “living with” the author and translator: reading and thinking about their work every day for a week. This is a multi-step assignment so read carefully and make sure you plan in advance.

Sample Lesson Plan for Literature in Translation
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Translation: Hong Kong Poet Chung Kwok-keung

Poems by CHUNG KWOK-KEUNG 鍾國強

Translated from the Chinese by MAY HUANG 黃鴻霙

Poems appear in both Chinese and English.

 

Translator’s Note

Cha chaan tengs, local diners that serve comfort food all day, are a cornerstone of Hong Kong culture. At a cha chaan teng, you can order beef satay noodles for breakfast, a cup of milk tea stronger than any Starbucks coffee, lo mai gai (glutinous rice and chicken wrapped in a lotus leaf), and more. To many Hongkongers, cha chaan tengs evoke a sense of familiarity and nostalgia. Indeed, it was precisely these feelings that drew me, a Hongkonger living in America, to translate Chung Kwok-keung’s remarkable poems.

Chung wrote “The Cha Chaan Teng on Fortune Street” in 1996 about a Cha Chaan Teng he visited in Sham Shui Po while running an errand. He no longer remembers what the errand was for, he writes in a blog post, but “words have helped [him] remember concrete details of that cha chaan teng.” At the same time, he also wonders whether there is something about a place that is lost forever once it no longer exists, no matter what we write down. As evocative as the details in this poem are, from the “soft clink” of utensils to the “grease-soaked hair” of a waiter, the poem ends on a note of uncertainty, unsure of whether words can safeguard memory. 

Translation: Hong Kong Poet Chung Kwok-keung
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May 2021 Poetry Feature: Humberto Ak’abal, Translated by Loren Goodman

Poems by HUMBERTO AK’ABAL

Translated by LOREN GOODMAN

Table of Contents

  • Holes
  • Courage
  • Love
  • Mirror
  • Stone bread
  • We sow
  • Mrs. Wara’t

Humberto Ak’abal (1952 – 2019), a poet of K’iche’ Maya ethnicity, was born in Momostenango, Guatemala. One of the most well-known Guatemalan poets in Europe and South America, his works have been translated into French, English, German, Italian, Portuguese, Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese, Scottish, Hungarian and Estonian. The author of over twenty books of poetry and several other collections of short stories and essays, Ak’abal received numerous awards and honors, including the Golden Quetzal granted by the Association of Guatemalan Journalists in 1993, and the International Blaise Cendrars Prize for Poetry from Switzerland in 1997. In 2005 he was named Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture, and in 2006 was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.

Loren Goodman was born in Kansas and studied in New York, Tucson, Buffalo, and Kobe. He is the author of Famous Americans, selected by W.S. Merwin for the 2002 Yale Series of Younger Poets, and Non-Existent Facts (otata’s bookshelf, 2018), as well as the chapbooks Suppository Writing (The Chuckwagon, 2008), New Products (Proper Tales Press, 2010) and, with Pirooz Kalayeh, Shitting on Elves & Other Poems (New Michigan Press, 2020). A Professor of creative writing and English literature at Yonsei University/Underwood International College in Seoul, Korea, he serves as the Chair of Comparative Literature and Culture and Creative Writing Director.

May 2021 Poetry Feature: Humberto Ak’abal, Translated by Loren Goodman
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An Orient Free of Orientalism: Magic, the square, and women in Moroccan short fiction

By HISHAM BUSTANI
Translated by MADELINE EDWARDS

 

Morocco has long been associated in the Arab imagination with magic and superstition, casting off mystical curses and exorcising jinn from the body. The word “al-Moghrabi” (“the Moroccan”) has itself become yet another qualification claimed by those who work in this parallel world, adding it to their names, some going so far as to christen themselves “Sheikh from Morocco.”  These are the men one hears about from time to time, those who help ancient treasure-seekers get their hands on spell-protected troves, perhaps of the sort guarded by serpents.

An Orient Free of Orientalism: Magic, the square, and women in Moroccan short fiction
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Translation: Moss on a Smooth Rock

Poem by SILVIA GUERRA

Translated from the Spanish by JESSE LEE KERCHEVAL and JEANNINE MARIE PITAS

Poem appears in both Spanish and English. 

Silvia Guerra

Silvia Guerra

Translators’ Note

“Moss on a Smooth Rock” is from Un mar en madrugada (A Sea at Dawn), by the Uruguayan poet Silvia Guerra, published in 2018 by Hilos Editora, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The English version of this book is forthcoming from Eulalia Books in 2022.

Guerra’s work is notorious for its complexity, its concreteness of image and abstraction of thought, and its convention-defying syntax, capitalization and punctuation. With a long-standing interest in linguistics and psychology as well as a deep affinity for the natural world, Guerra’s poems go beyond the self in an effort to imagine the world from the standpoint of other beings, living and nonliving. For centuries, humans have assumed a monopoly on consciousness, even arrogantly denying the subjective experience of other mammals. But scientists are at last confirming what any dog or cat owner has always known: animals are not unfeeling automata any more than we are. But while only some creatures are proven to be sentient, can we be so certain that others are not? “How can we be so sure that plants feel no pain?” asks Polish poet Wisława Szymborska. What about rocks? Guerra dares to imagine they are. 

Translation: Moss on a Smooth Rock
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