Difficulties of translating children’s literature
In this funny and well-written special feature in the Guardian, translator Sarah Ardizzone talks about translating Marjolaine Leray’s April the Red Goldfish into French: Avril le poisson rouge. Handling a transgender, suicidal fish in another language is not always easy!
On April 18-20, 2014, University of Michigan is going to be holding a three-day conference on one of Japan’s greatest modern authors NATSUME Sōseki 夏目漱石. Highlights include a visit by John NATHAN, who did the new translation of Sōseki’s Light and Dark 『明暗』, and TAWADA Yōko 多和田葉子, one of Japan’s most important living novelists. To register, click here.
The Dalkey Archive Press and the University of Illinois are offering a summer session of its Certificate in Applied Literary Translation from 9 June to 5 September in Dublin, Ireland. Dalkey encourages applications from translators working from languages whose literatures are especially underrepresented in the English-speaking world.
The program is an intensive training experience that will result in a full-length translation and publication by the Dalkey Archive Press. The program is aimed at translators just starting their careers, and they have already had a successful track record with students in the program. Recent publications from participants include:
Today is the third anniversary of the devastating March 11, 2011 earthquake that shook northeastern Japan, caused a devastating tsunami, and provoked the Fukushima meltdown. As a result of this unprecedented triple disasters, 15,884 people died in Japan, 2,633 were lost and presumed dead, and another 6,148 sustained injuries. Countless more were uprooted from their homes and sent to temporary housing, where a number of people still reside. The economy and national infrastructure took a severe blow, as did the confidence of the Japanese people in their government. Since these disasters, Japan has had to reconsider many of things that it had taken for granted—its usage of energy, its relationship to the natural environment, its relationship with its legislators, and its modes of organizing at the grass-roots level.
Almost immediately, writers took action. Many figures known for their involvement in social issues, writers such as Ōe Kenzaburō, Tsushima Yūko, and Ishimure Michiko, began respond and publish statements to the press, helping to use their influence to help shape reconstruction efforts and talk about new directions for the Japanese nation.
Perhaps the segment of the Japanese literary world where the seismic forces of 3/11 were felt most strongly, however, was the poetic world. Many Japanese newspapers include regular columns that include free verse (shi), tanka, or haiku poems, but in just the few days after 3/11, poetry began to emerge from those small columns and take a more prominent place in the news, eventually finding its way into a central position in the discourse that had started unfolding across the nation. Poetry exploded into the mainstream, serving as one of the ways that the nation thought about and processed its own complicated feelings about the disasters.
I was in Japan at the time and experienced the quakes, numerous aftershocks, and terrifying anxiety. After a few weeks of uncertainty and great worry, everything I had come to Japan to do was cancelled, and so I cut my stay short and returned to the United States ahead of schedule. As one way of working through the experience and my complicated feelings about returning to terra firma, I began translating poems about the quake and the resulting disasters. Some of those translations have been published in various online journals, but I have added to the collection over time to produce a book manuscript, which is now under review.
Here is a collection of links to some of those translations. Some appear with the original Japanese. Many of the poems first appeared in the May 2011 special issue of Handbook of Contemporary Poetry 『現代詩手帖』dedicated to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. Some were also published in a special section in the daily newspaper Asahi shinbun published in commemoration of the first anniversary of the quake. Others were published in various magazines or newspapers, but still, these poems are only the tiniest tip of the iceberg. There are thousands upon thousands more poems out there.
TAKAHASHI Mutsuo: “These Things Here and Now”
Click here for a video of Takahashi reading excerpts from the poem.
WAGŌ Ryōichi: Pebbles of Poetry (Part I)
YOSHIMASU Gōzō: “at the side (côtés) of poetry”
ITŌ Hiromi: “Cooking, Writing Poetry”
ARAI Takako: "Half a Pair of Shoes" and "Galapagos"
HIRATA Toshiko: “Do Not Tremble” and "Please"
TANAKA Yōsuke: “Screaming Potato Field”
OHSAKI Sayaka: “Noisy Animal”
Jeffrey ANGLES: “Return After Earthquake”
The most recent issue of Monumenta Nipponica contains a detailed and carefully written review of my book Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Japanese Modernist Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 2011). The review was by Michelle Mason, an associate professor of Japanese literature at University of Maryland. She writes:
Angles convincingly argues that despite occasional borrowing from and homage to Edo-period notions of nanshoku (male-male sexuality), these three artists [discussed in the book, namely MURAYAMA Kaita, 村山槐多 EDOGAWA Ranpo 江戸川乱歩, and INAGAKI Taruho 稲垣足穂] were very much products of their particular historical moment. Specifically, amid the ascendency of heteronormative models of sexuality and an ever-increasing pathologization of male-male attraction and eroticism, they grappled and experimented with, queered, and challenged the aesthetic, medico-scientific, and social trends of their day. One strength of this study is that the lives and textual productions of the men it investigates are richly contextualized within Japanese and Western literary movements, dominant and popular sexological discourses, and trends in print and visual culture. The work also presents an assortment of imported and indigenous terminology and associations that intersect and transform in novel ways to configure modern Japanese conceptualizations of beautiful boys, male-male eroticism, and modern aesthetics…. Anyone reading to the end is rewarded with a rich rendering of an extremely important historical and cultural inheritance, which, as Angles compellingly argues, profoundly informs and inspires current Japanese understanding of male-male desire.
Click here for the entire review.
Click here to read about the book on Amazon.
Review of _Twelve Views from the Distance_ in _Rain Taxi_ -
The newest issue of Rain Taxi included this review of my translation of TAKAHASHI Mutsuo’s memoirs Twelve Views from the Distance. The author, Amanda Vail, wrote:
Twelve Views from the Distance does not hesitate to present uncomfortable subjects (violence, lust, death, adultery, greed) with as much honesty as moments of beauty, love, and charity. It is an elegant novel; the overarching imagery floats gently on the surface of Takahashi’s words, carried smoothly from memory to memory, shading the events of the author’s life and presenting avenues into the world of his childhood….
Takahashi’s memoir presents not only the difficulties faced by citizens living through a war, but also the challenges of growing up in poverty, of being raised by a single mother who is forced to make ends meet in creative ways, and of exploring an alternative sexuality, among others. The novel presents twelve reflections on the time and place it depicts; some of the details are very specific, and many are universal. Throughout, Twelve Views from the Distance is unflinching, compassionate, and beautiful.
Click here to read the entire review.
Click here to go to the page for the book on Amazon.
You're Missing Out on Great Literature -
Only three percent of everything published in the U.S. each year is translated from another language, and much of that is non-literary stuff like manuals, help books, and other odds and ends. Due to this, the author writes, “It’s likely that American readers will not discover today’s Borges, Calvino, Neruda, or Kafka until long after they are dead, if they even discover them at all.” Particularly distressing is that of the tiny handful of translated pieces of literature released in this country, only a quarter are by women. Things need to change, but as this article points out, small presses are beginning to make a huge difference.
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is inviting nominations for ALTA’s National Translation Award. The translator selected for this award will receive a cash prize of $5,000.
To be eligible for the 2014 National Translation Award, the translation must be:
The deadline for nominating books published in 2013 is March 1, 2014.
Please use Submittable, at https://alta.submittable.com/submit to provide nomination materials, including the following:
If original language text is available only in hard-copy, please send it by regular mail to: American Literary Translators Association, ATTN: National Translation Award, 900 East 7th St., PMB 266, Bloomington, IN 47405-3201.
Publishers will be asked to send THREE copies of the nominated book, if it is advanced to the Judges Round.
Queries concerning process can be sent to email@example.com.
Criteria for judging the award are:
Translations of contemporary works are preferred, but important re-translations or first-time translations of older works will also be considered if they make significant contributions to international literature and its translation.
The National Translation Award supports ALTA’s goal of enhancing the status of literary translation, improving the quality of literary translating, and broadening the market for works in English translation. Recent winners include such distinguished translators as Richard Wilbur (2008), Norman Shapiro (2009), Alex Zucker (2010), Lisa Rose Bradford (2011), Sinan Antoon (2012), and Phillip Boehm (2013).
The award-winning book and translator for 2014 will be featured at the 37th annual conference of the American Literary Translators Association in Milwaukee, WI.
In 2013, the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale hosted a workshop about shakkyōka 釈教歌, poems on Buddhist themes. The papers and presentations from the conference are now available on the web, and they provide a fascinating, critical look at this often overlooked sub-genre of classical Japanese poetry.
Evaluating Translations as Scholarship -
More and more academics are […] undertaking translation as a component of their professional activity and as a natural extension of their teaching. Whether they translate literary or scholarly works or other cultural documents, they are engaging in an exacting practice, at once critical and creative, that demands lexical precision; detailed knowledge of historical, political, social, and literary contexts; and a nuanced sense of style in both the source language and the target language. […] Every translation is an interpretation; each one begins with a critical reading, then expands and ultimately embodies that reading.
The translator meets himself emerging from his lover’s bedroom. So much for fidelity, he thinks. — George Szirtes, “Afterword: The Death of the Translator,” The White Review, http://www.thewhitereview.org/features/the-death-of-the-translator/