Panel

Reading & Chatting at the Bridge Series

bridgeYesterday was all rain and chill in New York City. So what better way to spend a damp evening than to go to The Bridge Series event hosted by Goethe Insitut. The Bridge Series “is the first independent reading and discussion series in New York City devoted to literary translation.”

I was pleasantly surprise. I can be a tough critique when it comes to readings (meaning, normally they are incredibly boring). But these translators chose mighty fine selections and their discussion after the reading was quite interesting. The translators included Ross Benjamin, Isabel Fargo Cole, Tess Lewis, and Tim Mohr. All four are working from German to English.

The standout of this whole event was how exciting all of the selections were. If they are not already released, the novels will be available very soon this year in the US (the UK already has some available in translation). Also, for any Kafka aficionados out there, Ross Benjamin is currently working on a translation of Kafka’s complete Diaries.

There were two questions that most peaked my interest. The first being, what happens if the author includes a blatant error in the original. An example given was an author writing about New York City had listed Gansevoort Street as being down near the World Trade Center (when in reality, it is over west in the Meatpacking District). The original author did this because he liked the sound of the name. It was convenient that he is a contemporary author because the translator was able to discuss this point with him and it was subsequently corrected in the translation. But whether or not such a mistake should be corrected was discussed further with one of the most notorious errors: Frank Kafka putting a sword in the hand of the Statue of Liberty in his work, Amerika. 

The second question was about how contemporary German literature (and foreign lit as a whole) has changed recently and how does that apply to translating. The translators hit upon the fact that many references are no longer solely Germany/Austria/Switzerland based. They also incorporate many North American trends and concepts. The translators didn’t weigh on whether they thought this was a good or bad thing but they did note that they didn’t have to look up as many culture reference anymore.

All in all, I was delighted to go to last night’s Bridge Series. I recommend it. Not only do they cover German literature but other languages as well. You can visit their website for more information.

Festival Neue Literatur 2013

The annual Festival Neue Literatur has announced the featured authors for this year’s festivities. Every February in New York City, the festival brings together six writers hailing from Austria, Switzerland, and Germany with the intent of offering interesting discussions and readings along with enhancing the visibility of these contemporary writers to an American market. With our dearth of foreign novels in this country, FNL can be an exciting time to learn about new authors.

This year’s events take place during 22-24 February and all are free and open to the public (however, a couple do require an emailed RSVP, so check the website for details). These events have filled up in the past; last year, most notably was NYU Deutsches Haus’ brunch. I heard they had to turn people away because there was no room.

Events are held all around the city. For the complete listings, check their website. You can also find information on the authors, moderators & curators, sample translated texts and more. Enjoy!

it’s a bird? it’s plane? nope, just me; i’m back.

After a lovely time abroad, I have returned to the Big Apple. With suitable jet-lag still in tow, I found myself awake in bed at 5:30 this morning trying to finish my engaging airplane read (perhaps, a review soon?). Even though I have been gone for only 2 weeks, I feel very behind in my life in Manhattan (I was chastised for not realizing The Hunger Games film had come out).

A few weeks ago, I was at a book festival promoting a book that has a literary translation I worked on and a piece of original fiction. It was the first time this writer of no significance felt like a 10%-big-shot. In total, I participated in 4 readings/panels/etc. I then took a much needed vacation in Prague for a week where I received a surprising tan.

Sitting in my small bedroom next to my giant pile of undeclared Czech chocolate bars, I am making a to-do list for the near future:

1. find travel grant to return to Europe.

2. find a new part-time job, ideally in a small bookstore, perhaps? I have much in the way of bookish expertise!

3. translate translate translate

and most importantly…

4. write write write

Looking forward to catching up on all of my favorite writerly blogs!

Medieval cellar where I participated in a reading.

Sitting in a Windowless Room, Talking About Books

That’s how I will sum up the past two days. A few friends and acquaintances organized an annual conference this year. The topic was broad and it took me some time to figure out what the thesis of it all was but for the most part, the papers presented and the panels held were interesting. The participants consisted of PhD students from the US and Europe.

DAY 1

Of course, when you’re in a room of academics, you’re mostly thinking about how obvious your seat-squirming is and when will they be done talking so you can head over to the coffee and cookie spread. This did happen the first day, however, there was some fascinating papers presented. The one that stood out to me was about Gerard Manley Hopkins. The speaker was clear and concise, and was clearly passionate about his topic and engaged with the audience. He discussed how a writer becomes popular and/or canonical. He stated that Manley Hopkins was not popular in his own lifetime for various reasons, 1) he only sent his poems to Catholic publications, 2) his publisher barely publicized the book, 3) the book was printed by a private printer which made the book look archaic and was not able to be marketed to a larger audience because of the price tag. Thus, resulting in a lack of awareness by critics and readers. It wasn’t until the first half of the Twentieth century when the poet entered into the public conscious. A second printing in 1930 resulted in 2000+ sales of his book over the following few months.

DAY 2

I didn’t attend much of day 2, only making it to the final presentation/panel (my mind was definitely tired and needed to rejuvenate by watching hulu and eating tacos). The non-native English speakers were a bit hard to follow but a graduate student from Vanderbilt presented a paper on the notebooks of Nietzsche and Brecht. She touched upon the actual entries of the notebooks but focused more on the work as a physical entity. A back-and-forth broke out in the audience during the panel Q&A about whether books should be preserved only in archives or facsimiles should be available to the public even though they are pale omparisons to the original text. That was finally squashed and then it was onto the chitting and chatting.

On Moderating a Literary Panel

Phew! Am I exhausted. After a weekend of wine from plastic cups, meals that consisted of tiny finger food served on platters and close to no sleep, I am quite relieved that the past few days have come and gone. I was far busier than I had anticipated–hence, the lack of posts this past week–and finally got a good night’s sleep (12 hours!).

A few months ago, I was asked to interview an European author as part of an annual literary festival. I agreed even though I was not familiar with her work or had even heard of her. I did some googling to find info about her and her books and I even contacted the author’s English translator. This was the first time I had ever done anything remotely close to this. I was quite relieved after our interview in front of a very large audience (~60) was over. The author was fantastic and the rest of the festival was superb. I don’t know if I’ll even be part of a festival again in this capacity but I hope I’m not as nervous. And now I know how much work, time and energy goes into a 30 minute discussion. Time to lie down…

Behind the Longreads

Last night at Housing Works Bookstore, a dear dear dear writerly friend¹ and I went to the New York magazine Behind the Longreads panel. I usually turn into a pesky toddler squirming in their seat waiting for the moment of the final applause. However, this panel was fantastic.

The moderator was NYmag’s editor-in-chief and the panel consisted of 3 writers who published articles in the magazine in the past year. Because I had already read the articles, I found it particularly interesting to hear from the writers themselves about how much work and time goes into researching and writing the pieces. One of the writers said that his original draft was 50, 000 words! But it had to be trimmed to 10, 000 for the magazine.

Below are the writers and the articles they discussed:

 

¹FRIEND PLUG ALERT! My dear dear dear writerly friend is amazing. Her works has appeared in various publications including The Believer, Symphony, Forward. All of her articles for the New Yorker’s Book Bench are available in their archives.

Literary Festivals

Everyone likes a good literary festival, right? Well, sometimes I’m not sure. In NYC, I always get the impression that they are filled with academics and literati (this might be totally a syndrome of the 5 boroughs and not the rest of the country). Why doesn’t a more diverse audience attend events like these in the city? The only one that I know of that attracts a mixed crowd is the Brooklyn Book Festival. It’s sprawling with tables and panels both inside and outside.

I’ve been thinking about literary festivals recently because I will be participating in at least two in the next few months (hence, the reason for my inconsistent and lighter blog posts recently).  I am 103% sure that the first one will be swarming with academics which can be a letdown but I hope a good crowd attends the panels and soirees.

A great thing about literary festivals is you don’t have to even be familiar with any of the participants. They are a great way to learn about new writers, trends, genres, publishing houses, etc. and if there is an author you like, it’s also a great way to hobnob.

And let’s not forget about the free wine!

post script, if you have a favorite book festival(s), please leave the info in the comments section; I’m collecting a list so everyone can have these resources. 

An Evening at Goethe Institut with Milo Rau & John Wray

Apparently Goethe Institut-NYC, has had an interesting series that they didn’t advertise. It is called Articulate and part of its mission is to introduce “new tendencies in contemporary German literature.” Because they don’t adequately advertise their series, this talk was an intimate affair (read: handful of attendees).

The guest of honor was Milo Rau. Author and series host, John Wray, spoke about how Rau has his hand in many different mediums–fiction, journalism, theatre, film, etc. What the talk really focused on were these two interesting film pieces. To label them as historical reenactments would be doing them a disservice. Die Reenactment was used in place of a better term. The conversation was conducted in both English and German with Wray asking his questions in English while Rau answered in German (he claimed his English was no good but it was perfectly fine). At the beginning, Rau discussed what his distinction was between historical reenactments (i.e., Civil War) and die Reenactments. It really came down to the artistic merit and purpose of his productions.

The conversation became quite interesting during the middle when they began to speak about the International Institute of Political Murder (website is in German). We watched a six minute film clip from Rau’s film called, Die letzten Tage der Ceausescus (The Last Days of Ceausescus). Part of Rau’s process was to collect transcripts and video footage surrounding the trial in 1989. He staged it in a theatre with an audience (which included the general who had arrested Ceausescus) and filmed the stage production. It was intermingled with shots of the audience. Rau also processed his footage to appear like the washed out appearance of the original 1989 footage. After the panel, Rau and Wray chatted with the small audience. I asked Rau how long this piece took to put together and he replied that it was a year and a half. Below is the trailer from Die letzten Tage der Ceausescus. The subtitles are in German but the images are both haunting and beautiful that anyone can take something away from it.

Crime Scene : The Festival of New Literature from Europe

Very few things can drag me to the godforsaken diamond district (and in the rain for that matter!) but I made my way to the Center for Fiction last night; also, the promise of free wine and pirogi at the reception was an added bonus. The event was entitled “The Shifting Scene” and there were two panels scheduled: Unconventional Police Protagonists and  The Nature of Evil. This evening was part of a larger literary fest called Crime Scene: New Literature from Europe. Both panels were moderated by B.J. Rahn.

The First Panel: Caryl Ferey (France), Jan Costin Wagner (Germany), Stefan Slupetzky (Austria), Dan Fesperman (USA–but fiction takes place abroad). The first panel was interesting and seemed helpful with the craft and technique of writing a really compelling sleuth. However different their novels and characters were, the panelists also agreed that their “police protagonists” were often unheroic or clumsy, were independent and shattered the ‘tough guy’ image, and used unorthodox methods.

The Second Panel: Zygmunt Miłoszewski (Poland), Anna Maria Sandu (Romania), José Carlos Somoza (Spain). Okay, so here is where everything gets far more interesting and heated. The second panel began speaking about the title, “The Nature of Evil.” Miłoszewski believes that humans are not evil by nature (maybe evil comes from circumstances?). Somoza countered with how evil is not generalized but specific to culture or the world of the book and that evil is connected to childlike instincts and losing one’s civilized veneer. Thus, began a back and forth between the two authors that probably lasted for half of the panel. But it was incredibly intriguing! One of Miłoszewski’s rebuttals was that evil comes from a shared human code and is not a specified interpretation. Finally, the moderator changed her attention to Sandu who spoke through an interpreter. She was the only author of the whole evening who’s protagonist was a woman. Although the moderator tried to get her to speak more about why she chose the female gender for her character, she seemed to always skirt around this question.

While shoving the last of a macaron into my mouth, I asked the woman standing next to me at the reception whether she liked the panels. Of course she did and like me, she particularly liked the second panel (The Nature of Evil). Again, we were on the same page and admitted to each other that we were naive to the panelists and their novels. We both thought that the one that sounded the most interesting and could be a wise choice for first book to read is Anna Maria Sandu’s Kill Me!. Our duo was turned into a trio when B.J. Rahn joined us. She was very intelligent and was a wealth of information. She thought Sandu’s novel was a good choice to start with.

All-in-all, I was glad I braved the rain and once I get a millisecond of free time, I have a new book to check out.