literary translation

One Brief Defense of Literary Translation

After a really interesting discussion in the comments section of the post, An Evening of Translation, I remembered a short note I recently read about the translation of Kafka’s The Judgement (Das Urteil: Ein Geschichte). It can be found in various places on the internet but here is a brief mention of it: The sentence can be translated as: “At that moment an unending stream of traffic crossed over the bridge.”What gives added weight to the obvious double meaning of ‘Verkehr’ is Kafka’s confession to Max Brod that when he wrote that final line, he was thinking of “a violent ejaculation”. Franz Kafka Writing

The last word of the story in its original German is Verkehr. In true Kafka form, he has a chosen a word with multiple meanings leading to its ambiguity. Below is an excerpt from Kafka: a short introduction (Oxford University Press, 2005):

So my verdict is: Yes! We need literary translators!


An Evening of Translation

I have come to literary translation recently in my writing career. Even though it is a lot of work and can eat up any free time I have, I find the whole process fascinating and perversely fun. I think I will do a separate post(s) about my views on translations and my personal experience, but for now, I’ll stick to the facts.

Last night, I had the privilege of attending a most enlightening and encouraging panel on literary translation. Besides the panel leader, there were four guests who were either translators, publishers, or both. The four came from American Literary Translators Association, PEN American Center, A Public Space, and Argos Books.

They provided information that I either was not aware of or would not have even thought of. We discussed securing rights, organizations (specifically, ALTA and PEN) that are established to support literary translation and translators, as well as technical aspects of translating. Two things that I found encouraging were: the enthusiasm for young translators and translators who have not been published previously and secondly, it sounded like many people translated from Spanish. As someone who does not translate from Spanish, the pool of potential competitors is much narrower. Michael Moore (PEN), a translator of Italian texts, also spoke about the differences between a good translator and a bad one.

The panel was even more helpful than I could have imagined. Maybe next paycheck, I’ll get a membership to ALTA!