Author Archives: smilkova
Crossing a Divide: In Conversation with Translator Brian Robert Moore
I was captivated by the story, the language, the setting of “Meeting in Positano.” Goliarda Sapienza is a superb narrator and the seaside town of Positano as the backdrop of her novel lends it a mythological, Mediterranean appeal. This appeal emerges and takes hold thanks to the book’s translator, Brian Robert Moore. Moore’s voice blends beautifully with the double voice of the book’s narrator who is telling her friend’s traumatic life story.
ECLIPSES LARGE AND SMALL: LYUDMYLA KHERSONSKA’S “TODAY IS A DIFFERENT WAR,” TRANSLATED FROM RUSSIAN BY OLGA LIVSHIN, ANDREW JANCO, MAYA CHHABRA, AND LEV FRIDMAN
Lyudmyla Khersonska’s collection “Today is a Different War” (Arrowsmith Press, 2023) focuses on the way domestic life has been affected and eclipsed by the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Khersonska’s poems bring shimmering emotion to the brutality. Her style is easily accessible in a way that invites the reader to trust the poet. The reader becomes part of the poetic world as well as an occasional addressee.
A Mythographer of Modernity: Giovanni Pascoli’s “Convivial Poems,” Translated from Italian by James Ackhurst and Elena Borelli
Borelli and Ackhurst are faced with the daunting assignment of translating Pascoli’s somewhat paradoxical modernist classicism, written in a literary language that is both simple and sophisticated, archaicizing, and yet fresh and innovative. They succeed admirably in their task, adopting a thoughtful translation strategy that successfully delivers Pascoli’s poetic idiom in all its musical crispness and evocative force.
Queer Struggle and Resilience in Stenio Gardel’s “The Words that Remain,” Translated from Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato
The novel portrays the way in which queer love and desire transcend time, hatred, and even the barriers of language. Raimundo and Cícero’s relationship, set against the landscape of Northern Brazil and the people who inhabit that space, opens a new perspective of queerness specific to that region.
Geographies of Family Memory and Belonging: Marina Jarre’s “Return to Latvia,” Translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein
The case of the Italian author Marina Jarre (1925-2016) is unusual for the international literary market: her works are being simultaneously rediscovered in Italy and discovered in English translation. Jarre’s recently republished autobiography “I padri lontani” (1987, 2021) and its English translation “Distant Fathers” (2021) by Ann Goldstein have attracted wide attention.
Global Feminist Translators Unite!: “The Routledge Handbook of Translation, Feminism, and Gender,” edited by Luise von Flotow and Hala Kamal
The Handbook shows a global community of women linguists at work and reveals what a fast-developing field of translation studies truly is. It demonstrates that it’s a fool’s errand to talk about “accurate” translation, though “good” or “beautiful” translation is possible, as well as translation that dares to pursue a socially progressive agenda. As translators, we are called to develop feminist techniques and criticism, not only of the words on the page, but also when considering who gets to translate, edit, and publish our books, as well as how our words are illustrated, printed, and marketed.
Narrating and Translating Love and Grief in “TI AMO”: Norwegian Author Hanne Ørstavik and English Translator Martin Aitken in Conversation with Nataliya Deleva
“Ti Amo” is a sensual and honest exploration of love, of the heavy feeling permeating the weeks and months before the impending death of a loved one, the memories that engulf you before the imminent parting.
Dignity in Image and Word: Franz Fühmann’s “What Kind of Island in What Kind of Sea,” Translated from German by Elizabeth C. Hamilton
Originally published in 1986 by Insel Verlag, during what would be the last years of the GDR’s existence, the book combines image and word to create portraits of the residents of the Samaritans’ Institution, a Protestant Church-run home for cognitively disabled children and adults. The images, a collection of uncaptioned photographs by Dietmar Riemann, are contextualized and reflected upon in Fühmann’s powerful essay that opens the volume.
Love and Money Sung in a Medieval Key: “Cantigas: Galician-Portuguese Troubadour Poems,” translated by Richard Zenith
Anglophone and Francophone readers may be less familiar with the Iberian troubadour tradition represented in Richard Zenith’s new collection “Cantigas: Galician-Portuguese Troubadour Poems”. For newcomers to this later troubadour legacy, Zenith’s introduction provides a helpful orientation to the complex cultural politics in which these poems were written and performed.
Life Writing is History Making: Amy Lau’s “Memories of Old Macau: The Story of My Childhood,” translated from Chinese by Gigi Lam and Dr. Wai Man Chan
The vicissitudes of Lau’s memorable life experience rendered in English through the joint work of Lam and Chan form an essential part of Macau’s history. The book’s special rootedness in time and place allows readers to question familiar racial and cultural stereotypes. As it represents the early part of the author’s lifelong journey of migration, the memoir also asks readers to imagine the possibility of negotiating difference towards a productive cultural understanding.
Always Against: On Translating the Punk Rock Lyrics of Egor Letov
Although the prospect of analyzing Soviet punk rock in an academic context thrilled me, it also presented me with a daunting task, one into which I had made only a few brief forays: translating Letov’s work into English. At the same time as I hoped that my research would focus more on the political aspects of Letov’s song texts rather than their poetic devices or any intrinsic literary value, a large part of my work hinged on examining his lyrics. By translating them, I could lend credence to my argument to speakers of Russian and English alike.
Julia Kornberg’s “Atomizado Berlín”: Creating a New Reader Across Translation
In this essay, I investigate how Julia Kornberg writes a novel that challenges and subverts this ‘lazy’ reader with stylistic, formal, and thematic innovations, and think about how a translation of her text, though difficult or precisely because of that, has the ability to support and communicate across another language her careful mediation of the demands of the global literary market.
When the going gets tough, Aeneas is your hero. Andrea Marcolongo’s “Starting From Scratch,” Translated from Italian by Will Schutt
The “Aeneid,” unfinished at the time of Virgil’s death, was published posthumously against his wish that it be destroyed. Undercurrents of fear and anxiety run deep within the text of the “Aeneid,” while on the surface, Virgil’s stylistically masterful composure, and the terse, concise elegance of his verses befit a hero who is steadfast, patient and enduring; who battles with foes and with his own emotions, but keeps his eyes on the prize, though there will be no prize for him. As she read it during the pandemic Andrea Marcolongo found the “Aeneid” “a brutally honest poem.” Four months of war in Ukraine make it almost recommended reading.
Keeping the Presence of Absence: Concita de Gregorio’s “The Missing Word,” Translated from Italian by Clarissa Botsford
The kidnapping of Livia and Alessia Schepp crossed Swiss airwaves in early 2011, circulating throughout Europe. The six-year-old twins had been picked up on January 30 by their father, Mathias, in order to spend the weekend with him. The girls never returned to their home in Saint-Sulpice, and Mathias committed suicide by train five days later at a train station in southeast Italy. The girls were never found, and the case still continues—full of speculation, false trails, and theories that have sprouted like weeds to fill every gap in the story.
Love in the Time of Capitalism: Rage and Resentment in Ivana Sajko’s “Love Novel,” Translated from Croatian by Mima Simić
“Love Novel” focuses on an unnamed man and woman in a relationship that has grown toxic, who are kept together by the child they have brought into the world but whose resentment towards one another simmers and grows as the novel progresses. The title is ironic – or, more specifically, acerbic: this is no traditional “love story,” but rather a novel about love gone stale.