Author Archives: smilkova
Narratives of Mistranslation: Elena Schafer In Conversation with Denise Kripper
While “translation fictions” are not exclusive to Latin American literature, I did find their publication to be very consistent and prominent in its contemporary production in Spanish, and I believe their portrayal of translation relates very much to this locus of enunciation. Fictional translators would tamper with meanings, deviate conversations, and produce miscommunication on purpose. Fictional translators would tamper with meanings, deviate conversations, and produce miscommunication on purpose. Translators are thought to be unbiased, faithful, a bridge between languages and cultures, right? But that’s not what I was finding in these books.
Hard-boiled Detective Fiction or Socialist Realism? Vladislav Todorov’s “Zift,” Translated from Bulgarian by Joseph Benatov
“Zift” evokes the hard-boiled characters and settings of American detective fiction of the 1930s and film noir of the 1940s. The novel follows the nocturnal adventures of Moth, the first-person narrator, just released from the Central Sofia Prison after doing time for twenty years for a heist gone wrong. Moth – in Todorov’s perverse twist of the noir genre – is a character steeped in communist ideology and traversing the map of a distinctly communist city.
The Provincial as Metaphor in Lorenza Pieri’s “Lesser Islands,” Translated from Italian by Peter DiGiovanni, William Greer, Donatella Melucci, Jenna Menta, Christopher Paniagua, and Kira Ross
Lorenza Pieri has created a world not quite our own and not quite foreign, and this is a testament to her talent as a writer. As readers we are all searching for something, whether it’s escape, enjoyment, information, or validation. “Lesser Islands” reminds us that even though we all suffer times of remoteness and provincialism, the opening of a book can be a magical way to connect without leaving the comfort of one’s chair.
Translators on Books that Should be Translated: Francesca Melandri’s “Sangue Giusto”
Vivid, absorbing, and historically grounded without being pedantic, ‘Sangue Giusto’ raises questions such as these: How much can we know about how our parents lived before we were born? Can we square the mythologies about those we love with the reality of who they are? How far can we go to fill those gaps? And are we the inheritors of the violence committed by those with whom we share blood?
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.