Author Archives: smilkova
Memory and the Search of Stories Past: Emmelie Prophète’s “Blue,” Translated from French by Tina Kover
While “Blue” is set in a terminal of the Miami airport, to say that the novel is set in any one place in time would be misleading, when the novel is actually set in numerous locations, Miami, the shadow of New York City, a mountainous Haitian village named Suzanne, and the Haitian cities of Les Cayes and Port-au-Prince and many moments in time.
It’s All Relative: The Multifold Self in Sergio Pitol’s “The Love Parade,” Translated from Spanish by G.B. Henson
“The Love Parade” is like a Japanese fan that slowly opens, revealing a beautifully painted landscape while still concealing the face behind it. What we learn about Miguel del Solar is divulged by the huge cast of characters he interviews for his book, each of whom embodies a fragment of his past. He is investigating a murder (or murders) that took place at the Minerva building where he lived as a child, a European-style mini-castle built in 1908 to house the representatives of foreign governments in Mexico City.
Gerda Taro’s Elusive Afterlives: Helena Janeczek’s “The Girl with the Leica,” Translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein
Pohorylle’s story is the inspiration for Helena Janeczek’s “The Girl with the Leica,” a complex, multivocal historical novel that is less a portrait of Gerda Taro than of her entire milieu: young, antifascist, bohemian, refugee, free-thinking, emancipated, and rife with short-lived romantic entanglements.
Dreams of a Pan-European Fantasy Literature: Andrei Bely’s “The Symphonies,” Translated from Russian by Jonathan Stone
Collectively, The Symphonies offer a glimpse into the cradle of Bely’s art: less fully achieved than his mature novels, but closer to a common source in the author’s twisted and escapist imagination. Marrying naïve cliché and bold innovation, always diversely energetic but always grinding the same gears, these experimental works are a storehouse of raw material that draws on the early poems and feeds into the more masterful accomplishments to come.
On Mothers and Madhouses: Tatjana Gromača’s “The Divine Child,” Translated from Croatian by Will Firth
The Divine Child—or Božanska dječica in its 2012 publication by Fraktura—tells the story of a woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder as Croatian politicians violently endorse nationalism in the 1990s. It asks how a community reestablishes what passes for “normal” when every social agreement previously made has crumbled.
Translators on Books That Should Be Translated: Soma Morgenstern’s “Der Sohn des verlorenen Sohnes” (1935)
Thanks to the work of editor Ingolf Schulte, Morgenstern’s works appeared in a complete German edition in the 1990s, two decades after his death in New York. All the novels are now available in paperback in German. We can be grateful that Morgenstern saw the publication of the entire trilogy in English between 1946 and 1950, and at the same time recognize the need for an updated translation for modern readers. Given the recent upswell of interest in the lost world of Jewish Galicia, the time is ripe for this.
To mark the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, Stanford Professor Robert Pogue Harrison and graduate student Donatella D’Aguanno orchestrated a panel that brought poet and translator Mary Jo Bang together in conversation with Emeritus Professor Marjorie Perloff. I saw the occasion as an opportunity to ask this most creative and skilled wordsmith a few questions about her process, her relationship to Dante, and her place in a long line of Dante translators.
In Sandro Veronesi’s second Strega Prize-winning work of fiction, we follow the protagonist, Dr Marco Carrera, a Florentine ophthalmologist, as he stumbles through a life strewn with miscommunications, misjudgements, and misfortunes.
It is impossible to read The Plague now without thinking of COVID-19 and its globally catastrophic and ongoing wreckage. With Laura Marris’ new translation, we have a text for the twenty-first century. I hesitate to write “for a new generation,” as accurate as that may be, because even those of us who’ve read Stuart Gilbert’s translation can find new meaning, new life, in Marris’ extraordinary translation.
ollective of literary translators—Sabrina Jaszi, Mirgul Kali, and Ena Selimović—working from Turkic and Slavic languages. In this interview, the members of the collective discuss how they met, why they formed a translators’ collective, and their current projects.
The Built-in Approachability of Culture in “Well-Versed: Exploring Modern Japanese Haiku,” A Haiku Anthology Edited by Ozawa Minoru, Translated by Janine Beichman
After Basho and his immediate disciples, haiku gradually fell out of artistic favor in Japanese society until Masaoka Shiki revitalized it as a respected art form in the late 19th century. “Well-Versed” captures everything that has happened since, with 300 haiku written from around 1900 to the present day.
Although “trans(re)lating house one” is presented to us in English, Missaghi insists that Persian is the true language of its characters and city. The book was ‘translated’ from Persian to English, then, before it was ever written. For this reason, throughout her novel, Missaghi seeks to “acknowledge the Otherness of both the territory and the language to you, make them visible, and celebrate them” (35).
The Poetics of the Fluid Self: Mónica-Ramón Ríos’ “Cars on Fire,” Translated from Spanish by Robin Myers
Arguably, reading literature in translation can be compared to a leap of faith. Faith in the skilled voice and resources of the translator, faith in the power of the narrative to work its spell independently of the linguistic code it is set to traverse. Ultimately, faith in language itself to create for us a world we can inhabit, for as long as the reading experience lasts. “Cars on Fire,” in Robin Myers’ eloquent English-language rendition, provides just that. Through a succession of 18 stories written originally in Spanish by Mónica Ramón Ríos, we are allowed into an uncertain space that is both alluring and unsettling. It questions our sense of the immovable nature of the self, uncovers the precariousness fabric of identity and the complex, double-edged power and frailty of human connections.
It is not for us as translators to smooth the way, to explain, or to make things easier for the English language reader. Translators have to trust that good readers will prefer to work a bit harder rather than be denied the chance to experience the writer’s voice as directly as possible.
I find Botsford’s engaged and voice-driven translation style wonderfully refreshing and the diversity of her collaborations intriguing, so I was thrilled by the chance to talk with her about her recent work, her take on the Italian-English market, and her approach to the craft.