Category Essays on Translation

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.

Stumbling Through the “Foreign”: A Look at Poupeh Missaghi’s Poetics of Translation

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).

Erasing the Dividing Line: On Christian Bancroft’s “Queering Modernist Translation”

The uninitiated may wonder, what can queer theory offer translation, as a study and practice, aside from ways of uncovering or confronting the gender biases and heteronormativity in and between languages? Much more than that, I can enthusiastically report.

Natalia Ginzburg

A Short History of “Reintroducing Natalia Ginzburg”

We are stuck in a loop of “reintroducing Natalia Ginzburg.” The current iteration of that loop depends on publishers’ marketing of Ginzburg as a precursor to Elena Ferrante. However, this genealogy arises out of a necessity to sell books; Ginzburg’s relation to her peers—Cesar Pavese, Elsa Morante, Italo Calvino—has far more relevance than the specter of her impact on Ferrante.

Reading Elena Ferrante in Bulgaria(n)

By Stiliana Milkova Last year I read Elena Ferrante’s new novel The Lying Life of Adults (La vita bugiarda degli adulti) in Bulgarian, in Ivo Yonkov’s translation from Italian. It was September 2020, it had just been released by Ferrante’s Bulgarian publisher, Colibri, and I was in Bulgaria myself. I went to Helikon, the largest […]

Always to Seek: On Reading Russian Literature in Translation

By Brandy Harrison It all began with youthful audacity. When someone asked me one day, “What are you reading?,” the answer was War and Peace. There was a pause, a faint flicker of confusion in the face hovering above my own, and then a slower, more tentative second question: “Why . . . are you […]

“La Signora Bovary” — Translator’s Note by Natalia Ginzburg

By Natalia Ginzburg Translated by Minna Zallman Proctor There are people who think that writers make the best translators. I don’t agree. Sometimes writers produce excellent translations, but not always. Translating a beloved text can be a nourishing, invigorating, and vital practice for a writer. As long as the writer thinks of it as a […]

“Reflecting Back”: Eric Sellin’s “The Magic Mirror of Literary Translation”

By Katherine Hedeen For those of us who translate poetry, any book that mentions the endeavor—and in the title no less—immediately sparks our interest. Poetry in translation is often lost (to play on Frost’s famous quip) in the shuffle of an exciting and well-deserved moment of recognition for literary translation. (Consider the recently revamped International […]