Kafka Translated Launch

I’ll be launching Kafka Translated at the Czech Center in New York on February 11th at 7pm, with a conversation between three excellent translators: Alex Zucker, Susan Bernofsky and Mark Harman (who is the subject of one of the chapters of my book). Susan Bernofsky has just published a new translation of “The Metamorphosis” with Norton and Mark Harman has translated The Castle and Amerika, and is working on a new translation of Kafka’s stories.

I promise not to have a guard at the door asking you esoteric questions and not letting you through.

http://new-york.czechcentres.cz/program/event-details/kafka-in-translation/

Kafka news

Two interesting Kafka bits of news:

A Kafka video game is going to be released next year:

http://kafkagame.blogspot.com/

and, despite fierce censorship of books, Kafka’s The Trial was one of the books lawyers could bring prisoners at Guantanamo:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/dec/13/guantanamo-books-blacklist-random-security

End of year lists

Speaking of end of year lists, it’s always worth checking out Eileen Battersby’s of The Irish Times (always clued-in to good translated fiction):

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/eileen-battersby-s-fiction-of-the-year-1.1624284

Kafka Translated in World Literature Today

Very happy that Kafka Translated was mentioned in the “Translation Tuesday” blog last week.

Also, some of my favourite books of last year  - real standout ones – made their list of notable translations: Elena Ferrante’s The Story of a New Name; Knausgaard’s My Struggle: 2; and Jáchym Topol’s The Devil’s Workshop. I’m half-way through Javier Marías’s The Infatuations and Eugen Ruge’s In Times of Fading Light (victims of reading on my e-reader – too many distractions – but I like both of them) and have some more waiting patiently to be read: Seiobo There Below, L’amour, and Tirza (the author of which, Arnon Grunberg, is undertaking a neuroscience experiment as he’s writing his next book: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/30/books/arnon-grunberg-is-writing-while-connected-to-electrodes.html?_r=0)

WLT’s 75 Notable Translations 2013

December 10, 2013The Editors of WLT

The 2013 calendar year was packed with literary translation news. At least two new publishers entered the field: Frische & Co. published its first e-books, and New Vessel Press brought out its first titles. In addition to bringing out the twentieth volume in its translation anthology series, Two Lines’ new book publishing arm published its first titles. And the long-anticipated Library of Arabic Literature launched six more books, following its first offering in December 2012. These are the first in a series of thirty-five anticipated translations over the next five years. Similarly, working with the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, Dalkey Archive launched its Library of Korean Literature, bringing out several titles.

In other news, Alison Anderson asked, “Where Are the Women in Translation?”rejuvenating a discussion of the underrepresentation of women in literary translation.Amazon topped the list as the US’s most prolific literary translation publisher, and Blackstone Audio brought out four audiobook translations of Gabriel García Márquez’s works. Adding to the critical field, Columbia University Press published In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means, a collection of essays edited by Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky; Bloomsbury published Michelle Woods’sKafka Translated.

In our second annual list of “75 Notable Translations,” we again offer an admittedly incomplete collection of the year’s most exciting translations. We hope you’ll both find some new to-reads and comment on those we’ve missed. Tell us, too, which forthcoming titles you’re most eager to read in 2014—Susan Bernofsky’s new translation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, perhaps?

We wish you peace and good reading in the new year.

75 Notable Translations 2013

Peter Aleshkovsky, Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices, Nina Shevchuk-Murray, tr.

Esmahan Aykol, Baksheesh, Ruth Whitehouse, tr.

Gerbrand Bakker, Ten White Geese, David Colmer, tr.

Mongo Beti, Cruel City, Pim Higginson, tr.

Mahi Binebine, Horses of God, Lulu Norman, tr.

Bergsveinn Birgisson, Reply to a Letter from Helga, Philip Roughton, tr.

Roberto Bolaño, The Unknown University, Laura Healy, tr.

Kristina Carlson, Mr. Darwin’s Gardener, Emily Jeremiah & Fleur Jeremiah, tr.

C. P. Cavafy, Complete Plus: The Poems of C. P. Cavafy in English, George Economou with Stavros Deligiorgis, tr.

Mariusz Czubaj, 21:37, Anna Hyde, tr.

Marguerite Duras, L’Amour, Kazim Ali & Libby Murphy, tr.

Kristiina Ehin, In a Single Breath, Ilmar Lehtpere, tr.

Álvaro Enrigue, Hypothermia, Brendan Riley, tr.

D. O. Fagunwa, Forest of a Thousand Daemons: A Hunter’s Saga, Wole Soyinka, tr.

Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, Leg over Leg, Humphrey Davies, tr.

Michael Farman, ed., Jade Mirror: Women Poets of China, Michael Farman, Jeanne Larsen, and Geoffrey Waters, tr.

Elena Ferrante, The Story of a New Name, Ann Goldstein, tr.

Arturo Fontaine, La vida doble, Megan McDowell, tr.

Simon Fruelund, Milk and Other Stories, K. E. Semmel, tr.

Marcos Giralt Torrente, The End of Love, Katherine Silver, tr.

Arnon Grunberg, Tirza, Sam Garrett, tr.

Nazim Hikmet, Life’s Good, Brother, Mutlu Konuk Blasing, tr.

Agawa Hiroyuki, Citadel in Spring: A Novel of Youth Spent at War, Lawrence Rogers, tr.

Hyesim, Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems, Ian Haight & T’ae-yŏng Hŏ, tr.

Sonallah Ibrahim, That Smell & Notes from Prison, Robyn Creswell, tr.

Angel Igov, A Short Tale of Shame, Angela Rodel, tr.

Ismail Kadare, The Fall of the Stone City, John Hodgson, tr.

Abbas Khider, The Village Indian, Donal McLaughlin, tr.

Anna Kim, Anatomy of a Night, Bradley Schmidt, tr.

Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book Two, Don Bartlett, tr.

Takiji Kobayashi, The Crab Cannery Ship and Other Novels of Struggle, Željko Cipriš, tr.

Foumiko Kometani, Wasabi for Breakfast, Mary Goebel Noguchi, tr.

László Krasznahorkai, Seiobo There Below, Ottilie Mulzet, tr.

Dany Laferrière, The World Is Moving Around Me: A Memoir of the Haiti Earthquake, David Homel, tr.

Juhan Liiv, Snow Drifts, I Sing, Jüri Talvet & H. L. Hix, tr.

Pedro Mairal, The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra, Nick Caistor, tr.

Javier Marías, The Infatuations, Margaret Jull Costa, tr.

Victor Martinovich, Paranoia, Diane Nemec Ignashev, tr.

Jarosłow Mikołajewski, Froth: Poems, Piotr Florcyzk, tr.

Mo Yan, Sandalwood Death, Howard Goldblatt, tr.

Gellu Naum, Athanor and Other Pohems, Martin Woodside, tr.

Yoko Ogawa, Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales, Stephen Snyder, tr.

Amos Oz, Between Friends, Sondra Silverston, tr.

Inka Parei, What Darkness Was, Katy Derbyshire, tr.

Joaquín Pérez Azaústre, The Swimmers, Lucas Lyndes, tr.

Robert Perisic, Our Man in Iraq, Will Firth, tr.

Riikka Pulkkinen, The Limit, Lola Rogers, tr.

Giedra Radvilavičiūtė, Those Whom I Would Like to Meet Again, Elizabeth Novickas, tr.

Red Spectres: Russian Gothic Tales from the Twentieth Century, Muireann Maguire, ed. & tr.

Yannis Ritsos, Diaries of Exile, Karen Emmerich & Edmund Keeley, tr.

Charlotte Roche, Wrecked, Tim Mohr, tr.

Tadeusz Różewicz, Mother Departs (Special Edition), Barbara Bogoczek, tr.

Tomasz Różycki, Colonies, Mira Rosenthal, tr.

Eugen Ruge, In Times of Fading Light, Anthea Bell, tr.

Mahmoud Saeed, Ben Barka Lane, Kay Heikkinen, tr.

Parinoush Saniee, The Book of Fate, Sara Khalili, tr.

Severo SarduyFirefly, Mark Fried, tr.

Gheorghe Săsărman, Squaring the Circle: A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony, Ursula K. Le Guin, tr.

Sohrab Sepehri, The Oasis of Now: Selected Poems, Kazim Ali & Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, tr.

Nihad Sirees, The Silence and the Roar, Max Weiss, tr.

Alexander Snegriev, Petroleum Venus, Arch Tait, tr.

Witold Szabłowski, The Assassin from Apricot CityAntonia Lloyd-Jones, tr.

Antonio Tabucchi, The Woman of Porto Pim, Tim Parks, tr.

Jáchym Topol, The Devil’s Workshop, Alex Zucker, tr.

Sirkka Turkka, A Sure Star in a Moonless Night, Emily Jeremiah, tr.

Buket Uzuner, I Am Istanbul, Kenneth J. Dakan, tr.

Giorgio Vasta, Time on My Hands, Jonathan Hunt, tr.

Mariapia Veladiano, A Life Apart, Cristina Viti, tr.

Alexander Vvedensky, An Invitation for Me to Think, Eugene Ostashevsky & Matvei Yankelevich, tr.

Christa Wolf, City of Angels, Damion Searls, tr.

A. B. Yehoshua, The Retrospective, Stuart Schoffman, tr.

Yi Kwang-su, The Soil, Hwang Sun-ae & Horace Jeffery Hodges, tr.

Alejandro Zambra, Ways of Going Home, Megan McDowell, tr.

Shemi Zarhin, Some Day, Yardenne Greenspan, tr.

Zhu Wen, The Matchmaker, the Apprentice, and the Football Fan: More Stories of China, Julia Lovell, tr.

Kafka Translated: Interview with Riffle Books

RIffle Backstory: Q&A with Michelle Woods, author of “Kafka Translated”

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WHAT IS THE MOST UNUSUAL THING YOU LEARNED WHILE RESEARCHING THIS BOOK?
Michelle Woods: Without doubt, the details of the translators’ lives and experiences were, and are, absolutely fascinating – the book is worth reading just for their stories. Another discovery was a 1912 book on America by a Czech politician and journalist, František Soukup – Kafka went to his lecture on America, before writing Amerika (and likely read the book). Soukup travelled around the country and two highlights are: walking into the White House – anyone could go in, in any clothes, he claimed – they just had to present a business card to get in to see the President. Also, he describes the town of Zion, Illinois – a town founded by a religious cult that banned alcohol and doctors – and his very funny and wry description of its nuttiness, and photographs, find their way into the Nature Theatre of Oklahoma section of Kafka’s Amerika.

WITH WHICH BOOK OR STORY WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THAT KAFKA NEWBIES START? WHAT HIDDEN GEMS WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FOR KAFKA FANS?
It would have to be “Metamorphosis” to start – even though it tends to be a set text, it always surprises me how many people haven’t read it. The humor (Gregor’s odd and hilarious initial indifference to the change, for example) is wonderful. In terms of hidden gems, I would suggest the short, short story, “Poseidon”, which is a beautiful portrait of a Poseidon who’s too busy with paperwork to see the oceans, and perhaps Amerika – it’s the one novel that is always overlooked (because of The Trial and The Castle), but is a wry take on the immigrant experience to America at the turn of the twentieth century (and, once you’ve read it, have a look at Federico Fellini’s mockumentary, Intervista, which is “about” Fellini trying to film the novel).

GIVEN YOUR RESEARCH, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG TRANSLATORS STARTING OUT?
Do it for love – find a voice that you love – translation is a long, difficult and often frustrating process; like any craft, you have to have a bit of passion and grit to get through. Literary translation will not necessarily provide a career, but the future is quite hopeful, with more small presses focusing on translation and a number of reviews that publish translations. Talk to more experienced translators – they will be honest and interesting about their experiences. I’ve just come back from the American Literary Translators’ Association annual conference, and I thought they were great at providing a place where you can meet more experienced translators, editors and scholars in the area – and they seem keen to mentor younger translators.

WHICH BOOK ARE YOU RAVING ABOUT RIGHT NOW?
I just read Jáchym Topol’s The Devil’s Workshop (translated by Alex Zucker – it won the 2013 English PEN Writers in Translation award) and loved it – it’s a dark, funny, grotesque novella that plays around with ideas of the holocaust industry in the Czech Republic and Belarus. The first sentence of Lázló Krasznahorkai’s War & War made me laugh so hard I spilled my coffee (I’m in the middle of it and really enjoying it) – translated by the wonderful George Szirtes. Also, a non-translated book but in an English you won’t recognize – Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker – a dystopian novel in which Punch & Judy become the spiritual icons in a post-Nuclear holocaust world and in which the English language has morphed into the beautiful, dark dialect. You won’t know what’s going on for some of the time, but the language carries you away.

WHO ARE A FEW OF THE LITERARY GIANTS, BE THEY TRANSLATORS OR OTHERWISE, WHOM YOU ADMIRE?
I’ve been very lucky to have spent time writing about three of my favorite authors: Milan Kundera, Václav Havel, and Franz Kafka. I tend to love darkly funny Central European literature, or books in that vein: so writers like Bohumil Hrabal, Witold Gombrowicz, Thomas Bernhard. I really admire translators like Michael Hofmann (who gives a fantastic interview in Kafka Translated – a work of art in itself), who have created a body of translated literature (in his case from German) where you can really see the translator’s sensibility come through.

WHICH AUTHOR OR TRANSLATOR DO YOU THINK IS OVERLOOKED OR UNDERRATED?
Hrabal’s work is kind of known among writers, but is often overlooked. His novels, Too Loud a Solitude and I Served the King of England, are especially good. I discovered Wolfgang Koeppen through looking at Hofmann’s translations: his novel, Death in Rome, is absolutely wonderful (a German’s Nazi family follows him – to his horror – to Rome in the 1950s) – like Hrabal and Bernhard, darkly hilarious.

I’VE READ THAT KAFKA WOULD LAUGH WHILE READING HIS OWN WORK, BUT IT MAY SURPRISE READERS TO DISCOVER HOW FUNNY KAFKA IS. HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ANY OTHER WRITERS WHOSE WORK SIMILARLY SURPRISES US WITH ITS HUMOR, OR SHARES HIS PARTICULAR BRAND OF FUNNY?
Yes – I keep coming back to the humor in the book, trying to show how Kafka is funny and how translation plays a part in conveying that humor (and how it was downplayed as an element in his work after the war). I think all of the above share a similar sensibility (and are influenced quite heavily by Kafka).
In a slightly different vein – I was reading the new Penguin translations of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time over the summer, and couldn’t believe how funny he could be.

FINISH THIS SENTENCE: YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT KAFKA TRANSLATED BECAUSE …
It’s very readable and accessible; it has (I hope) quite gripping stories about the translators and it’s the first book ever to talk about the translations; and, finally, it (hopefully) reveals a lot about why Kafka’s funny. And it talks about some great filmmakers, as well as The Wire and Breaking Bad!!

https://read.rifflebooks.com/list/113432

Kafka Translated

Kafka Translated is now out! And available in paperback, hardback and Kindle (for the fantastic price of $14.49! That’s cheaper than brunch!).

http://www.amazon.com/Kafka-Translated-Translators-Shaped-Reading/dp/1441197710/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384107521&sr=1-1&keywords=kafka+translated

I came out in stress hives thinking about how to sell the book to you – authors should be banned from trying to market their books (since all they see are the dropped stitches and unruly seams!), but, you know, if you’re into Kafka and are ready to read some really amazing histories of his translators (feminists, Scots and Irish, resistance heroines), and if you wondered why Kafka’s friends fell on the floor laughing when he read his work aloud (since he’s been sold as the miserablist par excellence), then give it a chance.

Kafkaween

Joseph D’Lacey, a horror writer, recommended 10 alternative horror books for Halloween last week in The Guardian, and included Kafka’s stories, particularly “In the Penal Colony” as “one of the most brutal and disturbing stories” he’d ever read. The story, about a machine that inscribes your punishment in needles on your body over a twelve-hour period, lovingly guarded by an officer who finally commits suicide on it to achieve enlightenment (the machine goes haywire and he gets staked in the head), is pretty, you’d have to say, macabre and grotesque. But what makes it great is not a dark Poe-like imagination but the juxtaposition of the cruelty with humor – the comic duo of the prisoner (who was about to be tortured to death for not saluting his officer every hour) and his guard, who end up both trying to slurp porridge from the torture-machine. The writing, too, describes horror and its seductions with real humor – like the paragraph in which the officer persuades the traveler to touch the torture bed that’s covered in cotton wool – repeating the word cotton wool throughout the paragraph with a little mention of a “scream” in the middle. It’s the slapstick comedy that backlights the logical grotesqueness but also the seduction of the officer and his machine.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/30/horror-fiction