Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Let us remember translators who came before

In the following letter to the TLS editor, Hannibal Hamlin of the Folger Shakespeare Library corrects the record, affirming the need to remember that every age has had its translators, thanks to whose work those who come after may have more ready access to the literature of prior days:
In his review of Paul Davis’s Translation and the Poet’s Life, Henry Power writes that “the golden age of English literary translation stretched from the end of the Civil War to around the middle of the eighteenth century” (February 6), but this was surely the silver age. The golden age began a century earlier. It was not Pope’s but George Chapman’s Homer that sent Keats into raptures, and it was Arthur Golding’s Ovid that Ezra Pound called (extravagantly) “the most beautiful book in the language”. Virgil was translated by Gavin Douglas and the Earl of Surrey, Plutarch by Thomas North, and the Greek and Roman lyric poets by almost everyone. This was also the age that produced the English Bibles of Tyndale, Coverdale, and the translators of the Geneva and the “Authorized” Version, as well as the Psalms of Philip and Mary Sidney (among hundreds of others). Whoever among sixteenth- and eighteenth-century translators were literary giants and dwarves, the later writers were standing on the shoulders of their predecessors.
(Emphasis added.) A neatly packaged call to bear in mind that what writers do today is made easier and better by the labors of those who came before.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On censorship in some countries of the Middle East

"In many countries in the Middle East, and this is changing in the wake of the Arab Spring, but for a long time censorship of books and film was a very big deal. There were books you couldn’t buy, things with political content would be censored, but there were some genres of books and film that the censors just didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that below these fantasy themes which they thought to be very childish were these powerful political messages. There were these English news journals and things you couldn’t get. Anything critical of religion, whether Islam or Christianity, you couldn’t find. No Christopher Hitchens. And yet you could walk into an English-language bookstore and find America Gods or the The Chronicles of Narnia. All they see is the surface metaphor. They don’t really get what these books are saying." // from an interview with G. Willow Wilson, author of Alif the Unseen.

Roth on writers resisting robustly

“Unlike writers in Eastern Europe in the nineteen-seventies, American writers haven’t had their driver’s licenses confiscated and their children forbidden to matriculate in academic schools. Writers here don’t live enslaved in a totalitarian police state, and it would be unwise to act as if we did, unless—or until—there is a genuine assault on our rights and the country is drowning in Drumpf’s river of lies. In the meantime, I imagine writers will continue robustly to exploit the enormous American freedom that exists to write what they please, to speak out about the political situation, or to organize as they see fit.” // source

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tale of the biblioklept, from American Gods

Now that American Gods has been turned into a television series, interest in the book is once again soaring. Not that it ever really died down; it's a marvelous novel, and enjoys a substantial reputation. 

Depending on which edition you have on your shelf, you may be enjoying a slightly different experience from your fellow readers. The following scene is one of those, and is copied here from the Neil Gaiman's blog. It doesn't appear in some versions, having been cut from the text among other sections, "oddments that [Gaiman] cut out because they interrupted the flow of the story, and it was just a little leaner and worked a little better without them.

In the scene, protagonist Shadow is visiting the library in the town of Lakeside, and thinking back to a library thief he'd known, a fellow prisoner.
He had known a man in prison who had been imprisoned for stealing library books. 
“Sounds kind of rough,” said Shadow, when the man told him why he was inside. 
“Half a million dollars worth of books,” said the man, proudly. His name was Gary McGuire. “Mostly rare and antique books from libraries and universities. They found a whole storage locker filled with books from floor to ceiling. Open and shut case.” 
“Why did you take them?” asked Shadow. 
“I wanted them,” said Gary. 
“Jesus. Half a million dollars worth of books.” 
Gary flashed him a grin, lowered his voice and said, “That was just in the storage locker they found. They never found the garage in San Clemente with the really good stuff in it.” 
Gary had died in prison, when what the infirmary had told him was just a malingering, feeling-lousy kind of day turned out to be a ruptured appendix. Now, here in the Lakeside library, Shadow found himself thinking about a garage in San Clemente with box after box of rare, strange and beautiful books in it rotting away, all of them browning and wilting and being eaten by mold and insects in the darkness, waiting for someone who would never come to set them free.
On the subject of  rare, strange and beautiful books -- check out this slipcase hardcover edition of Stardust, available for the persuasive price of only $120 or so. A steal! (Don't steal books. Well, steal this book. But not this one? This is complicated.)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Annals of an Editor #74

The ongoing study of editors beset on all sides by personality conflicts, rights permission disputes, and editorial arguments in endless forms most awful. Authors' names have been removed, for the sake of privacy. Source texts other than the Editors' have been paraphrased, abridged and redacted for the sake of respecting copyright, and small changes may be made for the sake of clarity. 

In this episode of AOAE, we reproduce an email exchange between a young Author, and the editors of a literary magazine published by Pen & Anvil. For the sake of this reproduction, we will give this publication the fictitious name Betty Magazine.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Oduor Oduku on the perfect African novel

"It seems like the perfect novel, by an African, should be inert, nonpolitical, it should not be too much, it should be balanced, because readers of African novels are always looking how the sunny-side of Africa is presented. Is poverty in there? How much crime, drugs, war, prostitution, misogyny, patriarchy, feminism, name them. Are you pandering to Western audience interests? Who was your agent, your publisher? White people, right? Who are your friends? Have they influenced how you are presenting Africa to the world? Why is your imagination decadent? Your book should be banned. It is spreading immorality in Africa. Why is your language Christian? Your book must anthropological. Don't caricature us. We are good. It is a perfect world here. Africa is growing. Why are you dealing with old boring themes of poverty and strife? Poverty pornwe all agreed that novels from our 54+ countries should have none of that shit. Why are you only talking about middle class and wealthy people sensibilities? You are not capturing the ordinary lives of Africans. Do that in your next novel. That is why your current book is not selling. The proseah, make it short and clean. I'll send you the UN Convention against long sentences (PDF). Why are your stories experimental? The African novelist is a continental spokesperson. Never forget that."

Poet and critic Richard Oduor Oduku is a founding member of Jalada Africa, a contributor to Wawa Book Review, and Nonfiction Editor at Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel. He blogs at https://richardoduor.wordpress.com and can be found on Twitter. This post originally appeared on the author's Facebook page, and is republished here with his permission.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Translation is always more problematic..."

"Translation is always more problematic and more simple than it seems. It is problematic because translation clearly cannot do what many people believe it proposes to do: it cannot move a linguistic something from one language and culture to another. It is not even a matter of losing something in the moving process — a 'noise' problem as information science would have it — it is a matter of losing everything in the process and they trying to reconstruct another language's and culture's impression of what the lost thing might have been. What is simple is that the translation is really a reading of a poem, a poem about a poem. 
"For this reason, an endless number of different translations are possible for any given poem—depending, of course, on what one wants to say about the original."
-- from Walter G. Andrews' Introductory Essay to Ottoman Lyric Poetry: An Anthology.