Brazilian women writers translated into English

August is Women in Translation month.

The project was created back in 2014 by Meytal Radzinski to raise awareness of women writers translated into English.

Inspired by her and her project, I decided to create our own “Brazilian women writers translated into English” list to raise awareness of Brazilian literature written by women translated into English.

Here’s the list of 44 authors (in alphabetical order) and (some of) their translated books kindly suggested by people on social media:

1. Adriana Lisboa
Translated books and their translators: Crow Blue, Alison Entrekin; Hut of Fallen Persimmons, Sarah Green; Symphony in White, Sarah Green.

Read Alison Entrekin’s interview in my Greatest Women in Translation series here.

2. Alice Brant
Translated book and its translator: The Diary of “Helena Morley,” Elizabeth Bishop.
Interesting fact: This was the only book written by Alice under the pen name Helena Morley. It’s a diary she started writing when she was 13. Her book is considered one of the best Brazilian literary works of the 19th century.

3. Alice Sant’Anna
Translated book of poems and its translator: Tail of the Whale, Tiffany Higgins.

4. Ana Cristina Cesar
Translated book and its translators: At Your Feet, Brenda Hillman, Helen Hillman & Sebastião Edson.

5. Ana Maria Machado
Translated books and their translators: The History Mistery, Luisa Baeta; Me in the Middle, David Unger; From Another World, Luisa Baeta.
Interesting fact: Ana is also a translator and has translated Alice in Wonderland into Brazilian Portuguese.

6. Ana Miranda
Translated book and its translator: Bay of All Saints and Every Conceivable Sin, Giovanni Pontiero.

7. Ana Paula Maia
Translated book and its translator: Saga of Brutes, Alexandra Joy Forman.

8. Angélica Freitas
Translated book and its translator: Rilke Shake, Hilary Kaplan.

9. Beatriz Bracher
Translated book and its translator: I Didn’t Talk, Adam Morris.

10. Camila Fernandes
Translated short stories and their translator: The Other Bank of the River, Christopher Kastensmidt; The Best of the Three, Christopher Kastensmidt.

11. Carol Bensimon
Translated book and its translator: We All Loved Cowboys, Beth Fowler.

12. Carola Saavedra
Translated book and its translator: Blue Flowers, Daniel Hahn (coming on January 2020).

Read Daniel Hahn’s guest post about the TA First Translation Prize here.

13. Carolina Maria de Jesus
Translated book and its translator: Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus, David St. Clair.

14. Cecília Meireles
Interesting fact: Cecília was also a translator.
P.S.: I couldn’t find any formal translation of her works. Feel free to comment below if you know any.

15. Clarice Lispector
Translated books and their translators: The Besieged City, Giovanni Pontiero; The Chandelier, Benjamin Moser & Magdalena Edwards (read this!); Near to the Wild Heart, Alison Entrekin; A Breath of Life, Johnny Lorenz; The Passion According to G.H., Ronald W. Souza; Complete Stories, Katrina Dodson; The Apple in the Dark, Gregory Rabassa; An Apprenticeship, or, The Book of Delights, Richard A. Mazzare; Discovering the World, Giovanni Pontiero; The Hour of the Star, Giovanni Pontiero; The Stream of Life, Elizabeth Lowe & Earl Fitz.
Interesting fact: Clarice “was one of the first Brazilian women to graduate from law school and to become a journalist.” “Being famous for her striking beauty did not make her popular, which mattered to a woman whose talent was proportional to her sensitivity.” She’s the most widely translated and the best known woman writer in Brazil.

16. Dinah Silveira de Queiroz
Translated books and their translators: Christ’s Memorial, Isabel do Prado; The Women of Brazil, Roberta King.

17. Edla van Steen
Translated book and its translator: Village of the Ghost Bells, David George.

18. Eliane Brum
Translated books and their translators: The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil Everyday, Diane Grosklaus Whitty; One Two, Lucy Greaves.

Read Diane Grosklaus Whitty’s interview in my Greatest Women in Translation series here.

19. Fernanda Torres
Translated books and their translators: Glory and Its Litany of Horrors, Eric M. B. Becker; The End, Alison Entrekin.

20. Helena Parente Cunha
Translated book and its translator: Woman Between Mirrors, Fred P. Ellison & Naomi Lindstrom.

21. Hilda Hilst
Translated books and their translators: With My Dog Eyes, Adam Morris; The Obscene Madame D., Nathanaël & Rachel Gontijo Araujo; Letters from a Seducer, John Keene.

22. Lidia Jorge
Translated books and their translators: The Painter of Birds, Margaret Jull Costa; The Murmuring Coast, Natalia Costa & Ronald W. Sousa.

23. Lya Luft
Translated books and their translators: The Island of the Dead, Carmen Chaves McClendon & Betty Jean Craige; The Red House, Giovanni Pontiero.

24. Lygia Fagundes Telles
Translated books and their translator: The Girl in the Photograph, Margaret A. Neves; The Marble Dance, Margaret A. Neves.

25. Lygia Nunes
Translated books and their translators: The Companions, Ellen Watson; My Friend the Painter, Giovanni Pontiero.

26. Maria Esther Maciel
Translated stories and their translator: The Meanings of Yellow, Daniel Hahn; The Voice of Silence, Daniel Hahn.

27. Marilene Felinto
Translated book and its translator: The Women of Tijucopapo, Irene Matthews.

28. Marília Garcia
Translated poems and their translator: It’s a Love Story and It’s About an Accident, Hilary Kaplan; Love Story, A-Z, Hilary Kaplan.

29. Martha Batalha
Translated book and its translator: The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao, Eric M. B. Becker.

30. Maurinete Lima
Translated poems and their translators: Fear and Its Trajectory, Flávia Rocha & Eric M. B. Becker; Sinhá Rosa; Flávia Rocha.

31. Nélida Piñón
Translated books and their translator: The Republic of Dreams: A Novel, Helen Lane; Caetana’s Sweet Song, Helen Lane.
Interesting fact: Nélida was the first woman president of Academia Brasileira de Letras.

32. Nikelen Witter
Translated work and its translator: Mary G., Christopher Karstensmith.

33. Nina Rizzi
Translated poem and its translator: Mermaid in the Glass of Water, Rafaela Miranda.

34. Noemi Jaffe
Translated book and its translator: What are the Blind Men Dreaming?, Julia Sanches & Ellen Elias-Bursac.

Read Julia Sanches’ interview in my Greatest Women in Translation series here.

35. Patrícia Galvão
Translated book and its translator: Industrial Park: A Proletarian Novel, Elizabeth Jackson & Kenneth David Jackson.

36. Patrícia Mello
Translated books and their translator: The Body Snatcher, Clifford E. Landers; Black Waltz, Clifford E. Landers.

37. Paula Parisot
Translated book and its translator: The Lady of Solitude, Elizabeth Lowe & Clifford E. Landers.

38. Raquel de Queiroz
Translated books and their translators: The Three Marias, Fred P. Ellison; Dora, Doralina, Dorothy Scott Loos; The Three Marias, Fred P. Ellison.
Interesting fact: Raquel was also a translator.

39. Regina Rheda
Translated book and its translator: First World Third Class and Other Tales of the Global Mix, Adria Frizzi.

40. Socorro Acioli
Translated book and its translator: The Head of the Saint, Daniel Hahn. (I read it in Portuguese and loved it! It’s a nice reading.)

41. Stella Car Ribeiro
Translated book and its translator: Sambaqui: A Novel of Pre-History, Claudia Van der Heuvel.

42. Tatiana Salem Levy
Translated book and its translator: The House in Smyrna, Alison Entrekin.

43. Veronica Stigger
Translated book and its translator: Opisanie Swiata, Zoë Perry.

44. Zulmira Ribeiro Tavares
Translated book and its translator: Family Heirlooms, Daniel Hahn.

 

Hope you like it. If you read any of them because you saw this post, feel free to come and tell us know what you thought of it.

Do you know any other Brazilian women authors with books translated into English? Let us know in the comments below and I’ll add them to the list above.

And make sure to keep an eye out on the hashtag #WiTmonth on Twitter and on Meytal’s list of #100BestWIT, with women authors from all over the world translated into English.

 

Suggested reading:
Latin American Women Writers: A Resource Guide to Titles in English, by Kathy S. Leonard
One Hundred Years After Tomorrow: Brazilian Women’s Fiction in the 20th Century, edited and translated by Darlene J. Sadlier
Fourteen Female Voices from Brazil, interviews and works selected and edited by Elzbieta Szoka
Wikipedia’s List of Brazilian Women Writers
Benjamin Moser and the Smallest Women in the World, by Magdalena Edwards, Clarice Lispector’s translator, on men taking credit for women’s work

Summary of the ITI Conference 2019

ITI Conference 2019, Sheffield

Credit: ITI

Last May, during my European vacation, I attended two conferences for the first time. Last month I wrote about my experience at the BP19 Conference. In this month’s post, I write about my experience as a newbie at the ITI Conference, which was held in Sheffield, UK, at the amazing Cutlers’ Hall, on May 10-11.

To begin with, Paul Appleyard, ITI’s Chair, welcomed us by beautifully saying we should be concerned with the changes of the world of our work and be prepared. I agree with him. And a great way of leaving our bubble and keeping updated on what is happening and changing in our profession is to attend different conferences and events. As Paul Wilson, ITI’s CEO, later said, networking is one of the most powerful tools we have, so we should make the most out of it.

Here’s a brief overview of the sessions I attended at the conference. The post ended up being longer than usual, but I hope you find my account of the presentations helpful.

First day

Defining and improving quality in specialized multilingual services, by Angela Sigee

Angela, German lawyer and translator, specifically talked about legal translation. She stressed it is important to bear in mind that lawyers work with words just like translators, but in different ways. She said the main issue in legal translation is that legal systems are different, creating conceptual gaps. There are degrees of accuracy, so it is important to hear, and render, the overtones. Therefore, knowing the source language is not enough. Legal translators must have a great command of their target language.

According to Sigee, future-proof legal translators should understand the big picture and be detail-oriented. She said practice is essential (just like in any other translation area, right?). She recommends partnering with a colleague to review your work and finding a mentor.

Professional organizations are also a great place to look for help in improving your knowledge, since they offer training courses, mentoring, policies. You can also learn with language service providers when they offer proofreading practices, for example. I totally agree! I learn a lot with feedback from editors/proofreaders. Being open to feedback and carefully analyzing them help us learn with our mistakes and the client’s preferences and style, avoiding repeat mistakes.

Angela suggests the following book for legal translators: New Approach to Legal Translation, by Susan Sarcevic.

The other side of the mirror: an inside look at a “translator-driven” corporate communications campaign, by David Jemielity

David is Head of Translations at Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (BCV) and talked about how BCV’s in-house translations team managed to position itself at the center of the bank’s communications decision-making.

According to David, we should position ourselves as high value-added service providers. If you can position yourself as someone who can deeply understand and translate the company’s overall brand voice, you’re doing something different and not commonplace.

Jemielity said that, when not properly aware of a company’s brand voice, a translator can change it by unwillingly deverbalizing the message. Quality means effective communication in the target language. Ask yourself: “Is this effective as communication?” rather than “Is this a good translation?” Regardless of how good your translation is, it won’t matter if it doesn’t meet your client’s expectations.

The source text should not be used as an excuse! Difficult in practice, but totally true. If we used this as “excuse,” we wouldn’t translate anything at the best of our abilities, since practically everything is badly written nowadays.

On creating or translating a brand identity, according to David, numbers are abstract. They don’t answer the essential question: What’s in it for me? You should shift perceptions and talk like the people you are talking to. Good copies are factual, simple, impact-oriented, familiar, authentic, specific, and written in a conversational style that speaks to the audience

David sums up his presentation by telling us the lessons learned from BCV’s translation-driven corporate communications campaign:

  • Really specialize.
  • It’s not about whether it is a good translation. It’s about whether it’s effective communication.
  • Don’t forget about (or shy away from) managing perceived quality as well as actual quality.
  • Be ambitious and play the long game.

Embracing the flexible future, by Lizzie Penny and Alex Hirst, from The Hoxby Collective

“I was praising my success on the number of hours I worked,” said Alex, who was on fire at his marketing career, but eventually burned out. The catalyst for Lizzie, in turn, was becoming a mom. “You should be judged by your output, rather than by when/where you work,” she said. Together, they created the flexible working community The Hoxby Collective, which promotes the workstyle movement to ensure more people can spend their time in the way that most inspires them.

According to them, work should fit around life, not the opposite! You should work however/whenever/wherever you choose, being free to choose your own workstyle. “For us, passion carries much more importance than experience.”

Translators as communicators: diversifying your career, by Adam Fuss

According to Adam, the increased quality of machine technology is forcing translators to reevaluate the services they offer and how they market themselves.

Fuss mentions the following additional areas of practice for diversification: academic copywriting, copywriting and transcreation, and communication consulting.

You need to know yourself really well in order to know how to diversity. For example, are you an introvert or extrovert? Find your ideal balance when diversifying activities.

How to diversify your services in communications consulting: be prepared to work for free (in marketing yourself); get involved; read, share, repeat; look for opportunities in your current work; focus on data.

The Collaborative Edge: mutual revision as a way to improve translations – and translators, by Victoria Patience, Simon Berrill, and Tim Gutteridge (not present)

The trio decided to try a different approach and set up a mutual revision and critiquing arrangement, the RevClub. They review each other’s translations weekly and give feedback on it. RevClub is comprised of three weeks of revision (one for each member) and one week of translation slam.

According to them, it is refreshing to hear constructive criticism and genuine praise of each other’s work. Collaborative work can also lead to confident referrals, since you know each other’s way of work and translation quality.

Establishing a collaborative peer-review system with trusted colleagues keeps you at the top of your game, offers a fresh perspective on linguistic choices, and fosters positive industry relationships.

Making the leap, by Chris Durban

Chris starts with the following question: Do you want to stop surviving and start thriving? So you should change your mindset from “Yes, but…” to “Yes, and…” I totally agree!

Being a really good translator takes a lot of work. And being worried is a good thing. It makes us not settle and aim for better. The premium market involves higher risks, but higher risks equal higher rewards.

“I don’t care about how good or bad the source text is,” she said. We should aim to create translations that work as communication. This point was also made by David Jemielity earlier on, stressing its importance.

Chris also showed us examples of similarity of input provided by machine translation and poor translators. Machine translation will replace translators, but only those who work like one.

Durban gave us some great tips:

  • Be aware of the comfort zone.
  • Specialize.
  • Get granular (technical, financial, legal is not detailed enough).
  • Embrace risk.
  • Eschew PEMT.
  • Limit your time on social media.
  • Invest in yourself (10-15% of your income).
  • Don’t believe everything you read or people say.
  • Find a mentor.

“Get a grip guys!” she said. Technology is good and everything, but it’s the easy part in our job as translators.

Listen to how potential clients and your customers talk. Understand what their issues are. This will make you connect with them and move into their world. Talk about them (clients)! And smoothly and naturally move into the commercial talk.

Second day

Crunching the numbers: how to grow your translation business, by Anja Jones

According to Anja, from Anja Jones Translations (AJT), there is always someone who will do it cheaper! We usually compare ourselves with our customers and competitors (other linguists, LSPs, MT, etc.). However, the market is so fragmented that we need to focus on ourselves rather than on what our competitors are doing. “Start with yourself,” she said. “It should be all about yourself.”

Profit/Loss = income – expenses (direct – gross profit/loss; or operating – net profit/loss)

How to calculate your minimum word price? Start with your business expenses and go to your living expenses. Be specific and detailed on your expenses. Add your monthly translation capacity and you will have the minimum you need to charge per word. Don’t forget to consider savings for rainy days and for taxes when calculating your expenses and minimum rate.

Be confident when negotiating prices and communicating your minimum rates to clients. Articulate why you’re worth what you’re worth.

Translation isn’t a commodity! There is no such a thing as bulk discounts. Don’t drop your trousers just because someone asked you to. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” If you give a discount, communicate very clearly why you’re doing so, make sure the client knows it’s a one-off time, and ask for something in return, e.g. a testimonial.

Also think about how you can negotiate. If the client doesn’t have enough budget, suggest important things you can translate, instead of translating the entire content, e.g. in websites.

Increase your earning potential by using technology, specializing, considering proofreading/editing (not everybody is willing to do that), offering services at an hourly rate or on a retainer basis. Think of ways to make your day more efficient. Your time is valuable so spend it wisely! Every little minute saved adds up to maximize your efficiency.

If you want to expand, consider building a team, e.g. translation coordinator, freelance collective, employer, two-people team.

When increasing prices, be honest and explain where the increase in price came from. Inform clients in advance and offer them the chance to order services before prices go up.

Talking all over the world: a look at the perception of translators and interpreters across cultures, by Jeanette Brickner

According to Jeanette, some things about culture are easy to see, but others not so much. They’re not so obvious. There’s a lot we can accidentally overlook or simplify. Approaches to health and medicine, dress codes, family matters, humor, etc. are examples of cultural specifics.

Privilege isn’t just a buzzword, especially in the language industry, e.g. English-speaking people have particular advantages on a global scale, geography plays a huge role (what if you live somewhere distant?). Even though the EU has 24 official languages and approximately 60 minority and/or indigenous languages, English and French are more relied upon.

According to Jeanette, we should foster a community that reinforces a positive outlook on the profession. She recommends, “Share your knowledge.” The market is big enough for everyone. Talk to your friends and family about what you do (positively, not negatively). Be culturally sensitive.

Asterix and linguistix: the science of the translated world, Oliver Kamm

The keynote speaker, Oliver Kamm, is Anthea Bell’s son. Anthea Bell was an English translator of works such as Asterix and passed away last October. Oliver is leader writer and columnist of The Times.

Did you know the first English translation of Asterix was only published in 1969 (the original French was published in 1959)?

“Telling what it says in the book is what you [translators] do. Not every language in the world is English. There’s a whole world out there. Language is a universal human faculty,” said Oliver. Language is a universal human attribute. You learn and follow grammar rules naturally in life.

Sign language is the most recent language (40 years old). It’s a very complex system. It was invented by children in Nicaragua.

In these dark times of ethno-nationalism and xenophobia, the window into other cultures that literature in other languages gives us is absolutely crucial.

Training new literary translators: teaching through practice, by Daniel Hahn

“Translating is like writing someone else’s book, but backwards and on high heels,” beautifully said British literary translator from Portuguese, Spanish, and French, Daniel.

According to him, “learning is in the process. Almost all my workshops are learning by doing. Teaching by doing means I also get to learn it myself. You learn by being forced to articulate choices that come instinctively to you.”

Translation bloopers are dead! Long live abundant new ways of showcasing yourself and our profession, by Karen McMillan Tkaczyk

According to Karen, there are other more positive ideas we can use to promote our profession than bloopers. And I couldn’t agree more with her! Recommending the people you love working with (nor just behind the scenes, e.g. LinkedIn recommendations, when you can’t do the job) is a great way to promote our profession. Credit revisors/editors when you know your translation has been revised/edited. If you don’t know who they are, add a general note. Another way to promote value in what we do is asking for referrals to current clients. You have to add value to your client so that they can feel you’re worth the referral.

Consider writing letters to the editor on magazines/newspapers on your area of specialization.

When creating a portfolio, focus on your “About” page. We like reading translations, but not everybody does, so the “About” page is important.

Karen concludes her talk and the conference by playing on the conference’s theme: “We can all do our bit in promoting (and forging) the future of our profession.”

 

That’s it! I hope you liked my brief summary of the conference. If I got you into considering attending the next one, the ITI Conference is biennial, so the next one will be held only in 2021.

Greatest Women in Translation: Robin Myers

^3BD2FAACEAC897D21BE68030808476304DC722B6E37A1C22D8^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr

Created by Érick Tonin

Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

This month, I talk to Robin Myers, US-born, Mexico City-based literary translator and poet, nominated by Charlotte Whittle.

Robin Myers

Created with Canva

1. Could you start by telling us about your beginning in translation?

I first became fascinated with translation in my late teens. At the time, it felt like the natural amalgam of several other interests: poetry, the Spanish language, and Mexico. I was born and raised in the US, but part of my father’s family came from Mexico; I visited a couple times as a child and always wanted to spend more time here. So I studied Spanish as the means to this very specific end. I lived in the city of Oaxaca for a few months after high school, then again halfway through college. It was during those early experiences of real immersion—in the language, in a place I loved, in my first Spanish-speaking friendships, in my first forays into reading contemporary Mexican literature—that I started experimenting with translation. There was something very simple and earnest about those initial explorations: I just wanted to share what I was reading (whether in English or Spanish) with people I cared about. As innocent as this may sound to me now—or at least as far removed as it can feel from certain parts of the day-to-day grind—I still believe that the desire to translate springs from the desire to connect, period. Of course we want that! Of course we want to bring disparate words, disparate worlds together.

In any case, it wasn’t too long before my translatorly hopes and expectations came into contact with more technical realities. In college, I spent a semester studying in Buenos Aires and took a workshop with Ezequiel Zaidenwerg, a remarkable Argentine poet and translator. Ezequiel’s approach emphasized the metrical building blocks of the Spanish-language poetic tradition, and at first I railed against this focus on syllable-counting and form. But I came around, and I started to genuinely enjoy the search for poetic “solutions” within a set of formal parameters. Ezequiel’s mentorship was very important to me as I started translating in a more professional way, and we’ve both gone on to translate each other’s work over the years, which has been a great gift.

2. Besides being a translator you are also a poet. Does being a poet help as translator and vice-versa? If so, how?

It absolutely helps. Both poetry and translation (and by this I mean the translation of anything, not just poetry) are practices rooted in the materiality of language. If you write poetry or translate anything, you are in the business of dealing with words as stuff, as resources, as concrete elements you shape and combine to form certain structures and spark particular effects in the reader. Of course, in translation, you’re using language in response to—in relation to—language that already exists in the world. You’re writing (because translating is also writing) in the service of and in complicity with that language. In this sense, too, translation demands both that you saturate yourself with the original text and that you distance yourself from it. That doubleness has helped me write my own poetry, I think, at least in the sense that it’s made the experience of writing poetry much more interesting. For one thing, it’s made me more conscious of the artifice of whatever I’m doing (and I mean “artifice” not as an insult but as a fact). For the same reason, it’s also made me feel freer to experiment: to think with more curiosity and more gratitude about language as “tools” and how I might try them out. I do feel that writing poetry affects my translations as well, or my approach to translating. For example, I care a great deal about sound when I write poetry, about what happens to words when we string them together and speak them aloud, and I feel a similar need to “hear” what language does in translating both poetry and prose. That said, I don’t mean to talk about this obsession with sound as if it were strictly the domain of poetry, much less of poets, because that’s not the case at all! I’m just musing about what it feels like for me in going about things as I go about them.

3. Could you please kindly share one of your (short) poems with us?

Here’s an untitled poem (they’re all untitled) from a collection called Having, which was translated into Spanish by Ezequiel Zaidenwerg and published as Tener in Argentina, Mexico, and (soon) Spain:

You can have it.

You can have the mad dash
and the mist,
the burned tongue
and honey-slick,
the cup
intact.

The night rage, the gray dawn
forgiving you.

The train,
the track.

The soft hairs
at the nape of the neck,
the thrilled plunge
and the cast.

You can have the rest of it.

You can rest.

It will drive you mad.

You will scald your way through
the days, trying
to have all of it,

having it.

4. In this interview you gave for the Los Angeles Review of Books, you said “translation is a weird, lovely, mysterious, largely invisible relationship, both for the translator and for the translated.” Why is that?

I mean, it’s so intimate! Even if the author and translator never meet, even if the author can’t read the language she’s been translated into, even if the author’s been dead for hundreds of years. No matter what, the translator gets to—has to—inhabit the text, figure out what makes it run, spend an unholy amount of time studying how the author thinks and what she cares about.

The translator invariably has to make tradeoffs, has to figure out what can or should or under no circumstances ought to be sacrificed. It feels like a serious responsibility!

The translator is entrusted with something. With any luck, if she and the author exist on the same mortal plane and can talk to each other and choose to do so, they’ll both view the translation process as something that links them together. And they’ll both register this as an honor: the translator, honored at the invitation to engage with the text, attend to it, and deliver it somewhere new; the translated, honored to have her work—which she, too, once produced in a solitary act of faith—engaged with, attended to, and delivered in this way. But even if the translator and the author walk the earth at different moments in history, or are never in personal contact, or don’t even personally like each other very much, this relationship still exists. The devotion, the attention, the responsibility, the anxiety, the fact that the translator ultimately creates a second work of art that is both inseparable from and necessarily independent of the first: it’s all there, all the time. I find it so strange! Thrillingly strange, though.

5. Your poems are translated into other languages, including Portuguese, right? How is it like being in both sides, as translator and translated author?

It’s been very joyful and moving. Yes, poems of mine have been translated mostly into Spanish, with shorter selections into Galician, Arabic, and Portuguese. Many of these translations have emerged from long-term dialogues and friendships; several of the translators are themselves poets I’ve translated from Spanish into English. So it’s hard to be objective about it; it’s all felt like a series of long, warm conversations, marked by a sense both of deep connection and of distance. Distance in the sense that I always hope a translator will feel that the poems also belong to her, you know? In all her particularities, all her personal styles and tastes and approaches.

If I write a poem and someone else translates it—or the other way around—it’s ours.

Part of what I still find uniquely powerful about the experience of being translated into Spanish, though, is that my books have only been published in Spanish translation. Not in English, and not in my own country of origin. And since I’m based in Mexico, when I take part in poetry readings, for example, I mostly read in Spanish. Which means I’m directly and constantly identifying myself with someone else’s work as my primary form of participation. Which means I’m inhabiting and sharing theirs as much as my own.

6. Are you currently translating any books? If so, could you tell us a bit about them?

I currently have three prose projects in the works: by Mónica Ramón Ríos (Chile), there’s Cars on Fire, a wild, free-wheeling, darkly funny collection of short stories set between Chile and New York, forthcoming from Open Letter Books in 2020; Animals at the End of the World, a novel by Gloria Susana Esquivel (Colombia) about a young girl growing up in her grandparents’ house in Bogotá, forthcoming from the University of Texas Press in 2020; and The Restless Dead, a book of critical essays by Cristina Rivera Garza (Mexico) about disappropriation, “necropolitics,” and contemporary literature. I’m also working on various poetry projects in hopes of eventually finding homes for them in English. These include work by Javier Peñalosa, Maricela Guerrero, and Isabel Zapata (three Mexican poets whose recent books take beautifully and radically different approaches to the natural world and its relationship with contemporary humans); Daniel Lipara, Claudia Masin, and Alejandro Crotto (all from Argentina); and Adalber Salas Hernández (from Venezuela).

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I’d like to nominate Juana Adcock, a Mexican-born, Scotland-based poet and translator. Juana translates between Spanish and English in both directions (a superpower that never ceases to amaze me!). Into English, she is the translator of Sexographies by Gabriela Wiener (with Lucy Greaves) and An Orphan World by Giuseppe Caputo (with Sophie Hughes). I met Juana in person only recently, although we’d been in touch for months before that, because I had the privilege of translating her poetry collection Manca into English. By the end of the process—which involved great openness, engagement, and creativity on her part—I really felt that Juana and I had become co-translators. I feel lucky to know her and learn from her in both languages!

Greatest Women in Translation: Charlotte Whittle

^3BD2FAACEAC897D21BE68030808476304DC722B6E37A1C22D8^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr

Created by Erick Tonin

Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series, dearest readers!

This month, our Great Woman in Translation is the British-American literary translator Charlotte Whittle, nominated by Julia Sanches.

Charlotte Whittle

Created with Canva

1. I always love to learn about translators’ beginnings in translation. How about starting by telling us yours?

My path into translation wasn’t exactly a linear one. I grew up in a monolingual family, learned Spanish in Mexico when I was 18, studied Spanish and literature in college in the UK, and lived in Peru and Chile. The first translations I remember doing were of César Vallejo, when I was still an undergraduate. I was living in Peru and became obsessed with his work. Translating poems seemed to me like the best way to engage with them, to get inside them and see how they worked, and there was something really thrilling about making them breathe in another language. A couple of years later, I did a diploma in translation studies in Santiago de Chile, but this was an experience that closed doors as well as opening them. My final project was a translation of a story by the great Peruvian writer José María Arguedas. I was so happy thinking about and doing translation, but I remember the instructor saying in very clear terms that it was impossible to make a living from literary translation. Being young and inexperienced, I took his word for it, and I didn’t pursue translation seriously for a long time after that. I took the academic route, and translated poems for fun. I discovered that I loved teaching, but after a few years, I found it didn’t leave me enough time for creative projects. I finally realized that translation was the activity that brought my skills, experience, and interests together under one umbrella, and that was when I decided to make it my focus, despite the dire warnings of penury.

2. Could you tell us why your translation of Norah Lange’s People in the Room can be considered important for the gender imbalance in literature?

The data collected on this subject – for instance, by the Three Percent Translation Database, now housed by Publishers Weekly – tells us that of all the books translated into English, as many as three fourths are by men. Why is this? Partly because of the implicit bias that male writers are somehow more “important,” partly because of the lack of gender parity in publishing in other countries as well as our own, and partly because, while women translators translate both men and women nearly to equal degrees, male translators seem to be more disposed towards translating men.

 People in the Room was published in English 68 years after it first appeared in Spanish; during that lapse, Lange received significantly less critical attention in her home country than her male peers (who were also more often translated), despite the importance of her writing. It’s so easy for women writers who weren’t sufficiently lauded in their time to pass under the radar, and translators can play a role in rectifying this. Obviously, I’m not claiming to be able to shift the canon with a single translation, but the fact that I was able to find a publisher for this novel and that Lange’s work has been well received in English, demonstrates that there has been a small change in the tide, at least in the world of literary fiction in translation. I think there is more interest than there’s been in the past in projects that draw attention to women writers who’ve been overlooked. Recent books such as The Houseguest by Amparo Dávila, translated by Audrey Harris and Matt Gleeson, and The Naked Woman by Armonía Somers, translated by Kit Maude, are further evidence that there is now an audience for this kind of work. All these projects are significant because they go some way towards rebalancing the gender inequality in translation. Of course, there’s a lot more to be done and there are multiple forces at play, but things are slowly evolving in a positive direction.

3. You are currently working on the translation of Jorge Comensal’s The Mutations. Do you feel there are any particularities between translating men x women?

Norah Lange and Jorge Comensal could hardly be more different: People in the Room is somber and full of mystery, while The Mutations is satirical and hilarious, but I would trace differences between authors to geographic region, time period, and individual authors’ concerns and idiosyncrasies before making sweeping statements about gender differences. In the cases of both these books, their style captivated me, I felt a deep, personal draw to their subject matter, and an urgent need to share them with English-language readers. In terms of the practicalities of the two translations, perhaps the biggest difference was that one author was dead and the other alive. Sometimes, when translating Lange, I wished I could hold a séance, or a table-tapping session like the one described in her book, just to be able to ask her if she thought I was on the right track. In contrast, I talk to Jorge often, and think our conversations have enriched the translation process. But to go back to the question of gender, the concerns and idiosyncrasies that make writers unique may result from their experience, and gender can certainly be a factor in that. A woman writing in the mid-C20th is working under a different set of constraints than a man writing in the present. As a translator, I think about gender less in terms of the characteristics of the writing, and more in relation to the conditions that determine how writing by men and women is read and received, and the conditions that allow them to write in the first place.

4. Could you also talk a bit about your translation of Agus Morales’ We are not Refugees?

Morales is a Spanish journalist who has spent most of a decade gathering the stories of members of displaced populations in different parts of the world. We Are Not Refugees is the result of his intensive exploration of the factors that cause mass migration, and the real-life experiences of those who are forced to flee. The book describes the situation of multiple displaced communities: Central Americans fleeing northwards from violence, Afghan and Syrian refugees in Turkey, internal displacement in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Few writers have such breadth of experience when it comes to mass migration, and Morales identifies the specifics of a range of cases, while also finding commonalities between them. He writes movingly of his subjects, while letting those he encounters tell their own stories, so readers can get to know some of the faces behind the headlines to which we are often numb. I came away from this project with so much admiration for writers and journalists who have the emotional stamina to tell these stories in a clear-eyed manner.

5. What have you learned so far about being a (literary) translator that you could pass on to newbies?

I’m still learning! But here are a few things that come to mind: I’ve learned that it’s difficult, but not impossible, to pay your bills as a translator; that there are many different ways a book can happen; that there’s no limit to how much a translation can change during the first few drafts; and that the editor is not the enemy.

But the most important thing I’ve learned so far is that as translators, we have to create our own community.

Translating books requires hour after hour of solitary work, week after week, month after month. Without an office to go to or a cohort of colleagues you see every day, it can get lonely. That’s why I’m so incredibly grateful for my translation colleagues, both in New York and further afield. I have regular workshops with translator friends where we discuss everything from tricky sentences to how to collectively improve working conditions for translators. It’s important to see your colleagues as allies rather than competitors, and the brilliant and fascinating people I’ve met through this work are one of the things I most treasure about it.

6. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I’m nominating Robin Myers, a translator from Spanish based in Mexico City. Robin is a tireless translator of poetry and prose, and an extraordinary poet in her own right. I recently devoured her translation of Empty Pool, a collection of gorgeous, luminous essays by Isabel Zapata. I also had the pleasure of editing her translation of Ezequiel Zaidenwerg’s Lyric Poetry Is Dead for Cardboard House Press, where we publish bilingual editions of Latin American Poetry. Robin’s handling of rhythm and meter in that collection is a masterclass – I’ll leave it to her to tell you more about it!

Robin’s interview will be published on June 3, as I’ll be on vacation from April 20 to May 19.

Greatest Women in Translation: Julia Sanches

^3BD2FAACEAC897D21BE68030808476304DC722B6E37A1C22D8^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr

Image created by Érick Tonin

Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series, dearest followers! After a long hiatus of setbacks, we’re finally back!

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Julia Sanches, Brazilian-born literary translator from Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Catalan into English.

Julia Sanches

Image created with Canva

1. You’re Brazilian-born (São Paulo), but work into English (from Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan and French). How is that so, considering we usually translate into our mother tongue?

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot, lately; not about how it is I translate into English – it’s obvious to me – but about the idea of mother tongues. This rethinking was in part prompted by Esther Kim and Frances McNeill’s essays in the latest issue of In Other Words. In “We May Have All Come on Different Ships, But We’re in the Same Boat Now: Why We Should Not Label Translators as ‘L2’ or ‘Non-Native,’” McNeill interrogates the validity of the L1/L2 designations (L1 being “the language you think in, you feel in, you know best, whereas L2 is the language you aspire to speak fluently”), while in “Inheritance from Mother,” Kim points to the troubling lack of heritage speakers in the professional world of literary translation, and offers ways to address this.

In her essay, McNeill offers three examples that belie the L1/L2 dichotomy and interrogates whether or not one should consider the person in question an L2 speaker. Here’s my example: A person born in Brazil to Brazilian parents moves to the United States with her parents when she is three-months old. She is dropped into English-only education and quickly comes to speak English fluently. She speaks Portuguese at home and with her extended family in Brazil; they call her gringa. Eight years later, she moves with her parents to Mexico City and enters a bilingual school, where classes are imparted both in Spanish and English. She becomes fluent in Spanish – they call her güera – retains her English and continues to speak Portuguese at home. Five years later, she moves back to the United States with her family, where she attends a monolingual (English) public school. One year later, she moves with her family to Switzerland, where she attends an international school (read: where students’ common language is English). She later completes her higher education in Scotland (English) and Spain (Spanish). What is this person’s (you got it, it’s me) L1/L2?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘mother tongue’ as ‘one’s native language; a first language.’ So, in that respect, Portuguese is my mother tongue – it is the first language I picked up at home, from my mother, who always insisted that I should never lose it – although the notion of languages being native (i.e. inherent to, innate, naturally becoming, again according to the OED) to anyone baffles me a little; our capacity for language may be innate, but its execution has, in my experience, been very much learned.

What’s more: I’m a citizen of Brazil and of no other country. Although I lived in Europe for fifteen years, it was never anywhere that made citizenship an easy path for me. After about thirteen years in the United States, I can finally apply for citizenship, though I’m not sure I’ll ever feel American. I could uncomplicate my identity as a translator by obviating the fact that I’m Brazilian, but what’s the fun in that?

2. On your website, you say you are soon-to-be chair of the Translators Group of the Authors Guild. Could you tell us more about it?

We’re in the process of creating a Translators Group within the Authors Guild, following the model of the Society of Authors’ Translators Association in the UK. Generally speaking, there’s an industry standard for author contracts and terms here in the U.S. This standard wasn’t arrived at out of the kindness of publishers’ hearts, but was fought for. The idea behind creating a Translators Group is to support work to establish similar industry standards for translators. Alex Zucker and Jessica Cohen have been working with the Authors Guild on a model contract that would spell out certain contractual terms that might seem impenetrable to some translators, among other things.

Another thing we’re exploring is establishing translator communities within the Authors Guild’s regional chapters around the country, to help better share information about contracts and other working conditions. The Authors Guild is the only organization in the U.S. with in-house lawyers providing legal services to authors and translators, and they’re already huge advocates for translation and translators. The idea is to focus this effort.

3. Last year, the Brazilian publishing house Companhia das Letras invited five Brazilian literary translators to talk about their professional trajectory in their blog in celebration of the International Translation Day, and you were among them. You wrote about your experience translating The Sun on My Head, Geovani Martins’ first book. On Twitter, you said you wrote the blog post in English and then translated it into Portuguese, but didn’t like the self-translation process. Do you remember why?

I sound completely unlike myself in Portuguese. It was like giving voice to a stilted and awkward-sounding stranger who happened to also be called Julia Sanches.

4. You retweeted a quote by Javier Cercas at the Edinburgh Book Festival, “Translators are like psychoanalysts. They know you really, really, really well. I’m really scared of them.” On your post for Companhia das Letras (above), you said the relationship between translators and “their” authors is disturbing, unbalanced, partial and voyeuristic (curiosity: were these the words you originally used in your English version?). Could you elaborate more on the relationship between the author and their translator?

First off: in English, it was “lopsided, unreciprocated, and often hair-raisingly voyeuristic.” Interesting…

What can I say but that: when I translate – especially when the book in question is such an engrossing challenge as Martins’ collection, something so distant from my lived experience – I get a tad obsessive. If you were to decontextualize my behavior, it might seem stalkerish, even. I read everything I can about the book, the author, I read the book itself a gazillion times, both in English and in Portuguese (and I’d probably read them in other languages, if it were available to me). I follow the author on Twitter if I can, and Instagram (yikes). I draw connections between what they post about music (etc) and the musical (and other) references in the book. Often, I go to bed with a translation problem at the back of my mind – sometimes even at the forefront – and wake up fretting about it, too. On good days, I’ll have a solution by the time I’m at my computer.

It’s a bit like crawling into and living in another person’s skin for a long stretch of time. Or spying on a neighbor from across the street. You know near everything about them and often they don’t know the first thing about you. It’s a little bit creepy – in a totally harmless way.

5. You are one of the organizers of the And Other Stories’ Portuguese Reading Group. The 2018 group had, for the first ever, an all-Brazilian reading list (including one translated by yourself). Could you tell us a bit more about how it works? Are there any plans for another edition in the near future?

And Other Stories’ Reading Groups are a rather innovative and ingenious way for the publisher (AOS) to find overlooked gems from other languages to publish in English. The idea is to put in the hands of readers some of the sleuthing, reading, and evaluating that goes into figuring out what to publish. On my side: I email a bunch of Portuguese readers and ask if they’d like to participate; then reach out to agents and ask for materials (hard copies usually, no one really likes reading on screens); we meet, in person, if possible, but usually over Skype, to discuss our impressions, which I then memorialize and share with the publishers. Rinse and repeat. It’s quite fun. Victor Meadowcroft, who will be heading the UK group, and I are currently choosing which titles to read and discuss in the fall. You should join us!

6. You write really well! I’m truly impressed and in love with your writings. Haven’t you ever thought of venturing into being an author yourself?

Oh, gosh. Thank you! Writing fills me with a very particular and acute anxiety, so I tend to avoid it. Translating ticks that box for me, whatever that means. It’s thrilling, plus, I get to hang out in and between various languages, which is where I feel most at home.

7. I will take advantage of your inside view into Brazilian literature and ask for recommendations. What books do you personally recommend, translated or not?

I’ve recently finished reading Emilio Fraia’s Sebastopol, which I deeply enjoyed. The prose is just my style, limpid and charged. He’s also quite masterful at creating suspense, at leaving things unsaid, at giving voice and weight to silences.

8. I could keep asking you a ton of questions, but I’ll leave you for now. So now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I’d like to nominate Charlotte Whittle, an acrobatic translator from Spanish whose recent projects include Norah Lange’s People in the Room and Jorge Comensal’s The Mutations. She is also one of the editors of Cardboard House Press and periodically holds cartonera workshops. Aside from all this, Charlotte is an amazing storyteller; she’s got an eye for the most off-kilter and delightful details and remembers them, too. We keep each other sane and safe from bouts of imposter syndrome. I think of her as a co-conspirator.

Learning from customer experience

rawpixel-760030-unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

As translators/interpreters, we are service providers. All companies/brands that sell services/products also provide an experience to their customers, and this experience starts from the very beginning, even before prospects contact us, when they try to find us or someone who can provide what they need. And it ends way after the product/service is delivered, but it doesn’t necessarily need to, that’s also the point.

As a customer, I love great experiences! I easily become loyal to brands that go beyond and provide me the best service possible. Likewise, I easily let go of brands who let me down somehow. And when there is reasonable competition, even the smallest detail can make a difference. As customers, we have a lot to learn also as entrepreneurs. After all, learning from mistakes (and successes) of others is better than making our own, right?

When we need something, a service or a product, we are vulnerable (or at least control freaks like me are). Leaving our comfort zones is not easy. We have to look for someone who can provide us something we need with quality, a reasonable price, reliability, and, most of the times, we do not have a clue as to what this means. If the service provider makes us feel at ease, comfortable and happy with their service, then we can easily trust them. If, on the other hand, they make our lives even more difficult than they already are, the entire experience becomes a nightmare.

Here are three real-life scenarios that I’ve been through and from which I learned a lot!

Scenario 1: Post office

Important fact: here in Brazil, mailmen usually don’t work on Sundays.

Another important fact: as you might all be aware, Brazil is not exactly a safe country. And I live by myself at a house, as opposed to an apartment, that is usually safer.

At 9 a.m. on a Sunday, the doorbell rings. I was still sleeping, because I had gone out the night before and arrived really late. I answer the intercom. A man on the other side identifies himself as the mailman. Still sleepy, I think, “The mailman, on a Sunday?” I ask him whom the package is for (something I always do, to check the person is indeed the mailman and the package is indeed intended for me, since other people have lived in my house before and their mail still keep coming). He confirms my name, in a rather impatient voice, probably noticing I’m reluctant. I think, “Ok, that is information people can easily get ahold of. This is still weird.” I tell him I find that strange, “I’m sorry, sir, but what guarantee do I have you are indeed the mailman, on a Sunday morning?” He becomes quite mad, goes away and leaves me speaking to myself over the intercom.

Later on, I find out they had been working on Sundays because they were late on deliveries. But I learned this from someone else, because the mailman himself didn’t even care to try to explain that to me.

I tried to track the package and see where it had been taken to, with no success. I got yelled at over the phone and hung up on a couple of times, so I just gave up.

Of course mailmen know they don’t usually work on Sundays. The guy was probably so pissed he had to work on a Sunday morning that he simply didn’t care. No empathy at all, no trying to understand my position, no respect, just plain rudeness.

Takeaway: We often complain that clients say “translator,” when they mean “interpreter,” or that they want everything for yesterday, and so on. And many of us are even rude or have no patience at all with people that are not from our area and that have misleading ideas about it. How would they know? It’s our role to be patient and try to explain, in a way they understand, how things work. Whining, complaining and having lack of patience with people are not the solution.

Scenario 2: Landline technical support

My landline was silent. I had no signal to make calls, but I ran some quick and simple tests and found out it was probably the device itself, not the connection. I took it to a place specialized in technical phone support. The girl ran not one, but several tests, in different power supplies, using different wires, until she found what the problem was.

This is it, plain and simple, right? You are probably thinking, “C’mon, that’s her job.” Yes, it is, I agree. However, unfortunately, people simply don’t do their jobs anymore. They simply don’t care. What I expected: her trying once or twice, at the most, and giving up, saying it was broken and that I needed to buy a new device. Instead, I was really impressed at how much she cared and tried to find what the problem was.

Takeaway: Are we doing our jobs? My clients are frequently ecstatic with me for just doing my job: delivering on time, sometimes, if possible, even earlier, doing a good job, etc. Basic things we are expected to do, but that, apparently, most translators don’t. Is the competition fierce? Are there a lot of translators out there? Yes and yes. However, what’s the quality of the service they provide? Delivering on time is Translation 101, Lesson 1. If, apart from that, you go a bit beyond and try to deliver earlier whenever you can, believe me, you win the client. Go the extra mile. Be the solution your client needs and, if you can’t solve their problem yourself, be proactive and try to find someone who can. Clients usually don’t have a clue about the translation world. We do.

Scenario 3: Nike store

I love Nike products. In my opinion, they are high-quality and worth every penny. I still wear clothes that are more than five years old and that are still in good shape. Ok, so I am already a fan of the brand, fine.

They have a cool store in São Paulo (I live in a town about two hours from the big city). The last time I went there I was amazed! As I was taking a look at the store and choosing what I would try on, the salesperson was preparing the dressing room with other suggestions of things I could like based on my choices. When I arrived in the dressing room, they had even written my name one the door! Maybe you wouldn’t care less about it, but I do. Who doesn’t like to feel special?

Takeaway: Each client is special in their own way and should be treated accordingly. We should make our clients feel they are unique, because they are. Pamper them whenever and however you can. I send personalized handwritten Christmas cards with a branded little something every end of the year to all my clients. I also send branded handwritten Thank You notes to clients and partners or whomever I feel like thanking. Whatever you do, make sure all your clients feel that you care about each of them and that they are special to you. This simple attitude may be what differentiates you from other equally great translators and what makes your clients not even think twice before requesting your services.

A key aspect to a successful customer experience (and to everything in life, let’s face it) is empathy. Wearing our customers’ shoes is essential to understanding their needs and providing the best service possible. It’s like that old saying by Confucius goes, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.” And vice-versa. It’s as simple as that. No need to overcomplicate or overthink things. No secret formula. No million-dollar strategy.

What have you learned from your own customer experiences?

Greatest Women in Translation: Heather Cleary

^3BD2FAACEAC897D21BE68030808476304DC722B6E37A1C22D8^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr

Image created by Érick Tonin

Welcome back to our amazing Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Heather Cleary, Spanish into English literary translator nominated by Allison Markin Powell.

Heather Cleary

Image created with Canva

1. First of all, it’s a pleasure to be talking to one of the nominees for the inaugural National Book Awards in the category of Translated Literature. Congratulations, Heather! Could you tell us a bit more about the book that rendered your nomination, Comemadre, by Roque Larraquy?

Thank you for the invitation! And for your kind congratulations. Roque and I are very excited about the NBA nomination; the longlist is full of wonderful books that your readers might enjoy checking out. Comemadre is a short novel—very dark, very funny—about our collective obsession with progress and with leaving our mark on the world; it’s about hubris, violence, and love (specifically, the violence inherent to different kinds of love). The title refers to a plant that releases carnivorous spores, which plays a key role in each section.

Comemadre is divided into two parts, the first of which takes place in 1907 in a sanatorium near Buenos Aires, Argentina. A group of doctors has decided to experiment on unwitting test subjects to determine what happens in the moments after death (I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but there are guillotines involved). When they’re not trying to swindle their patients into signing away their lives, these men are busy stabbing one another in the back professionally and romantically; a number of them are infatuated with Ménendez, the Head Nurse. Unsurprisingly, things end badly. We then flash forward a hundred years to drop in on an artist who made a name for himself with a piece involving a two-headed baby, and then teamed up with his doppelgänger to develop performance pieces that involve physical mutilation. Think Damien Hirst on acid. This second part of the novel addresses, through the lens of art, many of the ethical and philosophical questions raised in the first section through science.

This book was extraordinarily fun to translate. It’s grotesque, insightful, and perversely hilarious. It’s full of dirty puns, which I love, and presented other interesting challenges. For example, the “oracles” in the first section of the book occasionally blurt out snippets of text from the second section; finding a way to make this continuity clear without giving too much away or slipping into anachronism was a delightful puzzle.

2. After having two Japanese translator nominees, Allison Markin Powell and Ginny Takemori; a Scandinavian, Nicky Smalley; and a German translator, Jen Calleja, we are back to Latin language translators with you, who translates from Spanish. How did your connection with Spanish start?

It was peer pressure, really. I was in seventh or eighth grade, I think, and my friends were studying Spanish at school. So I joined them. But most of them stopped after a year or two, and by that time I had already fallen in love with the language. I studied it straight through high school, then spent the following summer (and a semester in college) in Spain. After that, I spent some time in Mexico, and later lived in Buenos Aires for almost two years. I kind of stumbled into literary translation in a similar way: I had been frustrated with the shape my undergraduate honors thesis was taking when Richard Sieburth, a professor in the department of Comparative Literature at NYU and a gifted translator of French and German, suggested I switch gears and try my hand at translation. I was immediately hooked, and ended up organizing my life around my desire to do more of it.

3. I noticed your name is placed in a highlighted position on the cover of Comemadre. As far as I know, not all publishers display the translator’s name on the cover, right? At least not in Brazil. So, besides being on the cover, you are highlighted! This is fantastic! Do you think this is something that has been changing lately? What role do translators play in convincing publishers to recognize the translator on the cover of translated books?

Thanks! It has been an absolute delight to work with Coffee House; it really is a press that values translation. As for how common it is here to note the translator’s name on the cover, it varies from publisher to publisher, with independent presses tending to be a bit more open to the idea than the bigger houses. There are always exceptions, though. I think there has definitely been a greater awareness about translation in recent years, and a greater appreciation of what it is that we translators actually do. For this, we have a number of vocal advocates and organizations, like the PEN Translation Committee, to thank.

4. I have already heard of the Japanese term ikigai, which is about finding your purpose in life. Now I see you translated a book called Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, by Héctor Garcia and Francesc Miralles, also from Spanish. Something interesting is that the authors describe the term as “the happiness of always being busy.” Now I am curious. Could you tell a bit more about this book?

Héctor García and Francesc Miralles both spent time in Japan and discovered a shared fascination with certain aspects of the culture there, above all with the value placed on staying active and engaged with friends and family in some of the longest-living communities in the country. In the book, they combine their personal experience talking with centenarians in Okinawa with research from different parts of the world into the benefits of staying active by finding a passion to pursue. From what I understand, the book has done very well.

5. The books you have already translated vary from non-fiction, fiction and poetry, in diverse topics. Do you have a favorite genre?

I wouldn’t say I have a favorite genre, necessarily, but rather that there are certain things I look for in a project. I love working on books that are linguistically complex in one way or another: one of my earliest translation projects was of the work of an avant-garde poet from Argentina named Oliverio Girondo. His later collections are full of neologisms and derive much of their meaning from the sound of the words, the way they ricochet off one another. Sergio Chejfec’s novels are marked by long, intricate sentences that require juggling nested clauses, and Roque Larraquy’s Comemadre, as I mentioned above, is full of puns and wordplay. In this last case, I also enjoyed the challenge of establishing two distinct narrative voices that evoked two very different historical moments. One of the writers I’m working with now, Fernanda Trías, is fascinating for a different reason: she writes emotionally charged narratives with absolute restraint and precision.

6. You are a founding editor of the digital, bilingual Buenos Aires Review, where I found a link to Brasília, among other worldwide cities, and other fiction writings from Brazilian authors. Could you tell us a bit more about this project?

Ah, the BAR! I’m very proud of the work we’ve done, though our production schedule has slowed down [clears throat] significantly. In late 2011, I picked up and moved to Buenos Aires, where Jennifer Croft (winner of this year’s International Man Booker Prize for Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights) was living. She and I spoke extensively about all the wonderful writers around us who were entirely unknown to readers of English; we decided that we wanted to do something about it by creating a platform that was more nimble than print publishing, and able to take more risks. She then invited the writer Maxine Swann, who also lives in Buenos Aires, to join us, and Maxine brought in Pola Oloixarac. And so the magazine was born. It was our hope that it would serve as a launching pad for writers and translators, alike; we’ve also had the privilege of publishing new work by luminaries like Ishion Hutchinson, Ada Limón, Mario Bellatin, and Carol Bensimon. We started with a focus on creating an exchange between English and Spanish, and then broadened our scope to include Portuguese, Chinese, German… the list goes on. Every text on the website appears in at least two languages. It has been a (huge) labor of love that wouldn’t have been possible without our rock star editors, Martín Felipe Castagnet (whose Bodies of Summer was published last year by Dalkey), Lucas Mertehikian, Andrea Rosenberg (see Aura Xilonen’s The Gringo Champion, among her many fabulous translations), and Belén Agustina Sánchez.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I’d like to nominate Elisabeth Jaquette, who—in addition to being a brilliant translator from the Arabic—is also a vital part of the translation community as the Executive Director of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA)… and as a member of the Cedilla & Co. translators collective, of course. Her work has been shortlisted for the TA First Translation Prize, longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award, and supported by PEN/Heim and several English PEN Translates Awards

Greatest Women in Translation: Allison Markin Powell

^3BD2FAACEAC897D21BE68030808476304DC722B6E37A1C22D8^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr

Image created by Érick Tonin

Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Our interviewee today, Allison Markin Powell, was nominated by Ginny Takemori.

Allison Markin Powell

Image created with Canva. Picture credit: Jonathan Armstrong for The Documentist.

1. Japanese is your third language. How have you become a Japanese-to-English literary translator then, translating successful Japanese novels?

Well, where I grew up, it wasn’t until seventh grade that we had the opportunity to study another language, and at that time it was French (or nothing). But I loved learning French, so when I entered university I knew I would study at least one more language, and that turned out to be Japanese. I had been interested in literary translation from the time when I was assigned Le Petit Prince in high school, and ultimately I ran with it in Japanese. I think one of the reasons is that there are fewer Japanese literary translators, and fewer Japanese works that have been translated as well. That said, I feel there are greater challenges in bringing Japanese books into English than from Western languages.

I came to translation from a publishing perspective—I worked in various editorial departments where I learned how the industry works—in the U.S., that is—before I began translating books from Japanese. And now I translate all sorts of books—primarily fiction, but I work on nonfiction projects as well. This past summer, for instance, I’ve had the chance to translate a book on Zen and one on embroidery as well. It certainly keeps things interesting.

2. In this interview you gave to The Japan Times, you say, “I don’t really see the author as more or less of an authority on their book from a translation perspective.” Could you elaborate and explain what exactly you meant by that?

I believe that, once a work of literature is out there, it becomes something like the communal property of readers, open to infinite interpretations. Some of those interpretations may not have been intentional, yet they exist, for better or worse. When I translate something, I always try to convey the myriad possibilities that are incorporated in the original, rather than simply the version that I might prefer personally. It’s also been my experience that an author’s attitude toward their work shifts and changes, so that they may see things differently at one point from what they meant at the time it was written, especially as they mature as a writer or gain a more international audience—and that might change their answers to my questions.

3. In this interview you gave to PEN Atlas, you mention book titles are translated differently in the United States and in the United Kingdom. We hear a lot about different translations of movie titles, but I don’t think I have ever heard the same happened with book titles. Could you talk a bit about that, based on your experience with your own translations? Are the books themselves also translated differently for both markets? If so, how?

The first novel I translated by Hiromi Kawakami was published in the U.S. as The Briefcase, and then retitled as Strange Weather in Tokyo by the U.K. publisher. The Briefcase is a more literal translation of the original title in Japanese, and it was a rather oblique title at that. The author agreed to the change, and the book ended up being much more successful in the U.K. Last fall, it was reissued in the U.S. with the U.K. title and the U.K. cover as well. I think it was confusing for readers, and it’s hard to say how much of the book’s success has to do with the title and the cover—though some would say, “A lot!”—but it’s fair to say that a book’s packaging and presentation has a lot to do with how it is received. As for the text itself, I translate into American English, and the British publisher edits for context. I aim for neutral English, if there is such a thing, but inevitably certain details—like the register vs. the till or the trunk vs. the boot of a car—are adjusted for different markets.

4. As Ginny Tapley Takemori already told us about, you, she and Lucy North formed a collective called Strong Women, Soft Power, which is committed to promoting Japanese writers, in particular Japanese women writers who are being overlooked in translation. What’s your role in this collective? Has it shown any positive outcomes so far?

I don’t think I can overstate how positive it has been to be a member of Strong Women, Soft Power. As translators, our work is most often solitary and isolated. And yet, especially to those of us for whom it is a full-time occupation, the fact is that our work and practices affect one another, either in the form of setting precedents for the terms of our contracts or by the choices we make about which books we translate. The three of us—Lucy North, Ginny Tapley Takemori, and I—are equal members in the collective, and we work to support each other as much as we try to promote Japanese women writers. Our first endeavor was a reading we held during the London Book Fair in 2016; next we collaborated on an article for Literary Hub about ten Japanese books by women we’d love to see in English; then we planned a full-day symposium in Tokyo in 2017; and we have some exciting things on tap for the future. We really are stronger together, and the fact is that, rather than feel we are in competition with each other for the small number of books that are being translated from Japanese, working with each other has had the effect of creating more opportunities. It’s been very true for us that “A rising tide lifts all ships.” And the collective model is tremendously invigorating—we are inspired with ideas and to create new initiatives, especially when we know that we have the others’ support.

5. You have translated both women and men writers. Are there any differences or particularities in translating women versus men or are authors all the same, regardless of gender?

I have translated both women and men writers, including female protagonists written by male authors as well as male protagonists created by women authors. I wouldn’t say there are gendered differences in translating the work itself, beyond the fact that every writer is distinct. With each author, it’s necessary for me to feel comfortable and confident about capturing the voice and style of the piece that I’m translating. But as for how the work is received—or whether it is received at all—I do believe that there are imbalances between male and female authors. I have done some research, and recent data show that women writers in Japan currently maintain something close to parity within publishing in terms of prestige—the number of literary prizes won—and popularity—their representation on bestseller lists. But that equality does not appear in translation—little more than a quarter of the books translated from Japanese are by women—and I have yet to figure out why that is the case.

6. You have a website (which is a searchable database) where you showcase all existing literary works translated from Japanese into English, Japanese Literature in English. Besides this great initiative and the collective Strong Women, Soft Power, in which other ways are you engaged in promoting Japanese literature in translation?

My website has been sadly neglected lately, and I am eager to update the database with recent publications and found titles. Besides Strong Women, Soft Power, I am also a founding member of another collective, Cedilla & Co., and through that initiative I work closely with specific writers to bring their work into English and introduce them to English-language readers. Through my experience in book publishing, I have met many people who are champions of literature in translation, and that enables me to recommend and promote Japanese authors and books that may have been overlooked.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I am thrilled to nominate one of my Cedilla colleagues, Heather Cleary, translator from the Spanish.

On speaking the client’s language (not the opposite)

alexandra-633017-unsplash

Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash

I changed my bank accounts – moved to another bank. There I was, at my new bank, signing the endless sheets of contract papers while the manager was explaining how they worked using banking jargon. Besides feeling extremely mad I was losing precious working hours because the manager did not have everything ready, as she said she would, I felt lost a couple of times because I did not understand the specific terms she used. And I felt embarrassed for having to ask her what they meant. When I finally understood, I started asking myself why she wouldn’t use another term, a more commonly-used one with exactly the same meaning.

I struggle to understand financial and banking operations. Whenever I have to deal with related matters, I postpone it to the last possible minute. And when I finally have to take the bulls by the horn, I feel bored and petrified I might do something wrong I may regret later. So why make my life easier and use lay terms if they can show off their banking expertise, right?

I use every single experience as a customer to learn how to deal with my own clients. If I like something, I try to adapt it to my translation business. If not, I reflect to see if I do the same with my clients and, if so, I immediately try to change it.

Do I want my client to feel the way I feel when I have to deal with things I don’t understand?

We should always keep in mind that if a client is coming to us it means they want their problem solved. It doesn’t matter how we do it and the terms we use to describe it. In order to win the client, we need to be as straightforward and clear as possible, and make them feel relieved their problem will be solved according to their needs, so they can go on and worry about other things. We should try to make their lives as easier as possible.

On this note, is it really that important that the client knows the difference between a translation and an interpreting service? Will it really change your entire life to “teach” the client that you are an interpreter, not a translator, for Pete’s sake? In Portuguese, we have different terms for translation into our mother tongue and into our B language (the latter is called versão). Do my Brazilian clients need to know this difference?

Let’s leave our ego aside for a moment and take the focus off us and make it on the client.

First and foremost, we are the language experts – the main reason we should be the ones to speak our client’s language, not the opposite. Secondly, we will be the ones to handle their (written/spoken) words – another reason we should be the ones to speak their language, not the opposite. Thirdly, don’t you just love when, as a client, the service provider truly understands you and doesn’t vomit jargons you don’t understand?

Listen to your client, instead of focusing on “educating” them or “teaching” them. Try to truly understand their needs and talk to them in a language they understand. Do your homework and research more information about them to get to know them even further and understand their language and their world. Always remember the client is king/queen.

 

Greatest Women in Translation: Nicky Smalley

^3BD2FAACEAC897D21BE68030808476304DC722B6E37A1C22D8^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr

Image created by Érick Tonin

Welcome back to our amazing Greatest Women in Translation interview series, dear readers!

We’re already half-way through the year, huh? Hope everyone’s doing fine so far.

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Swedish and Norwegian translator Nicky Smalley, nominated by Jen Calleja.

 

Nicky Smalley (1)

Image created with Canva

1. Being Brazilian myself, I cannot help it but start by asking about your English translation of Jogo Bonito, by Henrik Brandão Jönsson, a Swedish book about Brazilian football. What an interesting combination! Could you tell us a bit about your experience?

Ha! It was great! I’m not much of a football buff, but I spent some time living in Brazil a few years ago, and one of my best experiences while living in Rio was seeing Botafogo play Flamengo at the Maracanã. I speak some (very imperfect) Portuguese, so it felt like combining two of my interests – Sweden and Brazil – while learning a lot about football and its role in Brazilian society. Unfortunately, I have to admit to a terrible crime: the murder (or perhaps manslaughter, since there was no intention!) of a former Brazilian president – I mistakenly translated ‘avgå’ (to leave one’s job) as ‘to pass away’ (in Swedish ‘avlida’). I had some accomplices though – neither the author, editor, copy-editor nor the proofreader caught my mistake, so it ended up in the printed book, and only got discovered by a Brazilian journalist who was reviewing the book…

2. You currently live in London, but have previously lived in Berlin, Stockholm and Rio. How long did you live in Rio? How was your experience as a Swedish and Norwegian translator into English? Have you ever translated from Brazilian Portuguese?

I only lived in Rio for a few months – this was at the very beginning of my translation career, when I was working freelance, translating finance texts (oh how I hope I never have to translate another annual report!) for a big multinational. It seemed like the perfect excuse to go and hang out in a tropical country, to dance, to explore, and to drink amazing fruit juice every day! I was also studying Portuguese, which was amazing – I love the language, and it’s a dream to one day speak it really well, maybe even to the extent I could translate it, as there’s so much great writing in Portuguese.

3. Are you translating any book at the moment?

Ahhhhhh… there’s the rub! I should be dedicating all my free time to translating an incredible Swedish book called Eländet (working title ‘Wretchedness’) by Andrzej Tichý, one of my absolute favourite writers. I’ve done half of it, but I’m also expecting my first child, and so my priorities and energy levels are a little all over the place. You could say the human baby I’m nurturing has made it tough to make time for the word baby I’m nurturing!

4. Besides being a translator, you are Publicity, Marketing and Sales Manager for And Other Stories. What exactly does it entail?

Lots and lots of emails and building relationships, be that with authors, translators, journalists, sales reps, booksellers, other publishers, and most importantly, readers! It’s my responsibility to ensure that And Other Stories’ books get talked about in the wider world – in the media, in bookshops, online, in book groups, in homes! I love the books we publish, which makes my job easier, and it’s a really fun challenge to excite people about books that are outside of the mainstream. But my job is so hugely varied – there are certain yearly cycles, but every single day is completely different. I might be writing copy in the morning, pitching authors for interview by lunch, checking sales mid-afternoon, and administering our subscription scheme before home-time. I also work remotely (And Other Stories is based in Sheffield), so there’s lots of self-reliance, which is a skill I developed as a translator.

5. I loved this article you wrote on the reasons why we should read more women in translation! Since you love Swedish and Norwegian literature, what books from those languages, translated (preferably by women, why not?) or not, do you recommend?

Ooh, such a tricky question! My knowledge of Norwegian literature is not as extensive as I’d like (I’m only just starting to get into translating Norwegian (my first Norwegian book – An Unreliable Man, by Jostein Gaarder – is out this autumn with Weidenfeld & Nicholson). One recommendation I can most wholeheartedly give is for people to seek out Gunnhild Øyehaug. A collection of her short stories called Knots was published by FSG last year, and it’s truly excellent. The excellent Kari Dickson translated it, and you can be sure she did an excellent job.

As far as Swedish writers go, I lovelovelove Lina Wolff (coincidentally, she’s a writer we publish at And Other Stories). Working on her novel Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs (translated by Frank Perry) has been one of the highlights of my time in publishing – she’s really funny, as well as being razor-sharp and uncompromising in her criticism of the male canon we’ve all been brought up reading. I’m really looking forward to her next novel, The Polyglot Lovers, coming out next year in the wonderful Saskia Vogel’s translation – I’m expecting big things for it! When I first read it, I was laughing so much on the train that the man next to me stopped me reading and asked ‘Is it really that funny?’ I think he was jealous he couldn’t read it himself. Other Swedish loves of mine include Agnes Lidbeck, who’s written two novels, neither of which has been translated into English, despite my best efforts (she’s very much about the invisible and not-so-invisible tensions underlying relationships, something English-language publishers are often wary of, as they don’t see it as being that marketable in an English-language context).

I’m also a big fan of Mirja Unge’s short story collection It Was Just, Yesterday, which was published by Comma Press a few years back (another Kari Dickson delight!). I used to run a book club for contemporary Swedish fiction, and that was one of my favourites of the books we read. One of my all-time favourite books in Swedish is Kerstin Ekman’s Blackwater (translated by the great Joan Tate), which is a super-smart thriller set in rural northern Sweden – it’s creepy as hell, but also really gets under the skin of a very different way of life. Speaking of northern Sweden, another author I’d absolutely love to see translated into English (but who might well be untranslatable), is Stina Stoor, whose debut collection Bli som folk (literally ‘Be respectable’ or ‘Be like everyone else’ or something – the titles in itself is untranslatable!) transfixed me, but is such an astonishingly rich portrait, both linguistically and socially, of the kind of isolated community in Sweden’s far north where Stoor lives, that no one would go near it. It would just be too hard to effectively render its extraordinary dialectal voices, and without them, so much of the magic would be lost. Still, I think it’s nice sometimes, that a language gets to keep its writers to itself, because they’re just too special to be shared (at least I tell myself that – though if someone was brave enough to publish it, I’d leap at the chance to be the enabler of that project).

6. For your PhD in Scandinavian Studies at UCL, you wrote a thesis titled “Contemporary Urban Vernaculars in Rap, Literature and Translation, in Sweden and the UK.” Could you tell us more about it, since it sounds rather interesting?

Do I have to? Only (half-)joking.

I was researching the way in which the everyday language of contemporary cities (in particular London and Stockholm) is influenced by the multilingualism that characterizes them, and the way in which young people in particular use that multilingualism creatively – both in innovating the everyday language they speak to one another, and in codifying that informal language in creative forms like rap. In turn, I looked at the way contemporary writers take inspiration from that informal language, and the rapping that’s born out of it, to create literary representations of life in today’s cities. I also looked at how translators go about taking that writing into other languages – and found a lot of people trying really hard to create their own innovations in order to capture the innovative writing they were working with. It was fun, and the topic is fascinating, but I’m not a natural academic, so let’s just say my scholarly days are behind me!

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I nominate Ginny Tapley Takemori, a translator from Japanese, based outside Tokyo.