Gregory Rabassa, Farewell

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.22.31 PMI was heartbroken to learn this evening of the death of Gregory Rabassa (1922 – 2016), the beloved elder statesman of the New York translation community whose impish presence and endlessly flowing wisecracks belied the decades of steadfast labor by means of which he filled all our bookshelves with dozens of great works by Spanish-language authors that became key inspirational texts in the English-language literary canon. He was 94 years old. Beginning with his very first translation, Julio Cortázar’s novel Hopscotch in 1966, and his second, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1970, he staked out literary turf as a translator that soon became internationally renowned as the Latin American “Boom” – some of the greats he translated included Jorge Luis Borges, Mario Vargas Llosa, Machado de Assis, Clarice Lispector, José Lezama Lima, 100-Years-of-SolitudeAntónio Lobo Antunes, Miguel Ángel Asturias, Jorge Amado, and more. Rabassa taught for years in the City University of New York system, both at Queens College and the Graduate Center, where some incredibly lucky students got to take his translation classes. When I interviewed him three years ago for The Rumpus, he told me how he liked to assign his students playful exercises such as making them chain-translate texts via several successive languages so as to be able to analyze in the end what words remained intact after this telephone game and why. It must have been so much fun as well as instructive to take his classes. I’m just glad I was fortunate enough to hear him speak several times, to intersect with him at conferences (you could always tell where he was – it was always in the middle of a little group of people convulsed with laughter), and to interview him. I know that a great deal will be written about him over the next days and weeks, and I look forward to Hopscotchreading all these remembrances. Meanwhile a great way to learn about his fascinating life is to read his 2005 memoir If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents, and you won’t want to miss the part about him serving as a cryptographer in WWII – surely outstanding preparation for a future translator – nor his really interesting thoughts about, for example, how the sounds of a language can influence the style of translations from that language. “He’s the godfather of us all,” Edith Grossman (herself one of the most revered translators alive) told the Associated Press earlier today. If there’s a translators’ heaven, you can be sure that Constance Garnett, Ralph Manheim, Michael Henry Heim, and William Weaver have saved a seat at the banquet table for him. I’m sure they’ll have a lot to talk about.

Meanwhile if you’d like to take a look at the interview I did with him, you can find it on the website of the The Rumpus. Always charming, always enlightening, and mindbogglingly prolific – he will be missed.

2016 Dublin International Literary Award Announced

Akhil Sharma flanked by Dublin Fire Brigade & Dublin City’s Sword & Mace

It was a thrill to be shortlisted this spring for the 2016 Dublin International Literary Award together with Jenny Erpenbeck for my translation of her novel The End of Days (a really nice shortlist). Now I’m delighted to announce that the award – which was presented last night at a ceremony in Dublin Read more …

2016 French-American Foundation Translation Prize Winners Announced

9780143107569In a ceremony on June 7, the French-American Foundation announced the winners of its 2016 Translation Prize in Fiction and Nonfiction. The winner in each category receives a $10,000 award courtesy of the Florence Gould Foundation. There were strong shortlists, and this year’s winners are:

In Fiction:

Christine Donougher for her translation of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Penguin Classics / Penguin Random House

In Nonfiction the prize was split between two contenders:

Malcolm DeBevoise for his translation of Birth of a Theoremby Cédric Villani, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Steven Rendall for his translation of Bonaparte: 1769-1802 by Patrice Gueniffy, Harvard University Press

Interviews with all the finalists and information about the books can be found on the website of the French-American Foundation.


Join the New Association for Translation Studies in Africa!

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 9.18.34 PMJust when you, I, and others were thinking it was about time for Translation World to be paying more attention to the literature of the African diaspora (not to mention Africa itself), this press release comes in:

New Organization: Association for Translation Studies in Africa (ATSA)

During the Third Summer School for Translation Studies in Africa in Lusaka in 2014, participants suggested the founding of an association for translation studies with an African agenda. After much deliberation, we are now at the point where we want to announce our intent to found such an association. We intend to have a founding meeting during the Fourth Summer School for Translation Studies in Nairobi between 29 August and 1 September 2016. In the meantime, the to-be-founded association will be run by a steering committee, with the official leadership being elected at the first meeting.

With this communication, we invite scholars, students and practitioners who want to associate themselves with translation studies in Africa to join this association. We conceptualise translation studies as wide as possible, including interpreting, intercultural communication, intersemiotic translation, multimodal communication, sociologies of translation and all other forms of rewriting and recreation.

Please visit our web site at where you will find application forms, the names of the steering committee, a suggested constitution and other relevant information.

If you’d like to know more, the contact person for queries is Kobus Marais.

I’m so delighted to see that this is happening, and hope that the new organization will successfully embrace literary translation practitioners as well as those who are theorizing and studying the translation and transmission of African and African diaspora literature. (Oftentimes the same people engage in both spheres of activity, anyhow.) I hope a journal results – on paper or online – and very much look forward to following the development of this project. I just signed up to become a member, and hope that many of you will do the same.

Translation on Tap in NYC, June 1 – 30, 2016

coney-island-beachThis June I’m off to Germany to meet with Jenny Erpenbeck and 8 or 9 other translators of her new novel into various languages. I’m hoping we’ll go through it page by page. Should be interesting! But if you’re going to be around in NYC, you might want to go to a translation event or two. So far, I’ve just got a couple on the books, but will add Read more …

2016 Shortlists Announced, French-American Foundation Translation Prize

webfinal_2v.b_0The French-American Foundation has announced the 2016 shortlist for its Translation Prize in Fiction and Nonfiction. The winner in each category receives a  $10,000 cash prize, funded by the Florence Gould Foundation. Translations are judged by a jury comprised of Linda Asher, David Bellos, Linda Coverdale, Emmanuelle Ertel, and Lorin Stein.

Here are this year’s finalists in Fiction:

Emily Boyce for her translation of Nagasaki by Eric Faye, Gallic Books Read more …

2016 Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize and Gutekunst Prize Announced

HelenKurtWolfGutekunstLOGOGoetheEventPage1Every year the Goethe Institut awards two prizes to translators from the German, one, the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize, a prestigious award with a $10,000 purse that honors a master translator, and one, the Gutekunst Prize for Emerging Translators, for a relative newcomer (applicants must be under 35) that is designed to pave the way to a promising career and comes with a $2500 purse. For the Gutekunst competition, all applicants submit a translation of the same work for easy comparison.

This year’s Wolff Prize has Read more …