Literature in Translation

Introduction.

A Conversation Across Languages.

by Derick Mattern

When two languages meet, a conversation begins. All the more so when multiple languages come together. Translation is the art of facilitating such a conversation. In these nine pieces—across eight languages, several language families, multiple genres and geographies—a conversation unfolds in new and unexpected ways. They speak to us in English for the first time, as well as to one another. As with any conversation, our role is both to listen and engage. “You think about the similarities between Japan and Iceland,” Marie Silkeberg writes in “Bárðarbunga,” one of two long poems translated from Swedish by Kelsi Vanada. “If similarities exist.” This is the pleasure the conversation offers us: to work out the similarities between these pieces, if they can be found. In an excerpt from Nasim Marashi’s novel Fall Is the Last Season of the Year, translated from Persian by Poupeh Missaghi, a young …

Fiction.

Two Stories.

by Virginia Suk-yin Ng, translated by Mary King Bradley

Virginia Suk-yin Ng has described her stories as scrolls that leave the past and future of a story hidden at either end while she relates what happened on the part left visible. Her stories record an important time in Hong Kong’s history, a period too easily pushed aside as China puts increasing pressure on Hong Kong to give up its independent identity twenty years after the 1997 handover. “Good Fate” is set in the 1970s. During World War II, the Japanese occupied Hong Kong for three years and eight months after the British crown colony forces surrendered on December 25, 1941. This was a time of hunger and fear for the people of Hong Kong who lived through it, with lasting effects on many families. The focus on food and what it represents in this story, set many years later, is perhaps especially poignant because …

The River/Рікa.

by Markiyan Kamysh, translated by Hanna Leliv

A young Ukrainian author, Markiyan Kamysh is an important contemporary voice representing the Chernobyl underground. He has ventured into the Exclus...

Poetry.

Two Poems.

by Marie Silkeberg, translated by Kelsi Vanada

Marie Silkeberg’s hybrid essay “Zero Meridian” from her book Atlantis (Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2017) begins “blood—your life depends upon lying close.” This evocative first line sets the tone for the rest of the piece, as a second-person narrator based in northern Europe asks readers to question how you respond if you’re in the position of being adjacent to someone experiencing not-belonging. In this case, concise lines of narrative in a stripped “zero language” that feels like—in the essay’s own terms—dread—tell of the narrator’s friend’s brother’s uncertain journey across the Mediterranean. The two friends hang in the vertigo of suspense-time as they receive fragmented news from “M” as to his current whereabouts. Interspersed throughout this narrative, and often dominating it, runs the constant ticker-tape of language from sources as distinct as Edgar Allen Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelstrom” to Ma Jian’s Beijing Coma to Peter …

Five Poems.

by Gabriela Aguirre, translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin

When I translated these poems from El lugar equivocado de las cosas (The Mistaken Place of Things, Fondo editorial Querétaro, 2011) I constantly tho...

Five Poems.

by Ahmet Haşim, translated by Donny Smith

Haşim’s response to criticism of the poem “Desire at the End of the Day” became his best-known statement on poetry, “Şiir Hakkında Bazı Mülâhazalar”...

Interviews.

“Everything is Translatable”: An Interview With Jennifer Croft.

by André Forget

Jennifer Croft is a 2018–’19 Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library. She is also the recipient of Fulbright, PEN, MacDowell, and National Endowment for the Arts grants and fellowships, as well as the inaugural Michael Henry Heim Prize for Translation and a Tin House Scholarship for her novel Homesick, originally written in Spanish. In 2018, her translation of Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights won the Man Booker International Prize.  She holds a PhD from Northwestern University and an MFA from the University of Iowa. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, n+1, BOMB, VICE, Guernica, Electric Literature, Lit Hub, The New Republic, The Guardian, The Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. This interview took place over email in August, 2018. AF: Translation exists in a strange ontological category: a translated book is a work of literature in its own right (a collection of sentences the translator has composed in a particular way to deliver an artistic meaning …