May 31, 2023

The Art of Translation

Published May 16, 2023, 2:20 p.m. by Arrik Motley

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In this course, you'll learn about the different types of translation, the challenges that translators face, and the importance of accuracy and precision in the translation process. You'll also get tips on how to improve your own translating skills, whether you're using a machine translator or working with a human translator.

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You may also like to read about:

my name is Michael Holtmann I'm the

director of the center for the art of

translation and two lines press space -

you're in San Francisco you may have

heard me at some point say you know we

championed translation literary

translation in particular and I'm

committed to bringing you and other

readers original voices so part of our

conversation today is going to be with

these terrific writers onstage with me

I'm gonna give them each a short

introduction we'll talk a little bit

about their work and how it relates to

translation and then of course we'll

make sure you have some time to ask

questions so to my left

Katrina Dotson is the recipient of the

2016 pen translation prize for her

translation of this marvelous tome

claire isla spectres complete stories if

you don't own it you should she is also

a recent PHT recipient in comparative

literature at UC Berkeley her

dissertation was traveling properties

the disorienting language and landscapes

of elizabeth bishop in brazil she has

spent time in Brazil several times most

recently as a Fulbright Hayes fellow

Amara lacus to my right is a the author

of this incredible book the prank of the

good little virgin of via or maiya he

was born in Algiers in 1970 he has a

book called the clash of civilizations

over an elevator in piazza vittorio

which one italy's prestigious fly Yano

prize his latest book has been described

as a fun and farcical whodunit about

life and multicultural Italy it's also

deals with some really serious issues

that I think everyone in this room can

relate to so we'll touch on that in a

little bit like who's has a degree in

philosophy from the University of

Algiers and another in cultural

anthropology from the University at La

Sapienza Rome

young young moon on my right was born in

Hamm young South Gyeongsang province in

South Korea in 1965 he made his literary

debut in nineteen

96 with the novel a man who barely

exists his most recent book is the

English is the collection a most

ambiguous Sunday and other stories but

he has two books forthcoming this really

fantastic oh great

so he has two books forthcoming this

summer one of which is already available

here at the bay Arabic festival it's

called a contrived world and it takes as

its inspiration the city of San

Francisco so I'm very excited to touch

on that today and he also has another

book called Vaseline Buddha which will

be published in July again in English

he's an accomplished translator himself

he's translated more than 40 books from

English into Korean including works by

John Fowles Raymond Carver and Germaine

Greer some really interesting writers

I'm very curious to hear about what they

must be like in Korean his work he's won

numerous awards including the 12th dong

Seiya literary award the met the Han mu

sook literary award and then days on

literary award among others Eid Renault

V here on my left is the author you may

be familiar with from her book ways to

disappear which The Wall Street Journal

described as a spare with a witty riddle

of a novel she's translated several

books from Portuguese in Spanish

including Clarisse specters the passion

according to GH so you have to the

spectre translators joining us today

nobodies work has been featured on NPR's

all things considered and in Slate The

Paris Review and Guernica among others

she was born in western Pennsylvania and

has lived in Chile and Brazil now do you

still reside in New York you reside in

Brooklyn New York and teaches at the

Creative Writing Program at Princeton

University so without further ado I

think we should leap into the work of

Clarice les Spector with Katrina Dodson

for those of you who may not be familiar

with this book or Clarisse inspector you

know the this is kind of a an incredible

time for her work I think that it's

really come to the attention that it has

rightfully deserved for many years but

she's very much kind of a modern writer

from the 20th century this collection of

85 stories was written over the course

of her life and represents an incredible

range of literary undertaking I think

that you know reading this book you see

what a masterful writer can do with the

short story over time Katrina I'm

curious to hear from you you know again

for for maybe someone who hasn't yet had

a chance to read much from this book you

know how would you capture you know what

is unique and striking about this

singular writer okay where do i I mean I

think anybody who just dips into even a

page of quite easily specters writing

just feels the intensity and the power

of it and it's just it's so she writes

like no one else and I think you know

both of us can speak to this is she's

very difficult to translate because

she's not openly avant-garde but she'll

just kind of be going a lot of in a

normal sentence and then just one word

will be off or you'll think that okay

that's like that's not quite the

description you're so you know the word

you're supposed to use there and and

it's just I mean it's a disorienting

experience and so this this collection

it's as you said every story she

published from the age of 19 and 1940 to

her death on the eve of her 57th

birthday in 1977 so the last two stories

are the two stories that were

manuscripts left on her desk when she

passed away and it's

I really love the stories I think

they're really they're a mix of this

kind of dark humor they dip in and out

of the everyday lives of a lot of women

so I mean really just going through this

this one this collection of one woman's

life's work she also has a lot of

stories about young girls you know on

the verge of womanhood housewives

elderly women I mean just a lot just the

range of voices that she conjures is is

incredible and so I think you know do

you get these amazing kind of glimpses

of people's lives but you also can just

feel like they're like kind of

electricity of her language and I mean

it's hard to try to think of a good

example well you know it's a collection

of 85 stories and if I'm right it you

spent three years two years and you know

this on incredible project this is also

it's it's worth noting this is the first

time these stories have been collected

in one volume even in Portuguese they

haven't been published as a collected it

just came out in Brazil okay but knowing

there's this you know incredible range

of stories and that you have spent in

intimate time with them are there a

couple that you know if you feel you

carry with you that come back to you on

a regular basis I'd say the story love

amor which takes place in the rio de

janeiro botanical garden is the one

that's closest to my heart I've I've

read it many times I've taught it as a

reading a composition instructor at

Berkeley in another you know in Giovanni

Ponte er there was a previous version of

it and I definitely did more drafts of

that story than any other the smallest

one in the world is another one that's

one of my favorites but I think I just I

love I love love the story

because it is this mix of being

incredibly poetic so it's this housewife

who's coming home from grocery shopping

on the tram and Rio de Janeiro just kind

of feeling a little bit smug about her

perfect life and she's got this great

this husband and two children like she's

planted these seeds and they're growing

up perfectly and but she's she's in this

what she calls the dangerous hour of the

day so it's the late afternoon and

nobody needs her anymore and she kind of

starts to drift and just remembers this

kind of younger wilder self that she had

and you know it starts to feel a little

bit Restless about this life that seems

so perfect from the outside and suddenly

she sees this blind man standing at the

tram stop chewing gum and it's not this

opening and closing opening and closing

and he's chewing it whatever it is she

thinks that he's mocking her that he's

laughing at her even though he can't see

her and it's just this moment that just

cast her into this abyss and she drops

her groceries and the eggs break and she

rushes off the tram in this kind of daze

and suddenly she doesn't know where she

is and she wanders into the botanical

garden and it's just this beautiful

moment where she thinks she's found this

refuge it's just you know she's in there

the trees and you know the wind and you

might hear some birds all of a sudden

it's just everything kind of switches

and she sees like dark fruit stains on

the bench that looked like blood and the

pits look like little rotting brains and

they're parasites of the tree so it's

all of a sudden like death was all

around here in the garden so it's just I

mean it's this amazing story because it

seems like it's just a kind of mundane

story about a life you know day in the

life of a housewife but then you've got

this you know crazy moment of kind of

perverse like death and nature in the

garden and it's all very beautiful so I

recommend that Oh many of them are very

memorable and striking for their images

and turns and the language so clearly

our panel is about translation and and

language is going to be a major part of

this talk

Clarice inspectors Portuguese is strange

can you tell us a little bit about

managing that that strangeness of her

work and I'm sure I'm eager I can speak

to this too I think that was my most

common question for all of I had a you

know kind of team of Brazilian friends

and colleagues and I would ask them

questions whenever I kind of hit a snag

and that was my most common question was

does this sound strange to you in

Portuguese and oftentimes they'd say

yeah this is strange but it's just like

one preposition is off or it's like a

word that doesn't exist but sounds as

though it might exist like there's

there's a story in which a woman is kind

of she's drifting off to sleep and it

says I love fantasy above fantastica

okay it should be fantasy above fantasy

I was like she's kind of like

daydreaming dreaming fantasizing but

it's fantastic kava fantastic ah

fantastic a band it's not a word but it

sounds like a word so so things like

that you know and there's there's one

moment so I would say you know fantastic

sized in English and it's just one word

that's off in a hole on a whole page

where everything else seems not so

invented and there's another moment

later in the collections where where the

narrator says I never thought that the

world and I would reach this points of

wheats won't og3 go

so like point like a point in time and I

just thought well what is this mean like

point of maturity like we've I've

reached this harvest or something I was

googling everything in on forums and

talking people I talked to you know you

know my editor and I between us I think

must've talked to 10 or 15 Brazilians

and they all said no I don't know what

it means so I just had to leave it you

don't know actually the best way is not

to try to interpret it and say like you

know this point of harvest or maturity

but just say this point of wheats and

and let the reader just do what it with

it what they will

Catrina recently while I was in the fall

I had a conversation with one of my

colleagues Scott Esposito and that

recording is available online should any

of you be curious to hear more about the

specific book but in that conversation

Katrina you mentioned how by translating

this particular book you you said that

your Portuguese is better and your

English is better can you talk a little

bit about what that experience is like

as a you know as a writer you know kind

of making new discoveries in English

yeah I mean I I feel like I did this

like independent study MFA fiction and

translation just by I mean training with

you know going through this writers

life's work it's amazing and I could see

you know I write about her I was writing

about her in my dissertation and then I

ran out of time then just finished my

dissertation without her but I think you

know you see the variations in language

so in the beginning story's beginning

collections her language is much more

literary and you can you feel this

energy she's really excited about

writing stories and they're very they're

much more kind of conventionally

literary stories I think like the

language is much more poetic and they

have these kind of they they have an arc

where they end oftentimes with the kind

of epiphany or you know kind of I mean

think to the end they at then they also

do also at the end of her life but I

think just tracking her language so in

the beginning the language I used was

was much more flowery you know more

adjectives and kind of more a kind of

romantic feel and then toward the end of

her life in the 70s she just got really

tired I think she just felt like she'd

done what she could in a in a more

literary vein she'd kind of master that

and then at the end she says you know I

I want the anti literature I

she just got gets kind of like crazier

so in the hour I mean uh almost at the

hour of the start in Via Crucis of the

body and where were you at night she

just starts writing kind of more like

campy or pulpy or fiction and and you

know I started using words kind of like

like more kind of slang words or kind of

looser there was like a kind of looser

feel to it toward the end and at one

point where like her stories Andrea

Christus of the body go really sexy and

they're like threesomes and murder and

like a drag queen and his best friend

who's a housewife by date

stripper by night you know they go after

the same man and and at the end of the

story it's like she gets the man and the

drag queen you know she says like you're

not even a real woman you don't even

know how to fry an egg just like it's

true I'm not a real woman so they're

just like moments and so I think

tracking that language having to

understand what that felt like in

Portuguese and then trying to reproduce

it in English I definitely thought so

much about the registers of language in

English and a lot of times I think you

start going crazy because I'd say is

this a normal way to say things in

Portuguese but then it also says it's a

normal way to say things in English and

so I think the Internet is a fabulous

tool I can't imagine what it was like to

translate before the internet because so

much of language is is embedded in the

way it's used and a on a daily basis or

you know in a living situation and not

just in the dictionary and so I think so

many of the ways you can kind of get a

sense for how our word will fall on

someone's ears is when you just hear it

in usage so when you just google phrases

you can see you have all kinds of

examples of how people are actually

using the phrases and like in the news

on forums you know some kids blog

whatever yeah well well kind of building

on that idea I think we should move on

to this book ways to disappear you know

V's novel which takes as its conceit the

fact that a translator may know a writer

extremely well in the case of this book

the story opens up with a train with

this great writer in Brazil who is

missing and the translator hears this

news and feels compelled immediately to

go to Brazil to help find her and what's

interesting you know knowing that you

Genovia is herself a translator you know

I spent time in Brazil has worked on

clarice Allah Specter as well I'm

curious to know how you know this this

book erupted in you you felt you have to

capture and represent a translator in


so I you know had God translated a

number of writers both who are living

and who are dead and so if you're

translating someone who's live you can

you can email them and ask questions and

and if they're not you kind of have to

create a character in your mind sort of

the way a fiction writer would so that

you're having this kind of concocted

conversation with somebody and be like

you know I would sort of say to clarice

I I found a book of her letters and was

reading them while I was translating her

as a way to get to know her and create

this false conversation in my head and

she became very much a character and

during that same process I was kind of

curious about the lives of translators

and kept coming across novels that had

translators in them and none of the

translators that I found resonated with

my own experience of translators or the

fascinating adventurous you know wild

people that I knew who went into

translation who were just international

and adventurous and just very generous

spirited and the translators that kept

coming across representations of them

and fiction we're often inhibited people

or they would be you know that they

would sort of glom onto writers because

the writers had really wild lives and

they were too inhibited to go and be

interesting people in their own right or

they resented I think all the

representations I found didn't quite

jive with my experience of many my

friends were translators and so I think

as many writers fine you end up writing

the book that you need and the book that

you can't find so I set out to write the

book I wanted to read about the

translator that I thought had been

misrepresented and to sort of find my

way to convey what I think is the secret

sort of super-heroes of literature that

hadn't and represented that way the main

main character emma is driven and very

focused on on trying to help be a part

of this kind of mystery like where did

this writer go and why and and she turns

to her books as clues

you kind of lead her to where she might

be or what she might have done while

you're constructing this storied were

there were there incidents in your you

know in your reading and your

translations that kind of made you

imagine you know like a writer leaving

you clues I think that translation is in

some way kind of a mystery work you know

as Katrina's saying you you do have to

search online you have to search your

mind you have to search your past you

have to ask questions almost like an you

know an investigative reporter you've

got to figure things out there's a

missing person and you need to figure

out these answers so I mean I think it

is in some ways sort of a literary

thriller there's a lone shark and some

significant poker debt and I think that

in some ways I did feel like I have is

like putting on some sort of you know

Sherlock Holmes had and investigating

and in musty phone booths and things

like that so yeah it's also just a great

adventure to be a translator and I think

it's it's a really joyful thing to do

and I I felt like the depictions I'd

found of translators didn't convey the

joy of it and the pleasure of it and you

know and people kept saying to me after

I published the novel and you know was

coming out in other languages and

especially after they heard about the

film agent and everyone's like oh I

guess you're never gonna translate it

again and I and I said I'll translate my

whole life because I loved it you know

and and and I think I'm as addicted to

it as some people maybe to poker this

book also has some some wonderful

insights about translation and about

language and about you know the way in

which language can fail us sometimes but

I kind of wanted to single out a few

moments this happens kind of in the

middle of the book where Emma is is it's

thinking about translation as she has

done throughout the book as you can

imagine and wasn't the splendor of

translation this very thing to discover

sentences this beautiful and then have

the chance to make someone else hear

their beauty who had yet to hear it to

arrive at least once at a moment this

intimate and singular which would not be

possible without these words arranged in

this order on this page one of the other

things that I like about

the narrative in this book that I think

is you know kind of fun and unexpected

is the way in which Emma is is also

chronicling her experience well she's in

Brazil and she's kind of keeping a

notebook that perhaps she might use to

write her own novel but but she she has

these moments where she singles out

terms and then kind of weaves them into

the the story in a way I'll give an

example this one is from a little later

in the book she she writes the word

chance she's thinking about the idea of

chance and she writes chants from the

Latin cadencia that which falls out one

a-force assumed to cause events that can

neither be foreseen nor controlled as in

she could find her mother only by chance

and a yellow umbrella in this case

there's this hotel that has yellow

umbrellas to a fleeting favorable set of


see also gamble hazard can you can you

just touch on a little bit about how you

know as you're writing this book you

made these discoveries to add in you

know some of your maybe ideas about

language or surprises that you've

discovered perhaps on your travels or in

your reading well I think it's Katrina

brought up a lot of a translators work

is is finding definitions and I remember

when I first started translating I would

had a dictionary and would be traveling

places that didn't have internet but I

do think you know when you have it as

fastest just kind of type it in and look

it up that way and the definitions would

always seem inadequate right over the

range of definitions would kind of be an

art in itself where you would look up a

word in Portuguese and then in findings

that seem just absurdly you know like

different from each other

and so I just started to play with us

with definitions as a kind of prose poem

and how the definition was kind of up

for grabs and almost like the art of the

definition so I also think that I'm sort

of a restless spirit so when I was

writing the book I kind of said to

myself you know

you know women writers have sort of

disappeared from the record and

translators tend to disappear from the

public record unless either as a woman

writer as a translator you sort of die

in sort of a tragic way people like die

you know because he's translated the

Bible and we're burned as a heretic or

you stuck your head in Europe and then

never understand I mean like whatever is

what you know still be plaster things so

I do think that tragic deaths may give

women writers or translators more

visibility than they tend to have had

historically so I was thinking about all

of those things I'd like the chance of

anyone paying attention to this book

it's probably pretty low because how

many women and translators and mothers

are writing books that you know get a

lot of is like I might as well have as

much fun as I can because I didn't know

what would happen with it actually

didn't tell anyone for about four years

even my own sister that I was working on

it and so I just any time I felt like I

need to do something new I would

actually just invent something else

that's like well I'm sort of tired of

these characters I wonder what's

happening on the radio and so I would

just write radio reports and then

whenever I got to the place where I just

wanted to break it up I would start

playing with the definitions and so I

kind of made up my own form in part

because translation you're always waking

up your own form and writing and

translation I do you think translation

is a form of writing and so I think I

approached the novel as I would a

translation where you're creating a

voice but you're creating a voice which

is in some ways an impossible voice

because you can't recreate something in

Portuguese exactly you have to create a

version of it so I think I think the

creative act of translation was how I

approached fiction which might be why in

some ways that kind of pushes against

you know I guess conventional notions of

fiction and that the definitions really

are absurd and the radio reports are

over-the-top because I did came from

this place of thinking about all the

ways it would probably be destined for

obscurity before it even was printed out

so I know it's it's a terrific book ways

to disappear

thank you yeah I really enjoyed it I

want to see a film version of it got

kind of building on that idea I think

that Iger was was saying a little bit

you know one of the ways that I think

about translation is that translation is

the closest form of reading and I think

that translators think about language

and in many different some

conflicting ways and kind of building on

these ideas about language and kind of

the power of language or what languages

may represent or mean I want to move on

to Amara Lucas's work this is his most

recent book in English the prank of the

good little virgin of via or Mia Amara

is in addition to an Italian writer he's

written two of his books in Arabic so

both Arabic and Italian his books as I

may have alluded to a little earlier

they they have these they're kind of

light or seemingly light that deal with

issues that I think are pretty profound

and certainly very contemporary reading

this book in particular I I can't help

but think about the rhetoric in our

country about immigration and you know

the way we classify different groups of

people but he kind of sets it up almost

like this small event that takes place

that has these unexpected consequences

so that's my long-winded preamble the

there there's the main character of this

book is he's a reporter he's on a crime

beat and he's you know we're he seems

like a little bit of a character himself

but he's also got a sense of kind of

ethical obligation in his work and he

goes to a crime scene where he hears

that two boys have raped a girl and he

you know is conducting his you know he's

professional he's asking questions he

really hasn't you know written this

story with a lot of you know he doesn't

have all the facts so he writes the

story in the conditional and his editors

changed that and that little turn

this kind of eruption of anger and

really just you know this really clear

discrimination I'd loved hear from you

about you know how this story came to be

thank you thank you so the this novel is

it's just an example about living

between many languages and there are

many there are a lot of

misunderstandings because the same words

very often have different meanings so I

wrote my first novel in Arabic you know

when I was in Algeria and then in 1995 I

moved to Italy and they started learning

Italian and after eight years I wrote my

first novel in Italian but I am still a

bilingual writer because each novel has

two versions one in Italian one in

Arabic so I can say that my my works

actually are self translation but the

best definition of translation is

Italian territory territory translator

is traitor its traitor in terms that the

good translator is a creative sketch of

work translation and listening about

Portuguese I have a very nice story

about Portuguese so when I moved to to

Italy lived in Rome for 16 years one day

my friend said to me you know Mario our

friend is Portuguese I said what's

Portuguese he's Italian let's Portuguese

so no no I know is Italian citizen but

it's Portuguese because he travels he

uses buses and and subway without

tickets so in Rome especially in Rome

Farrell Porto jay-z fair Porto adult

means you can travel without you know

without using tickets so how can we

translate this sentence it's Portuguese

Portuguese so you have to I mean it's of

course it's more easy to put a note but

I think this is my personal opinion

writers or translators when the use

notes that means it is this is a sign of

failure for me because you have to be

very you have to you have to be very

creative you have to find something not

just note notice to say that the the

readers this is your job this is your

business go and but you have to you have

to find a good good solutions and

writing especially in two languages in

Arabic and Italian I have to be very

creative very original and maybe the

best example is that art is translation

of jokes and and proverbs by the way my

wife hates my Algerian jokes so I can't

I'm sorry I can't tell you what

wonderful jokes

she always said against women this is

true against women but it's very are

very funny but I can't I can't I can't

probably women I mean in Algeria world

have jokes against men this is another


so we can't I mean we can translate

jokes and products because what what is

the reason the reason that translation

doesn't deal just with language because

we can do this with Google so your

Google is an expert in language

translate Translation deals with the

context of language the context of

language is culture so if you don't have

access to culture you can translate

absolutely you can translate and I think

the good translator is too is is humble

humble person because you have to ask

questions if you are arrogant you can't

do this job thank you for speaking so

eloquently about those challenges one of

the things that Amara does in

particularly in this book is it kind of

you know some of that is is evident in

the characters I mentioned there's Enzo

who's this reporter for the newspaper

there's another character who has this

who's who's narrative kind of runs in

parallel and she's a woman her name is

Patricia but she has another name that

is jabari MOS and we learned that that

that name is a Roma name you know and

for those of you in the audience you

know in the United States we don't think

about Roma perhaps as often as you would

in Europe but the Roma many of you may

know there there are people who are

often referred to as gypsies who travel

beyond borders who you know some of them

don't use money in the same way they are

often poor they come from this tradition

that's actually from the Middle Ages so

there's this woman patricia who who's

kind of

she's a banker who who in her middle

life realizes she claims this Roma

culture because of her her parentage and

she says in page 39 she's kind of

talking about you know her her own

ability in Italian is very strong

but she she says my greatest loss aside

from my parents was that of my peoples

language and I think in your work we we

often see these characters who you know

their their language is part of their

identity in a really deep and profound

way and I was hoping you could maybe

touch on that since it creates a lot of

the kind of underlying conflict in in

these books certainly the strongest

ruled for identity is language there's

no identity without language and in my

life I had to deal with this big

challenge because I was born in into a

very Berber family so my mother doesn't

speak Arabic

she speaks just Berber Berber is

language is the original language in

North Africa but I was born in Algiers

and so at home eyes I spoke with my

parents and my my brothers and sisters

in Berber in the street because I was

more than very very neighbor very class

neighborhood in in Algiers I learned

Arabic Algerian it's very strange

Arabic many French words and at school I

learned a big classical Arabic I went to

a Quranic school and I in the elementary

school third elementary school I started

learning French so at age eight nine I

was able to speak in four languages and

then when I moved to Italy I learned

Italian I add I added Italian and last

year I moved to New York so this is my

my stories with languages so my I think

my biggest challenge is to mediate

between languages I did this my life and

then when I moved to Italy instead of

changing language writing just in time

and said to myself I am linguistic

polygamist so this is another story a

Muslim so I can I can have four wives

but I think it's crazy

but I think one wife is or one husband

it's okay

so four languages for me it's it would

be fantastic living between those

languages and trying to to take the best

because you know linkages is like human

beings they have their weakness and so

my idea is that we can if you are really

creative you have to you can take the

base the best of many languages and in

might my Italian actually is it's very

strange Italian is not it standard

Italian because in in my Italian style

there are a lot of metaphors from Berber

from Arabic from French so I'm trying to

be really good mediator between between

and you be great to add English in the

future but I have to work now I'm Kate I

am a kid of two to two years I just want

to explore that a little bit more your

you know since you write in Arabic and

Italian and knowing these languages are

very different

can you tell us a little bit about how

as a writer you are you know maximizing

the resources of those different

languages you know what what in Italian

do you feel like you can do that you

can't do in Arabic or things that you

can do in Arabic that you feel like you

can't do in Italian or how has your

Arabic changed your Italian well I have

more freedom than translator being the

author of my

so I can change I can add I can adapt so

probably you know the translators don't

have this this freedom they are obliged

to respect the original but III as I

mentioned in the beginning so my my

definition of translation is to betrayal

the original trying to get the best so

when I start to write over writing I'm

really obsessed with originality with

creativity and I I don't have problem I

mean to add or to change there are a lot

of examples for example in Italian this

is a very common proverb do del pani

akhirin identity do Dominic uniden God

gives bread - who doesn't have teeth

okay we have a different very very very

important change they say we said God

gives meat to whose don't have a teeth

so here we have bread and we have we

have meat so so if you want to translate

with Google of course meat will be meat

but if you are really creative in the

sense you know that in Italian we use

this this proverb so you have to put

instead of meat you have to put put

bread interesting this is just an

example but there are a lot of a lot of

examples yeah examples we haven't really

touched on the real humor in your work I

know you talked about jokes in these

different languages there's there's also

a lot of wordplay a lot of the

characters names you know some of them

are kind of charming characters who are


flawed in in these you know interesting

ways can you tell me like do you have

like this you know when you're writing

this book you know is it set in motion

because of these kind of funny episodes

or are you you know do you see these

things that are serious that you you

wanna make fun of a little bit you know

I thought about the context of language

so the context of Italian language is

Italian comedy style a comida italiana

she's very important general in in in

Italian cinema in the sixties and the

seventies it's very original way to

narrate the reality and you know in very

light way so I started this is the

important size important point I studied

philosophy actually in in order in in

the end of the 80s in Algeria you know

in order to understand my society

rationally so after studying philosophy

I realized that I couldn't understand

Alger in society because it was

irrational society so it couldn't work

so when I moved to Italy I found another

irrational system so the result was

Italian comedy style so people think

that I am very funny I'm not really very


as but in my writing I'm very different

because the context of my Italian

language is Italian comedy style and my

style in Arabic is Italian the context

the imaginary is Italian this is very

important about language and the context

of language I mean culture and the prank

the good version of humor it's a lot of

fun but as I said it has these really

interesting overtones I also want to

talk about the work of young moon this

is the book that I alluded to earlier

even though a contrived world it just is

coming out and apparently is available

here at the Book Festival

young moon is a translator himself

translator writers similarly drah and

when I've read your work I'm I think

what's striking about it is is this tone

that you strike you kind of are your

style is it creates this unusual mood

these characters are unpredictable I

feel like you know as it is Sunday and

the title of this collection is the most

ambiguous Sunday I would just read from

the beginning of it just to give you a

sense of you know the kind of mood and

spirit of this particular story but of

much of Jung Woon's work strange the

vivid feelings I felt just a moment ago

have vanished and now everything is so

ambiguous to me I barely feel the

existence of anything and today which

hasn't even ended yet already feels like

ancient history like some long-forgotten

day from my childhood all the Dames days

seem like Sunday - as if only Sunday

exists he mumbles his alarm clock rings

and he opens his eyes he remains still

for a moment and then while blinking he

looks at the calendar on the wall

it's Sunday again a day I've never liked

a day I just can't seem to like hey

grumbles soon he gets up from his bed by

the way is Sunday the beginning of the

week or the end of the week it's always

been difficult for me to figure that out

he says in much of your work I feel like

there there's this questioning there's a

kind of you know the title of this

particular story is ambiguous Sunday and

and I feel like there's there's kind of

this hesitation and amorphousness that's

in your work okay can you tell us a

little bit about how you you know as a

writer you've created this style

is some quite some contradictory because

mmm I am a writer and translating but

sometimes I hate writing and I your

hates translation and because the

translation is buried my key way of

reading and sports me and so and without

some transpiration I think I might have

not become a writer I don't have any

desire to write small stories after

graduation when I don't know what to do

with my life then I by chance

can't you trust writes a book which one

which was really good which was which

was the traffic cancer by her Emmy

Rossum transferred trans retro girl in

Korea but the translation was actually

is some how to say it some pirates

edition because I was away without some

any approval of copyright and actually

this one was

translated into Japanese and someone who

studied Spain is translated from Spanish

to Coriana system this translation was

very terrible and accurate edited in sir

he skips to difficult parts he feared

that the empty spaces oneself yeah

so someone helps you translates game ran

in so I did do it and before this

translation I'd you know I fake read

sort of becoming a writer but I don't

know how to write at war I turned right

on regular basis so I I had really hard

time to write some small real rarer to

my girlfriend so but when I finished it

took a long time to finish this

particular book because there it was

some very cherien's to tourist rights

and but when I faced this book I undoing

I came to acquired

though how how to write because when I

write son in my own language before I

was not trained I don't know how to put

some sentences into the right order and

the sentence is something you can

utilize your thoughts and put it in the

best way and it's how it's something how

I run to to the kind of yeah job and

after that I translate some Raimondi

covers right yeah his great short story

Terrell and I runned Brad how to convey

your feelings or thoughts you know very

short sentences and how to consume your

feelings without tearing right out

watery and and yeah I think um the best

book I trust rate so was to English

right strong flowers right I think the

best one is correction of stories it's

called the air beneath tower any chair I

transferred them the titles

flowers but it was they what are with

disappointing they were written in his

early days of his career and but the

every time was really written in his

prime time yet is some the book is

composed to about five the various and

shorter stories and it's some sort the

ambulance and sentences and characters

or things in this word so so subtle and

so ambiguous right it's really hard to

catch the real meaning and I think I

think those things come through in your

work too that you mentioned that sense

of contradiction and so I think there is

a great deal of subtlety in your stories

that you know it they unfold and he's

really you know I I don't know if I have

a good word for it I'm thinking of ways

of things unfold or there's just a lot

of very precise moments that take place

or the order in which something happens

seems to be very important in your work

yes one of the things that I'm curious

about since there are so many people

here who are from San Francisco and

California you have this new book that's

out in English a contrived world where

you have San Francisco but these kind of

imagined ideas of San Francisco or

places that are kind of come out of the

imagination based on

Francisco can you tell us more about

this book yes this one was written IV

when I stayed zoom as a writer residence

in San Francisco in 2010 right for five

answers and actually I was some writer

in residence at UC Berkeley but I I've

been to the Berkeley before and there

was nothing much to do sorry to change

some of that so yeah I found the house

in San Fran and I think it was a great


yeah and I turned some intend to write

because at the time I was a as a rights

of very exhausted and right to heaven

vacation but some but I don't plan much

I don't want to pick things I just

strolled around the streets and found

small things like that and so I wrote

some memos and and put them together and

and it became of again never one thing I

found is that I actually like mmm

awakened right Richard Brautigan

yeah it's many of you Richard Brautigan

yeah yeah they know and I kind of will

bet on resource on him because he

basically lived in the city most of his


and after hmm residence program I was

every to choose some price to travel

yeah for about some two weeks and I

don't want to go anywhere everywhere in

the world from Erica - yeah Cuba yeah

but and I ride she go to Costa Rica and

and just because I write to see a very

colorful exotic Costa Rican parrot in

the jungle yeah so I'm thinking I was

thinking of dyeing my hair very

carefully you could do that here in

Berkeley this colorful parrots and maybe

we can see Chad in the jungle with

Robson green see very startled

yeah and actually I ended up go to

Hawaiian island or Lulu and at the time

I was really reading Richard Brautigan

some novel which is this Cochran Cochran

master is easy correct does anyone know

something something like that yeah the

so cranes okay monster monsters right

okay it's so very bit that's a literary

but is

really for Isner and though yeah amazing


yeah it's also funny yeah very funny

because them at beginning there are two

guys who are contracted Akira's we're

supposed to kill someone on Hawaii an

island on a ranch and it was wrong time

ago and they were sailing on the boat

it took heard about three masses from

mainland to Hawaii they were so tired

and they they talked really bad things

about how I on their way to Hawaii and

they said how much they hate how I did

they hate this tree to Hawaii is both so

repeat of this entire rocks the answer

when they cut their and they what she

killed on a man but when they saw a man

who was teaching odd teaching his son

how to ride the horse these two killers

cut some weakens and so they gave up and

then they come back for some answers oh

cords think about some Hawaii I think

that's a terrific description of that

story I think that you know one of the

things that young moon does in his work

is it really does have this humor and

kind of circuitous miss you you don't

know where you're going some of the

characters are just they're just strange

or funny or not socially correct

in in many ways also now I'm sitting

here thinking I want to reread trout

fishing in America before we wrap up for

for the day I I wanna you know here's

some questions from audience you know

some of you may be curious about

translation or about these particular

works we've described I'm gonna start

with this young woman right in front of

me yes

and the question is do you have a theory

or philosophy about translation that you

might want to share with someone who's

starting out yeah well I'm I think of

one in particular I mean I there's a

really great collection of essays it's

called the translation studies reader by

Lawrence Venuti and that Ven UTI and

he's a translation studies scholar but

that one collection just has I mean it's

it's it's a compendium of all kinds of

writing on translation from classical

times through thinking about you know

how how the Odyssey has been translated

how various basically you know sit

through romanticism up until now and you

have Nabokov has a very famous essay I

can't remember what but you know they're

just it's like a lot of really great

essays and I think I mean the way that

I've learned when I was translating I

had a lot of questions about how do you

do this how literal do you make it how

much can you go off you know kind of on

your own everything I think the question

of this is a little bit of a tangent I

think the question of humility versus

ego and writing and translation is

really fascinating and I think when I

first started this book I came into it

with a lot of humility but bordering on

insecurity you know I thought like can I

do this how can I do justice to this

amazing writer how can I be responsible

to it and be perfect and and by the end

I realized that I had to really just own

my ego about and you really do have to

also you know give respect to the

original but also just I have a coherent

voice and have enough of confidence or

ego in what you're doing you know to

take some chances yeah but so I but I'd

say you know I just I read you know I've

read that book but just you know

googling different translators now there

are all kinds of interviews there are a

lot of terrific resources one there's a

center for looking for one short thing I

would say that Anne Carson who is a

fantastic writer translator has

as they called variations on the right

to remain silent

and I teach that a lot and actually

return to it myself I think she also

does a lot of inventing inform the way

that I think you do your work actually I

didn't come up as much but Amara look

who's this earlier were booked called

clash of civilizations over an elevator

in piazza vittorio is fantastic I adored

that book and I can get it signed

but variations on the right to remain

silent is a fantastic essay and it's not

so much craft suggestions as it's sort

of like a series of metaphors about what

the act of translation and the role of

silence in it entails and about the

subtext and how there is a violent and

what you don't say but and and I think

that that is certainly true both of as a

translator and as a writer and and I

it's one of those things that you read

it and it kind of you know gets embedded

in your own process so I'd recommend

that to either view of a philosophy of

translation important advice so I think

you can you can you can become

translator i if you have a really strong

patient because you are not going to

make money

that's not slating yeah and this is so

frustrating for for very simple reason

because translating is very hard work

you have to work and to work and to work

so if you have to to make money you have

to translate a lot and of course the

quality is it's so will be very very low

the second the second

what's the second just I'm going to

probably answer

II drove jog my memory so one I would

also recommend his Lydia Davis writing

about translating Madame Bovary it's the

18th translation of Madame Bovary in the

Paris Review and that is so great

because Lydia Davis is also a really

great writer and so she has this really

detailed way of just like taking you

through her process of you know you have

these questions if you're retranslated

something should you look at the

previous translations and she looked at

everyone and kind of took what she liked

and then when in other directions so and

it's you know she's just hilarious so I

recommend that too so when the

translation when the book is is

fantastic so certainly people are going

to say great writer when the book is not

good so this is translation this is the

so this is a big frustration I mean the

and I know because you know between its

high-end language I can read very very

good in Arabic in Italian there are a

lot of for example a lot of books in

Arabic I read in Arabic and they said

very awful books in Italian translation

it was wonderful that means the

translator works a lot not just in

translation but in editing and this is a

wonderful work but they often you know I

agree okay Louie sport has said that the

translators job was to improve the

original in some way and he took

characters and even changed the gender

and he's like you know why why is the

neighbor of man he should be a woman

living next door there are many many

examples of that I'm gonna start here on

the right this woman in blue

question is she's written a book and is

interested in having it translated into

Spanish and how might you go about doing

that I don't know if anyone wants to

take spin at that I I think it really

depends on where you want to have that

published if you want that published in

the United States you know we have

different kind of publication you know

the way our publishing works is

different than it might be in a South

American country and having the Spanish

rights I'm not sure how that works in

the Americas but I would I would

actually I'd be happy to talk to you

afterwards about possibly contacting

some Spanish translators if you're

interested I'm gonna take a question

from this gentleman in black

the traitor is that I just kind of

wanted the rest of the panel to talk

about whether or not they agree with

that and as a follow-up if they do agree

like should how how should we feel it

reader is reading like you know have I

never really read Tolstoy never can be

authentic so the question if I'm getting

a right is you know is it true that as a

translator you're a traitor or how do

you feel about that construction and

then the second part of the question is

you know does that mean as readers you

can't really know a work unless you read

it in its original language such as

Tolstoy in Russian translator traders

are your trade you know kind of Troy's

turn but yeah I think to piece it on

principle is V as matches as much C

faithful as passport to the original

text in stone baby to a very critical

yeah pace yeah I don't know so many

ranges about some in my case I

transcripts English books in Korea and

in some cases some I some books I be

read right you transcribe but can't

trust rates because so differences

between languages some the orders and

realistic problems when is frustrating

to Korean on it grossed so much of is

some original food shoes so it's better

to Tran straight yeah mmm do either of

you want to jump in I mean I think that

that is one of the most common sayings

you hear about translation especially

when your translator and I think if you

think of the original as a sacred text

you know then yeah you're gonna mess up

the Word of God or the goddess but I

like to think of translation as a

performance so you're performing a

script or you're kind of doing your

interpretation of it and so I do think

it's it's a kind of living

interpretation or version of the

original and of course I mean I think if

you're wedded to this idea that you can

carry every single thing from the

original into the new one then you're

always you're just gonna have a meltdown

so yeah you have to

I like to think of it as like this is my

cloud you see voice that I'm doing and

someone else maybe in the future will do

a different one so and I think that's

why off another thing that's often said

about translations is that you you need

them to be kind of renewed every every

several generations or so or you know

there's always room for another version

of a book yeah I mean I was intimidated

by translating clearly the specter to

because she's been sort of a literary

hero of mine since college I kind of

moved to Brazil in order to learn

Portuguese and read her and original

because her writing meant so much to me

and I think that you do translate at the

frequency of your time and it is a

provisional work in a way and you're

translating at a frequency and you know

maybe the radio frequency will be

different in 10-15 years and I found

that kind of a relief I'm just

translating the frequency of my

sensibility you know in our time and

maybe someone will return at a different

frequency in the future I can't imagine

what that will be when people have like

their phones implanted in their brains

what that frequency would be but I don't

know and I

I hope future translators will return to

the spectres work and and make their own

art of it so and I'll just add to that

you know we often focus on what is lost

in translation but I feel like we gain

so much in translation as Amara was I

think many of the panelists today we're

saying you know by by moving it into a

new language there are things that you

gain there are things you can try

different languages have different

assets and resources that you know we

are so fortunate that the range of work

we can read in English includes these

masterpieces from other languages I

think we have time for maybe one very

brief last question how about this woman

right here sure please

helping each other but they never

control it's really interesting how I

mean it's really interesting that we

have a counter where the language

during delivery

Emily and the question is in essence you

know translating from a language that's

not your mother tongue into a language

that is your mother tongue is that

correct or the opposite yet translating

from a language that is perhaps more

familiar to a language that is not your

mother tongue does anyone want to speak

to that

you know I so I am critical about the

concept of mother tongue so it the the

the conception the the the the idea of

the mother tongue is really Western

Western idea

so you have just one mother in Algeria

for example I have three mothers I have

my biological mother and two other

mothers my my aunts I call them mother

so for me Italian is my mother tongue in

Algerian definition or Arabic a

definition so I think the the the the

main point is about your knowledge your

capacity to move in in language you

can't you can be I mean Spanish or or

American but you don't have the you

don't mean you you you don't have access

to this language I the friend of mine is

an Italian translator Francesco

he knows Arabic more than millions of

Arabs and really then a thousand of

writers because he studied Arabic in in

incredible way incredible way so he can

translate it actually he can translate

it from Italian to Arabic and from

arabic to italian easily so this is not

just mother tongue but yeah I agree with

that too I think it is an ocean I think

it's you know that we think that there's

this native language and even if you

apply at least in New York State when

you're applying sending your kids to

public schools you have to list them as

only being able to speak one language so

my kids you know therefore they native

speakers of Spanish they

spoke more Spanish than English but they

definitely are completely bilingual and

there was no place to represent the a

bilingual person when you're sending

someone to school you have to just

choose the native language the mother

tongue so that even in the bureaucracy

of applying for public schools the

United States there's really no space to

claim you know two moms blank linguistic

I'll just jump in with a random fact

which is if you look at people who know

language really well like champion

spellers many of them are not native

English speakers you know these are

people who are really interested in

language and have the facility to see

words and patterns and words that maybe

as a native speaker you you wouldn't

have that concludes our session thank

you so much for joining us one more in a

round of applause Katrina Dodson eager

Novi tomorrow



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