Numero Cinq Magazine Call for Translations!

Numéro Cinq Magazine ( is looking to publish works of translation, as well as essays and interviews concerning the art of translation. Our digital magazine reaches roughly 30,000 viewers every month, and we typically publish 12 issues each year, focusing on literary reviews, craft essays, and exposure for underappreciated writers. We are hoping to expand our already robust translation section (, and hope you can help. We are looking for works from across the globe, both large and small. (We don’t shy away from long pieces. In fact, we have published full novels online in the past.) For inquiries and questions, please contact Editor Benjamin Woodard at

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Sustainability in Translation: Review of Earth, Water and Sky: An Anthology of Environmental Poetry

Reviewed by Kayla Rodriguez

Tierra, cielo y agua: Antología de poesia medio ambiental / Earth, Water and Sky: An Anthology of Environmental Poetry, edited by Jesse Lee Kercheval.

This anthology is composed of poets who responded to a call sent out for the SARAS (South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies) Prizes in Poetry. The editor, Jesse Lee Kercheval, maintained the Spanish original for a compelling side by side bilingual anthology. SARAS is a transdisciplinary institute focused on analyzing and promoting a sustainable future. It is innovative in its desire to integrate social and natural sciences, mathematics and art. Each of the artists in this anthology imbue their art with natural elements in varying ways. Some artists use natural imagery to represent issues of the human condition or even to examine the act of writing itself. Others are more explicit in their plea for a more sustainable future like Luis Bravo (fifth place winner). Translated by Catherine Jagoe, his poem “here stood a tree now felled” is a direct critique on our exorbitant culture, it powerfully concludes with,

instead of the tree poem:
1 oak-tree generates the amount of oxygen
consumed by 10 people
1 automobile consumes
in 1 hour
the amount of oxygen that 800 people
use in 1 day
1 automobile consumes
in 1 hour
the oxygen that 200 oak-trees generate
in 1 day

Sir, have you polished your 4 x 4 weapon today?

Bravo is linguistically playful in his critique and Jagoe renders this quality in her translation. Jagoe also translates the second place winner, Sebastián Rivero. Presented with the difficult feat of translating Rivero’s rhythmic poetry that relies so much on its sonorous quality in the original, Jagoe effectively takes the artistic license to reproduce this rhythmic quality in her translation.

Virginia Lucas’ poems are likewise brilliantly and sonorously crafted. She creates a series of powerful images with a momentum that halts at one moment and flows in the next. Although the translator’s task was a tricky one, Jen Hofer creates an English counterpart that is just a powerful as the original – Hofer is one translator that stands out from the rest. Likewise, Jesse Lee Kercheval translates the formally and linguistically complex work of Tatiana Oroño. Although the task was undoubtedly tricky, Kercheval gives the English only reader an excellent opportunity to read Oroño’s work without compromising the power of the original.

Rather than providing an explicit critique as in Bravo’s case, Ignacio Fernandez de Palleja’s poems discuss the art of poetry using environmental language. Ron Salutsky successfully delivers the defeated tone in Fernandez de Palleja’s powerful works – particularly the poem entitled “Our Tsunami.” Another stand out poem in the anthology Elena Lafert’s, “Latest News, translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin. This poem discusses the human desire to “sink your hands in the earth” in a world governed by transience. Eglin also translates the works by María Sánchez however, in this project she was less successful. With titles like “Verbo” and lines like “Mi cuerpo se convirtío en retórica,” Sánchez makes words and rhetoric dynamic characters in her work in a way that would make any lover of words giddy. Unfortunately, Eglin’s English counterpart leaves the reader rather disenchanted.

Seth Michelson translates both, first place winner Natalia Romero and prize winner Mariela Laudecina. However, Michelson’s translations are less compelling and significantly less powerful than the Spanish originals. In both cases, the translations awkward and unable to reproduce the subtleties that give the original poems their force.

Mark Statman was faced with an exceedingly difficult challenge in his translation of Martín Barea Mattos’ works. Mattos’ work plays wonderfully with the Spanish language that creates quite a feat for the translator. Although all translators of poetry inevitably face many challenges, Statman had to make some particularly difficult decisions such as how to translate “vaca-ción” in a way that would maintain one of the focal points of the poem: the “vaca” or “cow” in English. Although Statman’s translation inevitability loses some of its original force, the bilingual translation helps to mitigate some of the loss.

Earth, Water and Sky: An Anthology of Environmental Poetry is an incredibly moving synthesis of art and the issues that beset environmental studies. The combination of contemporary artists with contemporary issues makes this issue exceptionally relevant. SARAS goal, using poetry to exhibit nature and the hopes for a sustainable future, is wonderfully executed in Kercheval’s arrangement of these award winning works and their translations.


Kayla Kayla RodriguezRodriguez currently lives in San Diego, California. She earned her BA in English from San Diego State University and her MA in Comparative Literature from University of Colorado Boulder. She has an insatiable fascination for language, pedagogy and art. Her research interests include language theory, translation theory and South American literature. She is curious about the space between languages and notion of the untranslatable. Her languages are Spanish, Portuguese and French. She is new to the translation scene but plans to start translating more contemporary South American literature.

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MFA in Translation at Mills College

New Program: MFA in Translation
Mills College
Oakland California

Mills College’s new, low-residency, MFA in Translation Program Starts this June. This program is the first of its kind in the San Francisco Bay area. Rigorous and affordable, the MFA in Translation offers the opportunity to work one on one with renowned translators as mentors. Although the focus is literary translation, a semester on Practical Translation is offered that introduces students to current technology and opportunities in other translation fields such medical, legal, business, diplomatic and others.

Each residency is celebrated with a weekend Translation Festival that brings students and different language communities together. This year’s summer residency runs from June 13 to 20, and the Translation Festival will take place on the final weekend. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.

For more info, see, or the Facebook page at

For questions, please contact Achy Obejas, Co-director, at

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Northwestern University’s Buffet Foundation Global Humanities Initiative Announces Prestigious New Translation Prize

Evanston, Ill. – May 19, 2016 – Northwestern University’s Global Humanities Initiative and Northwestern University Press are pleased to announce the establishment of the new Global Humanities Translation Prize. Selected annually by a rotating committee of distinguished international scholars, writers, and public intellectuals, winning translators will receive a $5,000 cash prize. Northwestern University Press will publish the work selected.

The Global Humanities Translation Prize seeks to recognize work that strikes a nuanced balance between scholarly rigor, aesthetic grace, and general readability, especially those that introduce a wider audience to:

– underrepresented and experimental literary voices from marginalized communities
– humanistic scholarship in infrequently translated languages
– important classical texts in non-Western traditions and languages

The Global Humanities Initiative was cofounded under the auspices of the university’s Buffett Institute in the fall of 2015 by Laura Brueck, an associate professor of Indian literature in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, and Rajeev Kinra, an associate professor in the Department of History at Northwestern. “Our goal is to bring much-needed attention not only to the rich humanistic traditions of the non-West, but also to the relevance of those traditions for global development and public policy,” say Brueck and Kinra. “It places Northwestern University within a vital international conversation about the continuing role of the humanities in building a more just, tolerant, and humane twenty-first century.”

Founded in 1893, Northwestern University Press publishes sixty-five scholarly monographs as well as quality works of fiction, drama, nonfiction, and poetry. “The Press’s partnership with the Global Humanities Initiative,” says Press director Jane Bunker, “is very much part of our long tradition of bringing exceptional translations of important works to an English-speaking audience. We expect that this award will bring a renewed measure of academic prestige to the craft of translation itself.”

Interested translators may apply for the inaugural award through August 1, 2016. For submission instructions, applicants may visit the Global Humanities Initiative website or write

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What to Read from Central and Eastern Europe: Part I

by Ken Bruce

In the first of a three-part series, Ken Bruce takes a look at nine translated books from Central and Eastern Europe.

Case Closed, Patrik Ouředník, tr. Alex Zucker

In Case Closed, Ouředník presents his readers with a wonderfully surreal murder mystery, case closedor, well, a mystery of some sort or another.  Narrative ambiguity is to be expected here given that the author himself has translated the triumvirate of ‘pataphysical mischief-makers, Alfred Jarry, Raymond Queneau, and Boris Vian, from French into Czech.  And so as entirely regular Czech citizens indulge in all kinds of undoubtedly noir-ish behavior slip in and out of the narrative, you find yourself asking, are they relevant to the story?  One just has to keep reading to find out, but if you’re feeling at all unsure of your abilities to connect the dots, the author steps in about halfway through the book with this helpful disclaimer:

You ask, How will it all end?  But that, dear readers, we cannot reveal.  We began this story with no clear aim or preconceived idea.  How it will turn out, we do not know; whether it will turn out, we haven’t a clue.  We’re in the same boat as you, or almost, since at this moment, as you read our book, our work is done; the book is out, you bought it, invested part of your earnings in the hope that it would pay off in the form of spiritual dividends.  We don’t mean to be impolite, we have no intention of committing cheap provocations, and yet, and yet, and yet: what do we care:  We’ve assumed the majority of responsibility; now it’s up to you to patiently bear your share.

Aside from such formal hijinks, I can only imagine the difficulties that must have faced translator Alex Zucker as he made his way through a text so heavily saturated with wordplay and pun-making as this one.  Luckily, the reader can at least feel confident of being guided by someone up to the task, as Zucker appears to make sport out of “difficult” Czech literature.  And in the end, the admittedly silly formal trickery of Ouředník’s novella belies a scathing commentary against post-Communist Czech Republic society.  When our protagonist Vilém Lebeda is purchasing vegetables and observes, “The rotten tomatoes were carefully tucked away underneath the good ones, an effect of the last revolution; under the old regime they didn’t bother with such formalities,” you get the feeling Ouředník’s real target is likely something other than produce.


You Do Understand, Andrej Blatnik, tr. Tamara M. Soban

you do understandIn a 1995 interview for the Dominion Review, Anrej Blatnik says that after the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, the “‘great stories,’ of ruling ideologies which are to be fought against, are over, and the so-called Eastern European literature, strangely enough, seems to find itself in an empty, vast space.”  Well, Blatnik himself has chosen to fill this perceived vast, empty space with very many tiny stories, ones populated by a large cast of nameless characters, all trying to navigate a vague, barely defined world.  One story, “Separation,” begins with a man who wakes up in an unfamiliar apartment, next to a woman he met the previous night.  He listens carefully to hear if she is still breathing and expresses relief when, yes, she is still alive, “It would be awful if she wasn’t,” he reflects, “Who would you call?  How would you explain?”  And this is the situation that Blatnik’s characters find themselves in, placed in the ostensibly calm but always precarious morass of the banal, waiting for any catastrophe to happen.  Least of all of these characters the unnamed professor from the story “Learning,” excerpted here in full:

I used to be a university professor, now I live on the street.  Could you spare some change so I could have a square meal and do my laundry?

He had been practicing the two sentences in his mind of a long time.  His lectures, though, continued.  True, no students attended, and hadn’t for a long time, but nobody appeared to notice, and the doorman still nodded to him every time he saw him struggling to insert his key in the lecture-room door.  I have to learn, he thought, someday, someday it’ll come in handy.  I have to learn.

Or alternatively, as is the case of the woman from “Thirty Years” who has been married comfortably for three decades but finds a knife in her hand apparently (and quite unremarkably) about to stab her husband, the moment of catastrophe has come but the complacency, the sheer sameness of reality persists.  Gone are the grand narratives of Soviet-era samizdat, true, but it’s not difficult to imagine Blatnik’s humorous stories being secretly passed around among office workers, a quiet rebellion against a much different kind of ruling ideology.


Dreams and Stones, Magdalena Tulli, tr. Bill Johnston

[I]n any kiosk one can buy a street map of the city, folded into sixteen or thirty-two and marked ondreamsandstones the surface by a special configuration that is like a gateway bristling with the black shafts of the letters W and A, like a great entrance guarding the teeming street names within. These names, printed in the tiniest lettering beneath closed eyes, evoke images of Sunday mornings, autumnal clouds racing across the rooftops, people in overcoats, cracked flagstones in the sidewalk, a music store with cellos in the window, an Alsatian dog with a newspaper in its mouth and a hundred thousand other things. All this breaks off suddenly at the thin line beyond which the white margin begins.

This is the paragraph Angela Woodward excerpts from Dreams and Stones in her overview of Tulli’s complete ouvre for the Los Angeles Review of Books, prefacing it with, “Dreams and Stones especially […] is so amply rewarding sentence after sentence, that it would be achievement enough if it were only a pretty contraption. Opening Dreams and Stones almost at random produces tiny masterpieces of paragraphs.”  Indeed, this is a truly magnificent little book that unfolds like a mystical, (maybe) living puzzle box made from some unstable and many-colored material.  There are no real characters or plot to speak of, just the unrelentingly beautiful transformations undergone by Tulli’s fictional world.  It’s a treat for the mind, but as the world disintegrates from a tree, a machine or a city into a map, a train station or a wasteland, the text continually challenges you to evaluate exactly what it is you’ve gotten your hands on.  Even Tulli and her translator, the fantastic Bill Johnston, disagree as to what this book actually is, Tulli claims it’s a novel, Johnston claims it’s a prose-poem.

And this is perfectly fitting considering what lies at the heart of this work is just how uncertain of a thing language so often turns out to be, making it just the thing to pick up if one wishes to meditate upon translated literature in general.  One can see in the fragility of Tulli’s prose, its moments of uncertainty and leaps of faith that transform the world of Dreams and Stones, echoes of the delicate process of translation, the hazards of carrying over a work from one world to another to create something belonging to but also somewhat removed from both.  Fortunately, Johnston’s translation is also a testament to the kind of powerful, beautiful reading experience that can be won as a result of putting our faith into such a perilous endeavor as that of literary translation.


Ken Bruce lives in Cincinnati, Ohio where he studiesken bruce philosophy at the University of Cincinnati, writes short fiction, and enjoys reading and learning about translated literature from all parts of the world.

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