Hrabal, Translation, and “Owning” Languages: An Interview with Stacey Knecht

Conducted by Rachael Daum

Let me dive right in, and I hope you don’t mind my getting personal right off. You got your education at the Royal College of Music, and I’m interested in how that experience and aspect of your life plays into translation and literature, if it does at all?

Oh it absolutely does! Music and translation are tightly and wonderfully linked. When I teach translation, I always talk about the relationship between the two. Whether you’re translating prose or poetry, you’re always thinking about sound and rhythm, about the music within the text. I call it “translating by sound”. Very occasionally I’ve translated a passage or a sentence entirely by sound, with less regard to the actual meaning of the text, because if I’d stuck too closely to the meaning I’d have ended up with stilted English.

Stacey and Zuzu

Stacey Knecht and Zuzu, the sidekick to the interview.

Can you describe your translation process? You translate from Czech and Dutch into English. Do you find your process differs at all in either language?

They do differ somewhat, in that I’ve been speaking and reading Dutch much longer than Czech. I live in the Netherlands, I speak and hear and read Dutch all day long, so it’s just easier, you know? But I love Czech so much more, I love the literature so much more, and I’m not ashamed to say it. The Czech Republic is my home of homes – something very special happens to me when I’m there, everything falls into place. I suppose what characterizes my translation of both languages is my slow tempo — though I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I like to think things over – in a big way. I could never be an interpreter, because by the time I’d decided how to translate a sentence, the whole audience would’ve fallen asleep. When I work, I usually have six or more dictionaries open at a time, I read and re-read and re-re-read and edit the hell out of the manuscript. I want the translation to be as perfect as it can be. I want to be able to read it again later on and not have things jump out and wag their finger at me. Life is too short not to be able to produce work you’re truly proud of. Not that everyone needs to work this way, but it just happens to work best for me. I’m also lucky to be in a position, financially, where I can allow myself the time I need. I’m not a full-time translator, nor would I even want to be. I’m very involved in language education, for instance, in setting up a special Dutch-language “clinic” for the many refugees now trying to make a new home for themselves here in my town. Language is an essential part of that process.

Are there any authors, particularly Czech, whom you have a special affinity for?

Not surprisingly, I love the work of Bohumil Hrabal. I first began studying Czech so I could read his work in the original. But I really feel I’ve only just begun to understand his world – there’s so much there. As far as other Czech authors… I’m not sure how to answer that yet. I’m still learning, and the more I learn the less I know—a cliché, but true. I always feel a strong connection to the books I’ve translated, especially while I’m translating them. I’ve met and gotten to know all my authors, except for Hrabal, who died in the early 90’s, before I ever even spoke a word of Czech. Working directly with an author can teach you a lot. For one thing, you’re working on a translation of a book the author has already finished, sometimes years before. It’s in their past and they’re usually involved in something new. I’ll ask them questions about the text and they’ll say, “Hm, I can’t remember what I meant by that sentence,” and I’ll think, but you wrote it! But why should they remember? They’ve closed that chapter, as it were. I’ve learned to figure out more of these linguistic problems by myself, but it does take time to learn to trust your translator’s intuition. There’s also a lot of trust involved – on both sides — in working with authors. One writer I worked with said, before we actually began, that to her, being translated was like being raped, which is quite a statement. She poured her heart into her books, and then translators would come along and tear them all apart.

Hrabal was the first non-living author I’ve ever translated. That has its advantages and disadvantages. I’ve often joked about having a séance, bringing Hrabal back to ask him a thing or two. I’ll admit, while translating Harlequin’s Millions I’d sit here at my desk talking to him, aloud, gazing up at the ceiling, as if he might be hovering there somewhere —and whether or not he really was, I found it comforting to think so. I felt very responsible for the book, and for him. I sometimes doubted my ability to do what I’d set out to do, also because he wasn’t there to physically share in the process, or to give his me his approval on particular choices I’d made. On the other hand, it did give me the freedom to make those choices myself.

When Harlequin’s Millions first came out in 2014, I gave a reading at 192 Books, in NYC, my home town. It was a dark, rainy night [laughs]… and as I was reading someone came in, bundled in rain gear from head to toe, so I couldn’t see his face. He stood there by the door, directly opposite me, with the audience between us, and left as soon as I’d finished. I like to think it was Hrabal himself, and I hope he was satisfied with what he heard.

I understand that you were on the jury for the Best Translated Book Award in Fiction this year. That must’ve been exciting! Could you describe what it was like?

It was great fun! I’d asked Chad Post years ago if I could be on the jury, and this year there was an opening. As it happened I was the only jury member overseas. I think it’s a good thing to have a native-English-speaking-juror or two based in Europe, because I think we have a slightly different perspective on the annual literary harvest than readers and jurors in the US: for instance: for instance, which European-language books end up being selected for translation into English and which do not. Unfortunately, in the end, Chad decided that the costs of sending books to Europe outweighed the usefulness of an overseas juror, so I won’t be on the jury for 2017. This is actually good news for my nearest and dearest, because the stacks of books were taking over the house. All my neighbors knew what I was up to, because I often wasn’t home when a new box of books was delivered, and the packages and boxes were left in their care. When I came to pick them up, they’d look at me incredulously: Do you have to read all this?

The truth is, it was a bit overwhelming at first. And again: this feeling of great responsibility, towards the authors, the translators, the publishers. Fortunately, you’re working with eight other “book nerds”, as one of my fellow jurors called us, and we’re all in pretty much the same boat. There’s always someone to turn to, if need be, and there’s a lot of positive energy – and humor! You have to tell yourself not to panic, and also to realize and accept that some of these are books you just won’t like, and that’s okay. Each of the nine jurors is required to read one-ninth of the books and to know these books really well, so that we can argue for or against them when the time comes. In addition, we’re asked to read as many of the other books as possible. It’s fascinating to discuss books in this context. The views can diametrically opposed, but sometimes everyone feels exactly the same way about a particular work. This is a prize for the best translated book award, not just the best work of fiction, and that’s part of the challenge. Sometimes a translation will be weak, even though you suspect the original is probably quite good, and vice versa. That can be frustrating, but it makes it possible to eliminate quite a number of books at the very beginning. It gets harder as time goes on, because when you weed out the weaker ones, the books and translations you’re left with are increasingly better. I’m an extremely critical reader, and I hate to say it, but I did feel that some of the best works of fiction on our longlist were unevenly translated, though my views weren’t always shared by the other jurors. I realized that this unevenness may not have been the fault of the translator, but the result of shaky prose in the original, or perhaps insufficient editing. Still, we all worked very hard and with as much integrity and honesty as we could.

Being a BTBA juror taught me to read in a much more focused way, because I had to. It was thrilling toward the end, you get really hung up on the book you want to win and even slightly annoyed at anyone else who feels otherwise. I couldn’t sleep the night before we learned who had won—it had somehow become very personal. The excellent novel that did win, Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Mexican author Yuri Herrera and translated by Lisa Dillman, wasn’t actually my first choice. But you just have to let it go.

You’ve also won a number of translation prizes, including the Vondel Prize in England, in its inaugural year, for your translation of Marcel Möring’s The Great Longing. How did it feel to win it in its first year? Do you feel that your translation somehow set the tone for following years?

You know, I’m so used to just sitting here in my little house in the east of Holland, doing my job, and every now and then sending something out into the world. So when people tell me, “I’ve read your translation!”, I’m amazed that the translation even still exists, much less that it’s won a prize. That’s not false modesty – that’s really how it feels to me. I do think it was a very good translation; I worked really hard on it, together with the author, and I was proud of what we’d done.

As far as getting the prize in its inaugural year — that was pretty cool. Pioneer-ish. I wouldn’t claim that it set the tone for the following years, though. No idea. I hope not, because I think a jury – which often isn’t even composed of the same members as the year before — should start afresh with each new selection of books.

I’ve really enjoyed reading your thoughts on Hrabal over at Slavische Studies, about his unique style and, as you say, how he often preferred the comma to the period. You expressed dissatisfaction with previous translations of Hrabal; was it beneficial to have these to consciously move away from?

Well, it’s always fun to think to say to yourself: I’m going to do this completely differently! I enjoyed having those other Hrabal translations to butt heads with, as it were, and I learned a lot by reading and comparing them. It puzzled me, as I wrote in the article you mention, to discover translations in which publishers had cut Hrabal’s long, meandering sentences into little pieces, divided page-long blocks of text into neat paragraphs, eliminated “difficult” cultural references. It made no sense to me as a translator, and as a reader, I felt cheated.

What are the benefits or detriments of being the first to bring a particular text, or author, into English? Seeing as how you’ve done both?

It’s exciting, but also a bit scary. Back when The Great Longing first came out in English, publishers were always going on about literary “waves”—the Latin American wave, the Russian wave — and there was talk that this might be the start of a Dutch wave. I just hoped it would be the start of something good for the author, whose work had never appeared in English before.

But then there’s someone like Hrabal, who is known and loved in many countries, including the US and the UK. I assumed — and rightly so, as it turned out — that my translation would be compared to what had come before, not least because this was my first translation from the Czech. I also assumed that people would question my knowledge of the language, and my hubris for even attempting such a task. Like, “Who does she think she is?!?”[Laughs.] Fortunately, the book was well received. It was even a runner-up to the Best Translated Book Award 2015, and now, having been on the jury, I know what that means. I’m working on two new Hrabals at the moment, for my favorite US publisher, Archipelago. No matter how long you’ve been translating, it’s always important to approach each new text as if it’s the first time – because really, it is — to ask lots of seemingly stupid questions and use all your senses to find the answers. But I don’t think it’ll be as scary this time around.

Rachael Daum is the Publicity Managerme for ALTA. She earned her Bachelor’s in English: Creative Writing at the University of Rochester, and has an MA in Russian language and literature in Russian language and literature from Indiana University. Her hope is to continue work in translating literature from Russian, German, and Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian. She lives in New York City. You can find her @Oopsadaisical.

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Influences and Translation in Culture: Interview with Wolfgang Hermann, Part II

Conducted by Allison Grimaldi-Donahue

This is the second of a two-part interview with Wolfgang Hermann, author of many works including Herr Faustini Takes a Trip. You may find the first part here

Can you talk a bit about writers or other artists that have inspired your work? 

Well there are so many authors that mean a lot to me. As a reader you have a seperate and secret life, the one you share with your author. There are so many of them that I love. Authors of the German early romantic period, or the unique Hölderlin, then Goethe and Kleist and so many others of  that time. After these the great French writers of 19th century like Flaubert and Stendhal and poets like Rimbaud. Later then Marcel Proust who created an entire cosmos within his readers. And so many others up to the great Japanese writers from Basho to Inoue, from Sei Shonagon to Akutagawa. And hundred other names throughout the centuries.

Your influences are really interesting, they reach across time but also across the “eastern/western” divide.  In fact, reading Herr Faustini there is something Buddhist about his interactions with the world— do you think there is something, reaching back into history, that connects all literatures somehow? Can we as writers learn from a variety of traditions and is that culturally acceptable?

Faustini lives in a small world but then life shows him there is a way out by realising that everything is already there, the full gift of life. This is an experience across cultures and borders. It means becoming aware of what it means to be human. I think the source of this meaning is universal and as old as mankind.

I think this previous question also arises because of the current political situation in Europe. A lot of people feel that we need to defend “our culture” and I often find myself asking if we have a particular culture as Europe but then also distinct from other parts of the world, and if so what it represents. If we do have a particular culture, then would it not be found in literature? What do you think of these ideas?

Sufi poet Rumi wrote in 13th century verses and epigrams of universal beauty and wisdom. The most dangerous antagonist to wisdom and freedom was throughout the centuries religious fanaticism. It always divided people one from the others. If you consider the other as nonbeliever it is only a step to annihilate his right to exist. So tells all religious fanaticism. Facing this literature is powerless. The strength of literature was across the borders of time and culture to show what it means being human, being vulnerable and naked in the face of loneliness, of love, of death.

On this note, what texts from other cultures would you like to see Austrians/Europeans reading?  What could we all learn from them?

Texts that give you an insight in what it means to be a human being, starting from the old epics like the Gilgamesh, the verses of Rumi, the Tibetan Book of the Dead as well as Parzival, the verses of Basho, from the Shinkokin-wakashu to Nagai Kafu, from Rimbaud to Anna Karenina.

Since ALTA is translation focused it is quite fitting that much of your favorite work reaches across languages and cultures. Have you ever translated? If yes, what and if not would you like to?

I translated a long interview Andy Warhol did with Truman Capote for Rolling Stone magazine. I discovered it one day in a New York bookshop, maybe it was at fleemarket, this was long ago. I translated it into German, it came out 1993. This conversation is very funny and kind of weird.

That is basically all that I translated except some poems by an Italian friend.

I adore translators, they work so hard and have to have so many skills in order to do a good translation which often demands to re-create, to re-write the poem, the novel in the other language. Translators have to be poets, writers just without the freedom of creating something out of the blue. They do such an important work, the bring different cultures together and give readers the chance to see the universal human basics we all have in common.

How do you see the future of literature in translation changing the literary landscape in your own country but also internationally?

I think literature is a key for a deeper understanding of other cultures and a way to see all the essential things we share with others throughout time and cultural differences.


Allison Grimaldi-Donahue is a writer and translator originally from Connecticut.  Her fiction, essays and translations have appeared in The American Reader, The New Inquiry,addddddOmega Metatron, and tNYpress Eeel.  She was awarded an NEA Translation grant to the Vermont Studio Center for her translation work on Davide Orecchio’s novel Città distrutte. Sei biografie infedeli. In summer 2015 she was a Katherine Bakeless Fellow at the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference.  Allison is contributing fiction editor at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, an online literary and arts journal.  She earned her BA from St. Michael’s College, an MA from Middlebury College in Italian, and an MA from the University of Toronto in Comparative literature. Allison is also pursuing her MFA in fiction and translation in the low-residency program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives and works in Bologna, Italy.



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Philosophy, Anti-Heroes, and Whether We’re Ever Actually Finished with Characters: Interview with Wolfgang Hermann, Part I

Conducted by Allison Grimaldi-Donahue

Wolfgang Hermann is a prolific Austrian writer whose work I had never encounteredmr-faustini-takes-a-tripprior to reading his latest book in English translation, Herr Faustini Takes a Trip. The short novel, translated by Rachel Hildebrandt and reviewed by ALTA here, contemplates life choices each of us make and the ever present possibility for change. It is the story of one man and his very small steps out into the wider world. My exchange with Wolfgang via email was quite lovely, we talked about books, influences and the changing (literary) landscape of our home, Europe. This is the first part of a two-part interview.

Do you consciously see yourself as writer of philosophical fiction?

I would not consider myself a writer of philosophical fiction. But what is important to me is the language and the inner images. I want to create strong and pure inner images.
Herr Faustini needs the world around him, he is living on his own, not to forget his cat. He is curious and tender while meeting other people. He would never judge anybody. When it comes to a trip to Ticino where his sister lives his life opens up, nothing will be the same as it was before. He who was afraid of going on this trip because he felt that nothing would be as it used to be — he is now ready for a radical change because of what happened when he met his niece and how he became aware of how emotionally poor and secluded he was living on all his life. There is a kind of soft revolution going on in Herr Faustini. The book is about inner transformation and the beauty of ordinary things. It is more about emotions than abstract thoughts. I did not intend to illustrate my thoughts by this story. I wanted to show a character in his small world.

This is a character in a small world, and therefore maybe it is a bit ironic he is the protagonist of your first text in translation. With these emotions and this soft revolution— do you think there is something unique this book can bring to English language readers?

A small world can contain the whole world, Herr Faustini is attentive and emphatically. He is an average man but I hope also English readers will be interested to see and feel his inner world within the small world he lives in.

Is this notion of soft revolution something present your other work? Do you think of writing in some way as a soft revolution?

Wolfgang Hermann

Wolfgang Hermann

I think the more attentive and present in daily life the deeper a character gets. Herr Faustini is vulnerable but authentic. For my writing I can say that I am rather looking for authenticity than for spectacular effects.

I understand there are other Herr Faustini texts? Was this always the plan or has the project grown in a more organic fashion?

This autumn the fourth Faustini novel will be published in German: Herr Faustini bleibt zu Hause [Herr Faustini Stays Home]. I was not through with this character after the first novel so I went on to accompany him. Meanwhile, I wrote several other books very different from the Faustinis, novels, short stories, books of poetry, libretti. But I came back to Faustini — looks like I love him, and cannot live without him.

I am wondering, since you work in so many genre, how you know which form is appropriate for a certain idea or story. How do you decide?

My first two books (Das schöne Leben, 1988; Die Namen die Schatten die Tage, 1991) were collections of shorter prose. I tried to create small worlds within very little space. These texts were almost poems or, as the French say: poèmes en prose. This very dense form is the nucleus of my writing. Although I extended this form in longer prose, the short form remained the inner nucleus. Maybe I am a kind of poet who writes prose.

You say that the Herr Faustini stories are very different from the other work, what exactly is different about this other work?

Faustini was a way to say things in a crazier way. He is a member oft the family of anti-heroes like Don Quixote, Monsieur Hulot, the soldier Schwejk, or the sad and silent anti heroes of Robert Walser. I would write these stories with a lighter hand.

What draws you to writing an anti-hero?

The anti-hero is an old and honorable figure in the history of literature. Unfortunately, I am not the first author to create such a character. I can tell a story in a lighter way when I see the world through the eyes of someone like Herr Faustini. This is also a relief for me. When I am writing poetry I have a different access to the world.

Do you think an anti-heroes are a type that can reach across cultures?

I think the anti-hero is easy going, a lot of readers like this kind of apparently weak and sympathetic character. I say apparently because they are strong in their weakness. Monsieur Hulot for example conquered the heart of the movie goers all over the world, or Kaurismäkis strange and eccentric characters. I know, movies are another story, they get much easier access to a great number of people than books.

Allison Grimaldi-Donahue is a writer and translator originally from Connecticut.  Her fiction, essays and translations have appeared in The American Reader, The New Inquiry,addddddOmega Metatron, and tNYpress Eeel.  She was awarded an NEA Translation grant to the Vermont Studio Center for her translation work on Davide Orecchio’s novel Città distrutte. Sei biografie infedeli. In summer 2015 she was a Katherine Bakeless Fellow at the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference.  Allison is contributing fiction editor at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, an online literary and arts journal.  She earned her BA from St. Michael’s College, an MA from Middlebury College in Italian, and an MA from the University of Toronto in Comparative literature. Allison is also pursuing her MFA in fiction and translation in the low-residency program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives and works in Bologna, Italy.

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What to Read from Latin America: Mexico

by Simone Visentin

Latin America has been home to many successful and influential writers including Octavio Paz, Gabriel García Márquez, and Isabel Allende, just to name a few. Latin American authors have been recognized for their novels full of description and imagery, and made their countries the home of important literary movements such as the Latin American “Boom” or Mexican “Crack Generation.” In this series of articles, we present a number of literary works that have been considered the most influential and important in Latin America and translated into English. I will begin with my own beloved country, Mexico.

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfopedro paramo
Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, 1994

Published in 1955, this is the only novel written by Juan Rulfo and yet is not only considered the most representative novel of Mexican literature but also one of the most influential novels in the world: in fact, Gabriel García Marquez claimed that this novel helped him create his own brand of magical realism. Moreover, this work is the pinnacle of magical realism thanks its imagery, immense descriptions, and its way of breaking of the notion of time and space used by Rulfo, making this story appear timeless. It is the emotional and dramatic story of a man named Juan Preciado who, after his mother’s death, goes searching for the titular Pedro Páramo — his father — to reclaim what his father took away from them when he abandoned them. Upon arriving in Comala, the town where his father lived, he begins talking to the inhabitants of this ghost town and, through the stories of the people, comes to understand who his father was. Moreover, it turns out that the people of this ghost town are themselves in fact more dead than alive. This short novel is made up of different short stories that represent the testimonies of the inhabitants of Comala. Since its publication, this thrilling and passionate novel has been translated into more than 20 different languages. The novel was translated into English by Margaret Sayers Peden in 1994, who did an amazing job recreating the emotions and thrill that this iconic novel offers in the original Spanish. If you enjoy magical realism and are interested in Mexican literature, this is the perfect novel to get you started.

labyrinth of solitudeEl Laberinto de la Soledad / The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz
Translated by Lysander Kemp, 1994

Published in 1950, this is one of the most important works of Octavio Paz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990. This book-length essay, divided into nine parts, is truly a primer towards the understanding of complex Mexican culture and the historical factors that shaped Mexican identity. Octavio Paz focuses on an underlying theme of solitude. According to him, the experience of solitude is behind every Mexican’s understanding of death, social interaction and personal identity. Stemming from the indigenous understanding and celebration of death, Mexican people by nature do not fear its solitary force. But with the arrival of the Spanish and European thought, the uncertain nature of death became of greater concern to the Mexican people. As for social interactions, Octavio Paz argues that the fiesta offers a sense of unity and community among people: it is an opportunity to escape solitude and show one’s true identity, which is usually hidden behind a mask of reservation. Paz’ perspective on Mexican nature showcases the way in which Mexicans inherited two different cultures–indigenous and Spanish. By failing to embrace either part of their compound identity, the Mexican people fall into a labyrinth of solitude. This book is a must-read for every Mexican. Octavio Paz’s amazing writing style will trap you in this book, like the titular labyrinth; the only escape is in finishing it. The book has been translated into English by Lysander Kemp, who must have had a difficult time translating this great essay as much slang and many Mexicanisms are present throughout the entire work.

Aura, by Carlos Fuentesaura
Translated by Lysander Kemp, 1986

First published in 1962, this short novel by Carlos Fuentes, winner of the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, is one of the most particular and eccentric novels of Mexican literature. One unique characteristic of this novel is that it is written in the second person, which gives the sense that Fuentes is talking right to you as a reader. This is the ghostly love story between a young man, Felipe Montero, and a young woman, Aura, appearing to him as a ghost. Felipe gets hired by an old widow named Consuelo to finish writing the memoirs of her late husband, the General Llorente. The more time passes, the more his love for Aura grows and the more he starts to realize who he really is—and who Aura is as well. This short novel is clearly a representation of the literary genre of magical realism. The novel is spooky and the more you read, the more you feel yourself in the story as Felipe Montero himself. The book begs to be finished in one sitting, which is possible as it is only 62 pages long. The novel was translated into English by Lysander Kemp in 1986 and is available in a bilingual edition to read in both English and Spanish. For those of you who enjoy thrilling ghost stories, this is definitely a great novel for you.

Stay tuned: The next entry will be for Venezuela!

Simone Visentin is a student in Toronto, Canada. He is working to complete his degree in SimoneCommunication Studies and a certificate in Spanish-English translation at York University. He is passionate about languages and music. He speaks Italian, Spanish, English and French. He is also a songwriter, music producer and Radio Host for Radio Glendon.

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June 2016: What’s New in Translation!

Compiled by Carrina LaCorata and Maggie Zebracka

Abahn Sabana DavidAbahn Sabana David by Marguerite Duras
Translated from French by Kazim Ali
Published on: June 14, 2016

Late one evening, David and Sabana—members of a communist group—arrive at a country house where they meet Abahn, the man they’ve been sent to guard and eventually kill for his perceived transgressions. A fourth man arrives (also named Abahn), and throughout the night these four characters discuss existential ideas of understanding, capitalism, violence, revolution, and dogs, while a gun lurks in the background the entire time.

Suspenseful and thought-provoking, Duras’s novel calls to mind the plays of Samuel Beckett in the way it explores human existence and suffering in the confusing contemporary world.
— Open Letter Press

Marguerite Duras wrote dozens of plays, film scripts, and novels, including The Ravishing of Lol Stein, The Sea Wall, and Hiroshima, Mon Amour. She’s most well-known for The Lover, which received the Goncourt Prize in 1984 and was made into a film in 1992. This is her third book to be published by Open Letter.

Kazim Ali is a poet, essayist, and novelist, and has published a translation of Water’s Footfall by Sohrab Sepehri in addition to co-translating Duras’s L’Amour. He teaches at Oberlin College and the University of Southern Maine.


Among Strange VictimsAmong Strange Victims by Daniel Saldana Paris
Translated from Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
Published on: June 7, 2016

Rodrigo likes his vacant lot, its resident chicken, and being left alone. But when passivity finds him accidentally married to Cecilia, he trades Mexico City for the sun-bleached desolation of his hometown and domestic life with Cecilia for the debauched company of a poet, a philosopher, and Micaela, whose allure includes the promise of time travel. Earthy, playful, and sly, Among Strange Victims is a psychedelic ode to the pleasures of not measuring up.
— Coffee House Press

Daniel Saldaña París (born Mexico City, 1984) is an essayist, poet, and novelist whose work has been translated into English, French, and Swedish and anthologized, most recently in Mexico20: New Voices, Old Traditions, published in the United Kingdom by Pushkin Press. Among Strange Victims is his first novel to appear in the United States. He lives in Montreal, Quebec.

Christina MacSweeney has an MA in literary translation from the University of East Anglia and specializes in Latin American fiction. She has also translated Valeria Luiselli’s novels, Faces in the Crowd and The Story of My Teeth, and essay collection, Sidewalks.


Baba Dunja’s Last Love by Alina BronskyBaba Dunja's Last Love
Translated from German by Tim Mohr
Published on: June 7, 2016

Government warnings about radiation levels in her hometown (a stone’s throw from Chernobyl) be damned! Baba Dunja is going home. And she’s taking a motley bunch of her former neighbors with her. With strangely misshapen forest fruits to spare and the town largely to themselves, they have pretty much everything they need and they plan to start anew.

The terminally ill Petrov passes the time reading love poems in his hammock; Marja takes up with the almost 100-year-old Sidorow; Baba Dunja whiles away her days writing letters to her daughter. Life is beautiful. That is until one day a stranger turns up in the village and once again the little idyllic settlement faces annihilation.

From the prodigiously talented Alina Bronsky, this is a return to the iron-willed and infuriatingly misguided older female protagonist that she made famous with her unforgettable Russian matriarch, Rosa Achmetowna, in The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine. Here she tells the story of a post-meltdown settlement, and of an unusual woman, Baba Dunja, who, late in life, finds her version of paradise.
— Europa Editions

Russian-born Alina Bronksy is the author of Broken Glass Park (Europa, 2010); The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine (Europa, 2011), named a Best Book of 2011 by The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and Publisher’s Weekly; and Just Call Me Superhero (Europa, 2014).

Tim Mohr is a New York-based translator, writer, and editor. He has translated the German novels Guantanamo, by Dorothea Dieckmann, Wetlands and Wrecked by Charlotte Roche, Broken Glass Park and The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky.


BeforeBefore by Carmen Boullosa
Translated from Spanish by Peter Bush
Published on: June 28, 2016

Part bildungsroman, part ghost story, part revenge novel, Before tells the story of a woman who returns to the landscape of her childhood to overcome the fear that held her captive as a girl. This powerful exploration of the path to womanhood and lost innocence won Mexico’s two most prestigious literary prizes.
— Deep Vellum Publishing

Carmen Boullosa, one of Mexico’s leading writers, has published nearly twenty novels. Her most recent novel, Texas: The Great Theft, won the 2014 Typographical Era Translation Award and was shortlisted for the 2015 PEN Translation Award.

Peter Bush is an award-winning literary translator of Spanish, Catalan, French, and Portuguese from the UK. A former director of the British Centre for Literary Translation, Peter became a professor of Literary Translation at Middlesex University and later the University of East Anglia.


Cold Shoulder by Markus WernerCold Shoulder
Translated from German by Michael Hofmann
Published on: June 10, 2016

Moritz Wenk is a moderately unsuccessful artist work- ing part-time as a commercial painter. He forms a harmonious if uncommitted couple with Judith, a dental hygienist. During a hot week in summer, Moritz reflects on his own position in life while mediating a marital dispute between two friends, hosting a dinner party for neighbors he hates, and turning thirty-eight. Told with Werner’s customary charm, spleen, and baroque artistry, Cold Shoulder is a comic portrait of an unexceptional modern man struggling to make the decisions that will bring his life meaning.
— Dalkey Archive Press

Markus Werner was born in 1944 in Eschlikon, canton of Thurgau, Switzerland. Having written his dissertation on Max Frisch, Werner worked as a teacher in Schaffhausen before becoming a full-time writer in 1990. He is the author of seven novels, including On the Edge (2004), and has won numerous prizes.

Michael Hofmann is an award-winning poet, critic, and translator from German. Among his translations are works by Thomas Bernhard, Ernst Junger, Franz Kafka, Wolfgang Koeppen, Joseph Roth, and his father, Gert Hofmann.


Brandes' DecisionBrandes’ Decision by Eduard Marquez
Translated from Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem
Published on: June 28, 2016

Brandes, a painter living in the Nazi-occupied Paris, will have to make a tough decision: Goering has taken away all his work and asked him to hand him over his Lucas Cranach painting, a family relic. If he does so, he will retrieve them, if he refuses to do it, he will never get them back.
— Hispabooks

Eduard Marquez lives in Barcelona. He published two books of poetry in Spanish before writing Zugzwang, his first work in Catalan. He has continued writing in Catalan, publishing another collection of short fiction, twelve children’s books, and four novels. His work has been translated into German, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish.

Mara Faye Lethem has translated novels by Jaume Cabré, David Trueba, Albert Sánchez Piñol, Javier Calvo, Patricio Pron, Marc Pastor and Toni Sala, among others. These books have been featured as New York Times and Booklist Editors’ Picks, and among the Best Books of the Year in The Times and Readers’ Favourite Books in the Financial Times. Her translation of The Whispering City, by Sara Moliner, recently received an English PEN Award.


Don’t Leave Me by Stig SaeterbakkenDon't Leave Me
Translated from Norwegian by Sean Kinsella
Published on: June 24, 2016

17-year-old Aksel Morander encounters Amalie and it proves a turning point in his life. Not only does he fall in love for the first time but is introduced to a world unfamiliar and unconventional, that places everything around him in a new light. Finding himself raised up from the loneliness and darkness of what has gone before, he is forced to reassess all he holds dear as he is initiated into what makes life worth living. But jealousy and fear of abandonment lurk in the shadow of this first love.

An intense novel about loneliness and agonizing passion, employing a reverse chronology, that moves toward a fateful beginning.
— Dalkey Archive Press

Stig Saeterbakken (1966 – 2012) was one of Norway’s most acclaimed contemporary writers. His novels include Through the Night and Siamese (also published by Dalkey Archive).

Sean Kinsella was born in Ireland and holds an MPhil in literary translation from Trinity College, Dublin. He has previously translated work by Frode Grytten and Bjarte Breiteig into English, and currently resides in Norway with his wife and two daughters.


Francis Bacon's ArmchairFrancis Bacon’s Armchair by Sebastien Brebel
Translated from French by Jesse Anderson
Published on: June 10, 2016

The unnamed narrator of Francis Bacon’s Armchair has just been released from an extended stay at a psychiatric hospital and now has only one objective: to shut himself away in his apartment and contemplate the best way to restart his life. But his obsession with Cathie, a young woman he met during his convalescence, drives him out of his bedroom one night in search of a telephone―which leads him two floors below into the apartment of his morbidly obese neighbor, Sauvage.

Sauvage is a translator overwhelmed by his current project, The Dictionary of Rare and Incurable Diseases, and by the inherent difficulties of his profession. The narrator begins paying regular visits to his mysterious neighbor, and the two isolated men develop a bizarre relationship dominated by fear, jealousy, and mutual fascination.

A hypnotic and philosophically dense novel, Francis Bacon’s Armchair deftly weaves between explorations of loneliness, language, and obsession.
— Dalkey Archive Press

Sebastien Brebel was born in 1971 in Argenteuil, France. He lives in Nantes, France where he teaches Philosophy, and is the author of three novels, of which this is his second to appear in English.

Jesse Anderson is a freelance translator. This is his first book-length publication.


French Love Poems by Louise Labé, Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, French Love PoemsPaul Valery, Paul Éluard, Albertine Sarrazin, and Tynan Kogane (editor)
Translated from French by various translators
Published on June 28, 2016

In 1853, bursting with emotion, Charles Baudelaire confessed to his muse Madame Sabatier: “Sometimes, I can find relief only in composing verses for you.” Is there any better way of expressing feelings of passion and longing than with poetry? The French have excelled at this, resulting in a rich tradition of love poetry: theirs is the language of love.

Filled with devotion and lust, sensuality and eroticism, fever and overture, these poems showcase some of the most passionate verses in the French language. From the classic sixteenth-century love sonnets of Louise Labé, to the piercing lyricism of the Romantics, to the dreamlike compositions of the love-drunk Surrealists, French Love Poems is the perfect, seductive gift for the one who makes your heart flutter.
—New Directions

Louise Labé was born in Lyon in 1525 (or perhaps a few years earlier); she died in Lyon in 1566. Both her father and her husband were wealthy ropemakers: she herself was called, therefore, “la belle Cordiere.” She came to be known for her wit and beauty, and her belligerent vitality as well. At an early age she learned Greek, Latin, Spanish and Italian. She was a proficient horsewoman, and did “military exercises” as a girl. She appears to have enlisted in the Dauphin’s army and to have fought, in her teens, in the siege of Perpignan. She accumulated an eminent library, and formed an elaborate salon; and her remaining years were marked by a celebrated and somewhat cantankerous intimacy with certain contemporary poets and poetesses, such as Olivier de Magny.

Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) was born in Paris, France. The importance of his work in the Western world is difficult to overstate—Walter Benjamin, T.S. Eliot, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, the Symbolists, and effectively all things modern and afterward emerged at least in part from the work of this probably eccentric, certainly masterful poet. Perhaps his best known work is Les Fleurs du mal, translated as The Flowers of Evil.

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898) was the great French Symbolist poet. According to his theories, nothing lies beyond reality, but within this nothingness lies the essence of perfect forms and it is the task of the poet to reveal and crystallize these essences. Mallarmé’s poetry employs condensed figures and unorthodox syntax. Each poem is built around a central symbol, idea, or metaphor and consists of subordinate images that illustrate and help to develop the idea. As well as changing the course of modern French literature, his work influenced James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, and Wallace Stevens.

Paul Valery (1871–1945) was a French poet and philosopher. Born in Herault, on the coast of the Mediterranean, Valery studied law, then moved to Paris, where he met his mentor, Stephen Mallarmé. In 1931, he founded the Collège International de Cannes which still admits students. Due in part to the death of Mallarmé, Valery entered a period of silence where he wrote no poetry for nearly twenty years, finally breaking his silence with La Jeune Parque (1917) his most famous piece.

Paul Éluard (1895–1952), born Eugene Émile Paul Grindel, was a French poet instrumental in the Surrealist movement, which he later abandoned for the French Communist Party. The more than seventy books he published included poetry, literary and political works. During his lifetime, he married three times and befriended other surrealists such as Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso. He died in Charenton-le-Pont in 1952.

Albertine Sarrazin (1937-1967) was a French-Algerian writer. At an early age she abandoned her studies and turned to a life of crime and prostitution. She wrote her first two novels in prison and died at twenty-nine.


Invisible HandsInvisible Hands by Stig Saeterbakken
Translated from Norwegian by Sean Kinsella
Published on: June 24, 2016

Inspector Kristian Wold is assigned to a year-old missing person’s case. His superiors’ instructions are clear: one last review before they shelve it. Nevertheless, when the mother of the 14-year-old missing girl asks to see him, his conscience gets the better of him and he agrees to a meeting; a meeting that has unforeseen consequences for both of them.
— Dalkey Archive Press

Stig Saeterbakken (1966 – 2012) was one of Norway’s most acclaimed contemporary writers. His novels include Through the Night and Siamese (also published by Dalkey Archive).

Sean Kinsella was born in Ireland and holds an MPhil in literary translation from Trinity College, Dublin. He has previously translated work by Frode Grytten and Bjarte Breiteig into English, and currently resides in Norway with his wife and two daughters.


Orthokosta by Thanassis ValtinosOrthokosta
Translated from Greek by Jane Assimakopoulos and Stavros Deligiorgis
Published on: June 28, 2016

First published in 1994 to a storm of controversy, Thanassis Valtinos’s probing novel Orthokostá defied standard interpretations of the Greek Civil War. Through the documentary-style testimonies of multiple narrators, among them the previously unheard voices of right-wing collaborationists, Valtinos provides a powerful, nuanced interpretation of events during the later years of Nazi occupation and the early stages of the nation’s Civil War. His fictionalized chronicle gives participants, victims, and innocent bystanders equal opportunity to bear witness to such events as the burning of Valtinos’s home village, the detention and execution of combatants and civilians in the monastery of Orthokostá, and the revenge killings that ensued.

As a transforming work of literature, this book redefined established methods of fiction; as a work of revisionist history, it changed the way Greece understands its own past. Now, through this masterful translation of Orthokostá, English-language readers have full access to the tremendous vitality of Valtinos’s work and to the divisive Civil War experiences that continue to echo in Greek politics and events today.
— Yale University Press

Thanassis Valtinos was born in the Peloponnese, in southern Greece. He has established himself as one of the country’s most innovative writers, revered and imitated by many.

Jane Assimakopoulos is an American-born translator living in Greece. She is currently a translation editor working on a series of books by Philip Roth. She lives in Greece.

Stavros Deligiorgis is a University of Iowa professor emeritus in English and Comparative Literature. He is the author of books and articles on literary theory and translation.


The PoorThe Poor by Raul Brandao
Translated from Portuguese by Karen Sotelino
Published on: June 10, 2016

The Poor (Os Pobres, 1906), by Portuguese author Raúl Brandão is a powerful tribute to the underclasses. Innovative thematically and stylistically, the novel consists of loosely connected vignettes on two narrative levels: the lives of prostitutes, where the inexorable need for love is transformed into a means for survival; and the life of Gebo, a seemingly slovenly man, with neither sentiment nor intelligence. Instead, as he searches tirelessly for work ― and loves his daughter and wife with tenderness and constancy ― he is revealed as a victim of the economic situation in Portugal. With prescience, Brandão emphasizes the interdependence between nature and humankind by intertwining descriptions of the physical and human surroundings, while his depictions of desperation, sorrow and violence prefigure the works of contemporary Portuguese writers.
— Dalkey Archive Press

Raul Brandão was a Portuguese writer, journalist, and also a military officer. He was part of the group “Nefelibatas” and the “Geração de 90”, of the 19th century, and is best known for his realistic fiction that is pervaded throughout by lyricism. He published three novels: A Farsa (1903), Os Pobres (“The Poor”, 1906), and Húmus (1917). He died in 1930.

Karen Sherwood Sotelino has translated novels, short stories, and technical texts from Portuguese into English. Recently, she has taught Portuguese language and translation at Stanford University, where she is visiting scholar in the department of Iberian and Latin American cultures.


Raw Material by Jörg FauserRaw Material
Translated from German by Jamie Bulloch
Published on: June 7, 2016

In Raw Material Jörg Fauser casts an eye over the times he lived in and his own life: his time as a junkie in Istanbul, the move to a commune in Berlin and a squat in Frankfurt, work on an underground magazine, and his unceasing efforts to get a novel published. The autobiographical testament of Fauser’s alter ego Harry Gelb is an unsparing, razor-sharp, but often lovingly ironic portrait of the 1960s and 70s. It is a portrait of the artist to rank with the best, and a portrait of the ferment of Europe at that time.
— Serpent’s Tail

Jörg Fauser was born in Frankfurt in 1944. After abandoning his studies he lived in Istanbul and London before moving back to Germany, where he made his living as a writer of fiction and poetry. He died in Munich in 1987.

Jamie Bulloch is a British historian and translator of German literature.


Rio NoirRio Noir by Various Authors
Translated from Portuguese by Clifford Landers
Published on: June 7, 2016

Brand-new stories by: Tony Bellotto, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, MV Bill, Luiz Eduardo Soares, Guilherme Fiuza, Arthur Dapieve, Victoria Saramago, Arnaldo Bloch, Adriana Lisboa, Alexandre Fraga dos Santos, Marcelo Ferroni, Flávio Carneiro, Raphael Montes, and Luis Fernando Verissimo.

From the introduction by Tony Bellotto:

“The images of Rio de Janeiro are well known: high rises aligned along white sandy beaches, a blue sea, freshwater lakes, and luxuriant forests that stretch through winding mountains of stone…the open arms of Christ the Redeemer blessing a happy, cordial, mixed-race people ever ready to dance a samba or offer a welcoming smile to the tourists who move about in the streets admiring beautiful women shimmying nude atop floats in Carnival parades…Opa!

This is not a tourist guide. The city revealed in this book is a different Rio. Even though famous landscapes are present in the pages of Rio Noir, what is exposed here is a world of shadows, blood, intrigue, violence, hideouts, and mystery (and also of humor, of course, as is necessary with any undertaking involving Cariocas)…Whether we have succeeded in deciphering an enigma with the dramas of our procurers, card readers, colonels, cops, traffickers, socialites, slum dwellers, embezzlers, tourists, brokers, detectives, journalists, politicians, assassins, editors, outlaws, travelers, coup plotters, writers, lovers, and everyday citizens, I don’t know. But we have surely added a large shadow to the sunny landscape of this wonderful city.”
— Akashic Noir

Clifford E. Landers has translated from Brazilian Portuguese novels by Rubem Fonseca, Jorge Amado, João Ubaldo Ribeiro, Patrícia Melo, Jô Soares, Chico Buarque, Marcos Rey, Paulo Coelho, and José de Alencar and shorter fiction by Lima Barreto, Rachel de Queiroz, Osman Lins, and Moacyr Scliar. His translation of Pedro Rosa Mendes’s Bay of Tigers: An African Odyssey was published by Harcourt. He received the Mario Ferreira Award in 1999 and a Prose Translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for 2004. His Literary Translation: A Practical Guide was published by Multilingual Matters Ltd. in 2001. A professor emeritus at New Jersey City University, he now lives in Naples, Florida.


So Much for that Winter: Novellas by Dorthe Norsso much for that winter
Translated from Danish by Misha Hoekstra
Published on: June 21, 2016

Dorthe Nors follows up her acclaimed story collection Karate Chop with a pair of novellas that playfully chart the aftermath of two very twenty-first-century romances. In “Days,” a woman in her late thirties records her life in a series of lists, giving shape to the tumult of her days–one moment she is eating an apple, the next she is on the floor, howling like a dog. As the details accumulate, we experience with her the full range of emotions: anger, loneliness, regret, pain, and also joy, as the lists become a way to understand, connect to, and rebuild her life.

In “Minna Needs Rehearsal Space,” a novella told in headlines, an avant-garde musician is dumped via text message. Fleeing the indignity of the breakup and friends who flaunt their achievements in life, career, and family, Minna unfriends people on Facebook, listens to Bach, and reads Ingmar Bergman, then decamps to an island near Sweden, “well suited to mental catharsis.” A cheeky nod to the listicles and bulletins we scroll through on a daily basis, So Much for That Winter explores how we shape and understand experience, and the disconnection and dislocation that define our twenty-first-century lives, with Nors’s unique wit and humor.
— Graywolf Press

Dorthe Nors received the 2014 Per Olov Enquist Literary Prize for Karate Chop, which Publishers Weekly named one of the best books of 2014. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and A Public Space.

Misha Hoekstra is a writer, songwriter, and translator of Scandinavian literature.


They were Coming for HimThey Were Coming for Him by Berta Vias Mahou
Translated from Spanish by Cecilia Ross
Published on: June 28, 2016

Jacques (Camus’s alter ego), recalls the last years of his life. Famous for his opposition to any form of violence whatsoever, his ideas met the disapproval of the intelligentsia of the time, and he was threatened to death. This would trigger in him a recurring nightmare: They Were Coming For Him—to kill him.
— Hispabooks

Berta Vias Mahou (Madrid, 1961) is a Spanish literary fiction writer and translator. She has translated the works of renown German-language writers such as Joseph Roth, Arthur Schnitzler and Goethe. She has written short stories, an essay on the role of women in literature, and four novels. She is winner of the Premio Dulce Chacon de Narrativa and the Premio Torrente Ballester de Narrativa, two prestigious Spanish literary fiction awards.

Cecilia Ross is an American translator and editor who has spent nearly the entirety of her adult life abroad, residing for the bulk of those years in Madrid, Spain. She has been an editor at Hispabooks since 2014, and her published works include the first ever translation of the poetry of Dorothy Parker into Spanish, Los poemas perdidos (Nórdica Libros, 2013, with Guillermo López Gallego). Her translation into English of Beatriz Espejo’s The Egyptian Tomb is included in a forthcoming anthology for Words Without Borders, and she has also translated a work of nonfiction by the award-winning Mexican investigative journalist Lydia Cacho, Memoir of a Scandal (forthcoming). When not working, Cecilia can be found enjoying life, the universe, and everything with her husband and two Spanglish-fluent children.


Too Close to the Edge by Pascal GarnierToo Close to the Edge
Translated from French by Emily Boyce
Published on: June 14, 2016

Recently widowed grandmother Éliette is returning to her house in the mountains when her car breaks down. A stranger offers help and Éliette gives him a lift, glad of the company and interruption to her routine.

A tale of retirement and calm domesticity, with a hint of menace about to explode.
— Gallic Books

Pascal Garnier is a leading figure in contemporary French literature, in the tradition of Georges Simenon. He lived in a small village in the Ardèche devoting himself to writing and painting. Garnier died in March 2010.

Emily Boyce is an in-house translator for Gallic Books. She lives in London.


2x62×6 by Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova, Carlos Leon, Aleksandra Malecka, and Piotr Marecki
Translated from French, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Polish by a computer
Published on: Summer 2016

2×6 consists of short “stanzories”—stanzas that are also stories, each one relating an encounter between two people. Appearing in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Polish, the stanzories are generated by a similar underlying process, even as they do not correspond to one another the way a translation typically does to a source text. These sixfold verses are generated by six short computer programs, the code of which is also presented in full. These simple programs can endlessly churn out combinatorial lines that challenge to reader to determine to whom “she” and “he,” and “him” and “her,” refer, as well as which is the more powerful one, which the underdog. Generating 2×6 is a simple process, and readers are invited to study the programs and even modify them to make new sorts of text generators. Reading the output can be much more difficult, as the text that is produced crosses syntax with power relations and gender stereotypes, multiplying those complexities across six languages.
—Les Figues Press

Nick Montfort lives in New York City and teaches at MIT. He is an author or editor of a dozen books and has developed, individually or in collaboration, more than fifty digital art and poetry projects.

Serge Bouchardon is professor at the University of Technology of Compiègne (France). His research focuses on digital creation, in particular digital literature; as an author, he is interested in the unveiling of interactivity.

Andrew Campana is a poet, translator, and Ph.D. candidate in modern Japanese literature at Harvard University.

Natalia Fedorova is a mediapoet, translator, and a curator of the 101 Mediapoetry Lab. She teaches digital art and creative writing with new media at St. Petersburg State University.

Carlos Leon is a post-doctoral researcher at Complutense University of Madrid, studying computational creativity and the computational modeling of narrative.

Aleksandra Malecka is a translator and translation studies researcher who works with electronic, experimental and otherwise unconventional literature. She collaborates with the Kraków-based Ha!art Publishing House.

Piotr Marecki is assistant professor at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and lecturer at the Polish National Film, Television and Theater School in Łódź. Since 1999 he has been editor-in-chief of Ha!art Publishing House, which he co-founded.


Carrina LaCorata has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of South CarolIMG_1665ina with a major French and a minor in Theater and a Master’s degree from New York University in Literary Translation: French to English. She is currently working on building her career as a freelance translator (and hopes that literary translation will be a part of that). Carrina is excited to be an intern with ALTA and learn more about the literary translation world.

Maggie Zebracka is a graduate of Wellesley College and Vanderbilt University. Originally zebrackafrom southeastern Poland, she currently lives and writes in West Texas.

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