IPTA 2017 Shortlist: We Want Everything

The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2017 Italian Prose in Translation Award. Starting in 2015, the Italian Prose in Translation Award (IPTA) recognizes the importance of contemporary Italian prose (fiction and literary non-fiction) and promotes the translation of Italian works into English. This prize is awarded annually to a translator of a recent work of Italian prose (fiction or literary non-fiction). This year’s judges are Elizabeth Harris, Jim Hicks, and Olivia Sears.

We Want Everything
By Nanni Balestrini
Translated from the Italian by Matt Holden
(Verso Books)

Nanni Balestrini’s We Want Everything (1971), translated for the first time into English by Matt Holden, is unabashedly political—a novel, as Rachel Kushner says in her introduction, that is deeply original and that “succeeds on three different levels simultaneously, as a work of astounding art, a document of history, and a political analysis that remains resonant to the contradictions of the present.” We witness the awakening of an unnamed narrator in 1960s Italy, a worker from the south who migrates north to participate in Italy’s “economic miracle,” only to find the stultifying work conditions of a Turin Fiat plant to be intolerable. The protagonist participates in strikes that were a part of what has come to be known as Italy’s “hot autumn” of 1969. The novel’s magic comes by way of its narrator: vibrant and compelling, the narrative voice is also harsh, and keeps its distance. As the story continues, this voice, still vibrant, speaks increasingly for an entire group of exhausted, enraged workers—and yet the novel avoids being dogmatic or propagandistic. As the legendary leftist Luciana Castellina has put it: Ballestrini created the first true novel in Italy about workers. In English, the complexity and nuance of the narrative voice, shifting seamlessly between the spoken word and descriptions of a new political movement, are of course the work of Matt Holden; his excellent translation remains remarkably true to Balestrini’s original while never faltering as a work of gritty art.

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Announcing the 2017 ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorships!

August 16, 2017 — The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is pleased to announce the mentees for the third year of the ALTA Emerging Mentorship Program. Congratulations to our eight exceptional emerging translators:

Madeleine Campbell (Non-Language-Specific Poetry)
Madeleine Campbell has translated Maghrebi poets for the University of California Book of North African Literature, MPT Magazine and Lighthouse. Her first translations of Occitan poems by Aurélia Lassaque will appear in Poetry at Sangam. She recently contributed an essay to POROI’s Special Issue on the Rhetoric of Translation. Read more about Madeleine here.

Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello (Korean Poetry)
Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello is the author of Hour of the Ox, winner of the 2015 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and 2016 Florida Book Award bronze medal. She is a Knight Foundation and Kundiman fellow, and her work has appeared in Best New Poets, The New York Times, and more. She will complete the Korean poetry mentorship with co-translator E. J. Koh. Read more about Marci here.

Reilly Costigan-Humes (Russian Prose)
Reilly Costigan-Humes is a graduate of Haverford College, where he studied Russian literature and culture. He lives and works in Moscow, and translates literature from the Ukrainian and Russian. He will complete the Russian prose mentorship with co-translator Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler. Read more about Reilly and Isaac here.

Marlena Gittleman (Catalan)
Marlena Gittleman is a translator from Catalan and Spanish. She is currently earning a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, and obtained a B.A. in Comparative Literature at Barnard College. Some of Marlena’s translations of contemporary Latin American writers have been published in eL Paper, a bilingual arts magazine. Read more about Marlena here.

E. J. Koh (Korean Poetry)
E. J. Koh is the author of A Lesser Love, recipient of the 2016 Pleiades Editors Prize. Her poems and translations have appeared in Boston Review, Columbia Review, World Literature Today, PEN America, & elsewhere. She has accepted fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Kundiman, Vermont Studio Center, Jack Straw Writers Program, & others. She earned her MFA at Columbia University in New York for Poetry & Translation and is completing her PhD at the University of Washington for English Language and Literature. She will complete the Korean poetry mentorship with co-translator Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello. Read more about E. J. here.

Joungmin Lee Comfort (Korean Prose)
Joungmin Lee Comfort is a U.S.-based translator born in South Korea. She lived in Korea and France for 22 years before relocating to the U.S. where she has worked as an interpreter, ELL teacher, and a translator over the past 18 years. Read more about Joungmin here.

Zoë McLaughlin (Non-Language-Specific Prose)
Zoë McLaughlin translates Indonesian literature. Currently, she is a Library and Information Science student in the University of Michigan’s School of Information. She holds an MA in Southeast Asian Studies, also from the University of Michigan. Read more about Zoë here.

Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler (Russian Prose)
Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler is a translator and poet from New England, best known for his English version of great contemporary Ukrainian author Serhiy Zhadan’s novel Voroshilovgrad with co-translator Reilly Costigan-Humes, with whom he will also complete the Russian prose mentorship. Read more about Isaac and Reilly here.

Mentees will present their work during a special lunchtime reading as part of ALTA40: Reflections/Refractions, held October 5-8, 2017, in Minneapolis, MN. More information on the conference is available at www.literarytranslators.org/alta40.

Mentors for the 2017-18 ALTA Mentorship are Mara Faye Lethem (Catalan), Sora Kim-Russell (Korean prose), Don Mee Choi (Korean poetry), Marian Schwartz (Russian prose), Bill Johnston (Non-Language-Specific Prose), and Steven Bradbury (Non-Language-Specific Poetry). These mentorships are offered by ALTA in partnership with the Institut Ramon Llull, the Literary Translation Institute of Korea, the Russian Federation Institute of Literary Translation, AmazingCrossing, and the Amazon Literary Partnership. Details about the program are available at www.literarytranslators.org/awards/mentorships.

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Meet the ’17 Mentees: E.J. Koh

The ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program is designed to facilitate and establish a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a project selected by the emerging translator. The mentorship duration is approximately one year. The emerging translator is expected to choose a project that can be completed in a year’s time, and they will only be advised on that particular project. Congratulations to this year’s Korean poetry mentee (along with Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello), E.J. Koh:

After completing her MFA at Columbia University in New York for Poetry and Literary Translation, E. J. Koh moved from New York City to Seattle, Washington where, among packing boxes, she discovered sixty love letters written to her in Korean and posted by her mother overseas from 2004, or during their nearly nine years of separation. For the next two years, she traveled to residencies like The MacDowell Colony, Vermont Studio Center, Kundiman, and others for a space to translate the heart of her mother’s letters written during the time of Koh’s long-wrought childhood where she stayed behind in the United States at the age of fourteen while her parents moved to South Korea. Speaking at conferences like AWP and the Asian American Educators Alliance, Koh presented her letters to reveal the emotional trauma and surprising levity in moments that alight the reader to a mother’s love and daughter’s resilience. Koh then met her literary agent and began her memoir alongside the letters in a forthcoming title, How to Age with Grace.

Koh has since documented Korean women’s history through her work on subjects of comfort women, satellite families, and the Sea Women of Jeju Island, or her family’s homeland. She authored her debut poetry book A Lesser Love, winner of the 2016 Pleiades Editors Prize, called “first rate, intelligent, pure-gold – a triumph” by Boston Review editor and author of The Cloud Corporation Timothy Donnelly. She won numerous national prizes and has been featured in magazines across the country. She is currently collaborating with Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello on the translation of Yi Won’s poetry books When They Ruled the Earth (1996) and The Lightest Motorcycle in the World (2007) as winners of the 2017 ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship under Don Mee Choi. She will excavate the unique struggle of interpreting Korea’s neglected past and present while simultaneously addressing the lack of representation by modern Korean women poets available in the country. Poet Yi Won recalls an ancient past juxtaposed with the current technological immersion, merging the sixteenth and twenty-second centuries, using the gap to strike down political disillusionment and materiality of identity.

Koh’s poems and translations have appeared in Boston Review, Columbia Review, Southeast Review, World Literature Today, TriQuarterly, Narrative, The Margins, PEN America, La Petite Zine, and elsewhere. She is completing her PhD at the University of Washington for English Language and Literature in Seattle where she further researches the Korean diaspora and the culture-specific phenomena of Jeong, or most closely translated as a bond or bondage by love.

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Meet the ’17 Mentees: Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello

The ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program is designed to facilitate and establish a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a project selected by the emerging translator. The mentorship duration is approximately one year. The emerging translator is expected to choose a project that can be completed in a year’s time, and they will only be advised on that particular project. Congratulations to this year’s Korean poetry mentee (along with EJ Koh), Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello:

June 24, 2017. Kundiman Retreat 2017. Fordham University, Bronx, NY. Photography by Margarita Corporan

Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello was born in South Korea and adopted at an early age to a family in rural upstate New York. In order to give her some cultural background, her parents enrolled her in Korean language classes at a local church. Between high school and college, she took a gap year to live in Seoul, where she tutored ESL students and volunteered at an orphanage. Upon returning to the US to earn a dual BA in English and Creative Writing at Carnegie Mellon University, she began writing poems about Korea as a way to stay connected to the culture and history to which she had previously had little access.

Cancio-Bello earned her MFA in creative writing from Florida International University in 2014, becoming the first Asian American poet to graduate from the program. During this time, one of her professors taught a course on poetry in translation, whose texts included Stephen Mitchell’s Rilke texts and Robert Hass’s translations of Japanese haiku masters such as Basho, Buson, and Issa. Both of these translators strongly influenced her own poetry and opened the door for her to further explore poetry in translation.

In order to combat feelings of isolation from her identity as an Asian American woman, she specifically sought out Korean translations, but found only a handful of texts. When she discovered Don Mee Choi’s anthology, Anxiety of Words, she understood how little contemporary Korean poetry is available in translation, particularly by female authors.

At the same time, she attended a Kundiman Poetry Retreat, where she met EJ Koh, who was publishing translations of Korean female poets along with her own work. Since then, she and Koh have been collaborating to establish conversations and communities to support female Korean writers, and to introduce translations of the Korean poet Yi Won into English.

She looks forward to not only engaging with female poets from her native culture, but also engaging in critical and creative examinations of the translation process. She hopes that her background in the craft of poetry will provide a unique perspective into translating the nuanced lyricism of the original Korean texts into English. She is grateful to ALTA for the opportunity to partner with EJ Koh in the mentorship program with one of her literary heroes, Don Mee Choi.

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Meet the ’17 Mentees: Joungmin Lee Comfort

The ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program is designed to facilitate and establish a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a project selected by the emerging translator. The mentorship duration is approximately one year. The emerging translator is expected to choose a project that can be completed in a year’s time, and they will only be advised on that particular project. Congratulations to this year’s Koren prose mentee, Joungmin Lee Comfort:

Joungmin Lee Comfort was born and raised in Seoul except for the five years her family lived in Paris when she was a young child. Following graduation from college, about 18 years ago, she moved to the U.S. and mostly blundered away while learning the American way- its language and people- and a great deal she had not known about herself or the culture from which she came. In retrospect, turning her gaze outward before turning it inward was an essential step for her, and the ‘blundering years’ were something that had to be, and for which there was no other alternative.

“The English language is so limited. It only has one word for describing each color, whereas our language (Korean) has multiple words, like…”
“The English language has the largest vocabulary of all languages…”
One’s perception is her reality; and Joungmin confesses that she fell for each of these conflicting myths at one point or another in the early stages of her bilingual life due to the limitations of her own starter’s linguistic tool kit. It was only after achieving a certain level of proficiency and acculturation that the intricacies and quirks of each language and culture began to occupy her attention. In the end, the lasting knowledge to glean was the essential sameness of human experience, regardless of how it is expressed.

Over a decade ago, her perceptive brother suggested that she consider becoming a translator since she liked reading and had always been a decent writer, at least in the Korean language. She’s afraid that she might have actually laughed in his face: although she had always had a love of reading, as well as a vague interest in languages and culture born mostly of practicality and exposure in childhood, she never imagined she would become a translator, or pursue any other professions related to the world of literature, especially one which would require her to sit down and write. For her, writing was (and still is) arguably one of the most difficult tasks to begin or finish. Consequently, she has no formal academic background in literature, linguistics or translation to show for. Instead, she have a B.S. in Economics from Kyunghee University in Korea, which she followed with two years of studying Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management at SUNY Plattsburgh, and a few years later, a VT state educator’s license to teach English Language Learners. Fortunately, she did put herself through an intense period of independent reading and writing on linguistics in preparation for a peer review required for the ELL educator’s license. Though she loathed it plenty at the time, doing the work was a first step in the right direction, as it equipped her with the knowledge and vocabulary to express, or to merely recognize the feelings and thoughts inside her own head regarding language, culture, acculturation, etc. that even she had not been privy to. The perspective she gained through the effort, along with the everyday experiences she continues to accumulate as a bilingual and bicultural person, secure the base of her literary translation endeavor.

In the interest of conciseness: she quit teaching when she moved to Korea for a year with her husband and two kids in 2013. It turns out a person is not infinitely malleable. She was a certain kind of person regardless of how she saw herself, and repeatedly brushing against the boundaries of her strengths and limitations finally helped her to see what line of work she truly desired to pursue despite the uncertainty of the voices in her head. There, she began to work for a translation company specializing in academic research papers. In 2015, she was awarded LTI Korea’s translation grant for the non-fiction category. This year, on what seemed like an impulse, she challenged herself to translate a piece of literary fiction which she submitted for ALTA’s mentorship program.

It is said that we first learn to read, but then beginning around the third grade, we read to learn – to catch meaning from a text. With translation, there is yet another level of reading. It is a special privilege to be one of the first persons to read the text as carefully and intentionally as the originally writer, who most likely worked with the assumption that readers would read his/her creation with as much attention to detail as he/she put into it. And that is a key principle which guides her translation effort in the absence of formal training. Being awarded this mentorship has set off a cascade of relief, excitement, and gratitude within her; an opportunity has opened up for her to finally learn the science and art of literary translation from such an accomplished translator as Sora Kim-Russell.

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