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.

Advertisements
Posted in ALTA Conference, ALTA Mentorships | Leave a comment

Meet the ’17 Mentees: Madeleine Campbell

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 non-language-specific poetry mentee, Madeleine Campbell:

Madeleine Campbell is a writer, researcher and translator based in Scotland. Born in Canada to American/Slovenian parents, she moved to France at a very young age and wasn’t schooled in English until she relocated from Paris to Toronto as an adolescent. Of significant solace during an alienating first year back in Canada was French poetry, mostly Arthur Rimbaud, whom she read, copied out and recited to herself like a mantra. Of perhaps more lasting benefit was being encouraged by her progressive high school to follow the Québec curriculum in Francophone literature and continue her Latin studies with a university tutor, which helped lay the foundation for what became a lifelong engagement with languages and all things comparative.

When came to study Developmental Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, she gained an insight into the language acquisition process and investigated sociocultural aspects of early bilingualism. The experience gave her a better understanding, in cognitive and neurological terms, of the nature of the bilingual mind and redefined her relationship with her own fragmented linguistic heritage. By then she functioned primarily in English, yet whenever she was engaged in the creative writing process she felt that someone was missing—her other-language persona. This phenomenon could be partly explained by neurological evidence that the multilingual brain actively suppresses the language that is not in use—which suggests, at some level, a continuous tension between competing sounds, words, affect and expression.

She sensed a parallel dichotomy in Francophone Algerian author Mohammed Dib, whose first language was Arabic, when she chanced upon a slender collection of short stories, Le Talisman, in a guesthouse in Morocco. This encounter with an author who, like her, wrote in his second language, is what drew her to literary translation. The polyvalence of his expression and the challenge of rendering this in English is what led her to start this journey by translating fragments of Dib’s prose and poetry for her PhD. In the course of researching her thesis she was also able to explore the complex and layered influences inherent to Francophone Maghrebi literature, from its Arabic substrate to its interdependence with other Mediterranean cultures, including that of medieval troubadour poetry.

She recently met Occitan poet Aurélia Lassaque at the Stanza Poetry Festival and they began to correspond about a possible translation project. Endangered today, Occitan is still spoken in Southern France, in Val d’Aran (Spain) and a few valleys in the Piedmont region of Italy. Occitan and Catalan are closely related but began to diverge in medieval times and are now separate Romance languages with rich and distinct oral and literary traditions.

Madeleine was attracted by multiple facets of Aurélia’s latest bilingual collection En quête d’un visage: in addition to echoes, reminiscent of Anne Carson’s Antigone, of the ancient classical form, Aurélia’s French and Occitan poems are not exact versions of each other as they are each composed ab initio. This allows the translator, whom Aurélia regards as “the author of the translation,” to draw on both sources, affording more freedoms to work in creative partnership with the original poet. They are both therefore delighted to have their nascent collaboration fostered by the 2017 ALTA Emerging Translator Poetry Mentorship Program.

Posted in ALTA Conference, ALTA Mentorships | Leave a comment

Meet the ’17 Mentees: Reilly Costigan-Humes and Issac Stackhouse Wheeler

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 Russian mentees, Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler:

Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler

Reilly Costigan-Humes

Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler are a team of literary translators who met as undergraduates at Haverford College, where they studied Russian language and literature. After studying abroad in Saint Petersburg through the Flagship program, they held various language teaching and commercial translation positions in both Russia and the United States but aspired to one day pursue careers in literary translation.

Their big break came thanks to great contemporary Ukrainian author, poet, and activist Serhiy Zhadan, who is best known to western audiences for his brave participation in the Maidan protests, during which he suffered a violent assault. After establishing a relationship through meetings in Kharkiv and New York, he invited them to translate his novel Voroshilovgrad. This intricate, energetic, and darkly funny magical realist novel tells the story of Herman, a young city-dwelling executive who is drawn back into the local corruption and violence of his hometown in eastern Ukraine. Over the course of his adventures with smugglers, gangsters, and ghosts, he learns that the memories associated with this vast, empty landscape have genuine spiritual value, which enables him to reclaim his identity. In addition to being the story of one man, it is also the story of a newly independent country, and an eerily prescient study of a region that has since become a warzone. Voroshilovgrad enabled the young translators to develop their skills. It was later published by Texas-based non-profit press Deep Vellum and went on to receive positive reviews from journals including the Los Angeles Review of Books, the New Yorker, and the Times Literary Supplement, as well as the translated book of the year prize from the American Association for Ukrainian Studies. The translators were actively involved in Zhadan’s tours to the United States and helped to present his work to distinguished audiences at venues including Columbia University, Yale University, the Bowery Poetry Club, and the Joseph Brodsky Foundation.

Since then, they have continued to pursue literary translation in both Russian and Ukrainian, leading to publications in journals including Coldnoon, the Missing Slate, Trafika Europe, and Two Lines. Wheeler is also a published poet, with work appearing in (or forthcoming from) print and online venues including Post(blank), the Minute Magazine, and the Peacock Journal.

Their most recent project is Literature in Translation LTD, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds to produce more high-quality literary translations. By covering translation and printing costs, this organization will serve to remove the commercial risks that often deter publishers from pursuing translation projects and help them make a wider variety of books available to English-language audiences.
Costigan-Humes and Wheeler are honored and delighted to participate in the ALTA mentorship program, which will enable them to produce an English version of contemporary Russian author Lena Eltang’s breathtakingly beautiful novel Cartagena. They look forward to learning from veteran translator Marian Schwartz and deepening their mastery of their beloved profession.

Posted in ALTA Conference, ALTA Mentorships | Leave a comment

Meet the ’17 Mentees: Marlena Gittleman

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 Catalan mentee, Marlena Gittleman:

Marlena Gittleman is a translator from Catalan and Spanish. She is currently earning a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. A New Jersey native, Marlena obtained a B.A. in Comparative Literature at Barnard College in 2012 and studied abroad in Barcelona, where she later returned to continue studying Catalan. In New York, Marlena worked as a project manager at a translation agency and also volunteered for PEN’s Translation Committee. Through these studies and experiences, she developed a particular interest in translation for its nuanced engagement with language and literature.

Marlena began her Ph.D. at Berkeley in 2015, and her academic program includes Spanish, Catalan, English, and Portuguese. Marlena’s areas of research include genre crossings in 20th century fiction, with an emphasis on conceptualizing some of the global literary movements that shape, define, and even call into question that historical time period. She also works on transatlantic women’s writing, and she is particularly interested in questions of formal and linguistic experimentation, intersubjectivity, voice, the body, and matter, especially as they relate to gender. Marlena has written papers on such authors as Silvina Ocampo, Clarice Lispector, Virginia Woolf, Mina Loy, Montserrat Roig, and Mercè Rodoreda. She also works on the theory and practice of translation in relation to the field of comparative literature.

At Berkeley, Marlena is the co-organizer of the Translation Studies Working Group through the Townsend Center. In the fall of 2017, she will begin co-teaching a course in the Comparative Literature department. The theme of the class will be Multiple Americas, and it will look comparatively at North and South American literature, border crossings, translation, and performance.

Some of Marlena’s translations of contemporary Latin American and Latino writers and artists (such as Francisco Catalano, Johan Mijail, and Eli Neira) have been published in eL Paper, a bilingual arts magazine based in New York and Santiago, Chile. In addition to the project mentioned below, she is working on an ongoing project of translating some of Silvina Ocampo’s short stories that have not yet been published in English, as well as other works of contemporary Latin American fiction by emerging authors.

For the ALTA Catalan mentorship program, Marlena will be translating a semi-autobiographical collection of short stories by the Mallorcan writer Neus Canyelles, titled Mai no sé què fer fora de casa (“I never know what to do outside the house,” 2014). The collection itself adapts and re-writes stories by authors from the global canon, such as Natalia Ginzburg, Katherine Mansfield, and Nikolai Gogol. Through this project, Marlena looks forward to exploring questions of collaboration, intertextuality, re-translation, and perspectives on national and global literatures.

Posted in ALTA Conference, ALTA Mentorships | Leave a comment

Meet the ’17 Mentees: Zoë McLaughlin

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 non-language-specific prose mentee, Zoë McLaughlin:

A native of Rochester, New York, Zoë McLaughlin moved to Ohio to attend Oberlin College. There, she earned her BA in biochemistry and creative writing, happily moving between the two disciplines. After graduation, she was awarded a Shansi Fellowship and spent two years in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. There, she taught academic English and creative writing at Gadjah Mada University. Once her fellowship was complete, she remained in Indonesia for a third year, studying classical Javanese dance at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts Surakarta in Solo as a Darmasiswa scholarship recipient. It was these three years that first sparked her interest in Indonesian language and literature.

Zoë then returned to the United States to study at the University of Michigan’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies where she focused on Indonesian literature. Her MA thesis concerns “Bintang Jatuh” by M. Iksaka Banu and “Pakarena” by Khrisna Pabichara, two recent Indonesian short stories about the riots of 1998. These riots occurred at the end of a thirty-year period during which the expression of Chinese identity in Indonesia was heavily suppressed. While the causes of these riots are complex, the riots are remembered in the public imagination as anti-Chinese in nature. In analyzing these stories, Zoë was particularly interested in how Chinese Indonesian characters are portrayed by authors who are not themselves Chinese. She was also interested in how temporal displacement from the riots has changed the aspects examined in this fiction.

Zoë is currently a student in the University of Michigan’s Master’s in Information program, focusing on Library and Information Science. She is a Spectrum Diversity Scholar and intends to become a Southeast Asia subject librarian. In pursuit of this goal, she is learning other languages of the region, including Thai. She is also focusing on reading more literature in Malay.

Zoë is particularly interested in translating stories by and about Chinese Indonesians. She herself is part of the Chinese diaspora, with family in Malaysia. The Chinese diasporic communities in Southeast Asia share similar histories, particularly those of Malaysia and Indonesia. The Chinese diaspora in both countries has experienced a tumultuous history. The recent imprisonment of Jakarta’s governor, who is of Chinese descent, has brought these issues once again to the forefront of the public’s consciousness. Through this mentoring program, Zoë plans to translate the short stories of a Chinese Indonesian author. She is interested in stories about the diasporic experience, about belonging and not belonging, and about living in a society that is not entirely one’s own.

Posted in ALTA Conference, ALTA Mentorships | Leave a comment