Meet the ’18 Mentees: Lauren Dubowski

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 Polish prose mentee, Lauren Dubowski, who will be mentored by Bill Johnston:

Lauren Dubowski PhotoLauren Dubowski comes to translation from a lifelong passion for the arts and a fascination with communication across cultures. Born in New York, she grew up in the culturally, linguistically, and politically diverse town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. From an early age, she took classes in French, along with art, music, and theatre, in the public school system. She later worked in technical theatre, and interned at the American School for the Deaf, learning American Sign Language.

Lauren received a BA/MA in French literature at Bryn Mawr College. There, she also studied Italian, as well as theatre at Swarthmore College. The subject of her thesis was Renée Vivien, a British writer in French active in Belle Époque Paris. Lauren went on to work in the Philadelphia arts community, where she helped launch the Headlong Performance Institute. Additionally, she studied Polish at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, through scholarships from the Kosciuszko Foundation.

Lauren’s interests led her to Yale School of Drama, where she has trained as a dramaturg, researcher, teacher, translator, and writer in the Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism department. As an MFA student, she collaborated on many productions in a variety of creative roles; participated in a theatre for social change workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and served as an artistic associate and artistic director of the Yale Cabaret. Lauren then spent a year in Yogyakarta, Indonesia as a Luce Scholar. While drawn to explore puppetry there and in other countries in Asia, she also developed an interest in film, newly aware of its global impact. She began to produce film and new media projects with Ado Ato Pictures, a production company she now continues to work with in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Lauren’s DFA dissertation at Yale School of Drama is focused on the “Young Poland” theatre and visual artist Stanisław Wyspiański, and includes her English-language translations of several of his dramas. She has been fortunate to see many of his plays performed in Poland, thanks to the support of the Fulbright Program and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale. With this project, she hopes to encourage greater awareness of Wyspiański’s work internationally.

Lauren has contributed translation and writing to publications such as European Stages, The Theatre Times, and Words Without Borders. She was also recently commissioned by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute to translate Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s 1925 novel Farewell to Autumn into English. Lauren is thrilled for the opportunity to dive into and share the timely, unique prose drama of Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska (1891-1945) as an Emerging Translator mentee.

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Meet the ’18 Mentees: Fiona Bell

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 prose mentee, Fiona Bell, who will be mentored by Marian Schwartz:

Fional Bell PhotoFiona Bell grew up in the United States, South Korea, and France. After reading Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons in high school, she became intensely curious about Russian culture and began learning the language in university. Fiona spent one summer in St. Petersburg, Russia at the Derzhavin Institute. In 2017 she received a Critical Language Scholarship to study Russian in Nizhni Novgorod, where she learned, among other things, to garnish all food with a generous amount of sour cream.

In 2017 Fiona received a grant to visit the apartment-museums of two female, Russian poets: Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva. The poets wrote letters to each other for years, diverging on most issues of poetry and politics, but ultimately forming a friendship. In 2017 Fiona wrote Letters and Dreams, a play that imagines the only meeting between these two poets, which occured in 1941 but had no witnesses. Fiona translated the poets’ work and incorporated it into the script, attempting to adapt the Russian tradition of poetry recitation for the American stage. The play was staged at Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts in 2018. Fiona is eager to continue exploring the possibilities of poetry on stage at this year’s performance-themed ALTA conference.

Fiona took two translation courses during her junior year, translating excerpts of Tolstoy, Lermontov, Bulgakov, and others. For her thesis in translation, she translated a collection of poems by Elena Isaeva, a contemporary Moscow poet. In her poems, Isaeva resurrects people through memory, making her former schoolmates, family members, and lovers as present as those who are physically near. By conjuring figures from her past, Isaeva revives her own past selves: child, student, lover. One of the joys of translating her poetry was discovering the many experiences and identities of a contemporary Russian woman. The American understanding of Russia is so heavily based on male figures, whether Putin on the news or Tolstoy in literature classes. These pictures are incongruous with Fiona’s own experiences in Russia, which have been quite female-centered. As a scholar and translator, she is wholeheartedly devoted to translating female voices from Russia.

Fiona is pursuing an MPhil degree in Modern Languages at Oxford University, where she continues to study Russian drama, poetry, and translation. She is currently writing a play that adapts Valentin Rasputin’s 1976 novel Farewell to Matyora into a dramatic exploration of family, grief, and and climate change in contemporary Florida. In general, Fiona is interested in the exchanges between Russian and other cultures. She has written about how seventeenth-century French dramas were “translated” on stage for nineteenth-century Russian audiences. She researched the hybrid architecture of Japanese Russian Orthodox churches, focusing on Tokyo’s Nikolai-do cathedral. She also studied “Journey Beyond Three Seas,” a 1957 film in Hindi and Russian that celebrates the friendship between the Indian and Soviet governments. Fiona is excited to learn more about various languages and cultures by connecting with other translators at this year’s ALTA conference.

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Meet ALTA’s Assistant Managing Director, Rachael Daum!

Rachael Daum joined ALTA in 2014, and became Assistant Managing Director in 2017. This interview was conducted over e-mail.

Q: You’ve worked for ALTA for 4 years now. What changes have you seen in the organization during that time that excite you?

A: It’s been a pleasure to witness ALTA’s growth as I’ve seen my own role at ALTA grow as well. From being the social media manager as a graduate student and then coming into my role as Assistant Managing Director, I’ve seen the organization expand—we now offer the Emerging Translator Mentorship Program, for example, which has been a joy to 1528185410639 (2)see grow (thanks to Allison Charette’s tireless work). It’s also been such a pleasure to see the organization start to speak more about diversity and advocacy as we discuss more about ensuring that people of color are included in discussions of translation (ALTA offers the Jansen Fellowship now, for example), and people who identify as women, as well (it is #WiTMonth, after all!). Additionally, I’m happy to see that we have more and more of our membership engaging, whether it’s by donating (last year we had ¼ of our membership donate to ALTA), volunteering their time with us, coming to the conference—or all three.

And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t note my enthusiasm about the affiliation between ALTA and the University of Arizona as ALTA makes its move to Tucson, AZ; I’m looking forward to seeing what this partnership brings.

Q: You translate from two languages that are fairly well-represented in translation in the U.S.: German (74 works translated into English in the U.S. in 2017, all stats taken from the Three Percent database) and Russian (18 works in 2017). But you also translate from Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian (9 works total in 2017). Tell us about the differences you perceive in translating from well- and under-represented languages into English.

A: I feel very fortunate that I grew up speaking German, another major world language, so that when I did get into translation thanks to the literary translation certificate program at the University of Rochester and internships at Open Letter, it was relatively easy for me to find texts to translate and—even more important—much-needed guidance. I’ve also been fortunate in finding invaluable teachers and mentors in the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian community as I’ve been learning, living, and working in Belgrade. Whereas there is much more institutional support when translating German and Russian, I find that it’s even more personal when working with BCS: because there are not as many dictionaries available on- or off-line, for example, there have to be that many more face-to-face conversations, especially with the immensely rich selection of work not yet translated into English from the Balkans. I’m so grateful for my friends’ patience as I ask about slang and informal use of Serbian grammar!

Q: You live in Belgrade, Serbia. What does it mean for you as a translator to be immersed in the language and culture from which you translate? Do you find that your community in Belgrade has a different relationship to literary translation than does your U.S. community?

A: As I’m sure many in this community feel, I really think it’s crucial to be as immersed in the language you translate as possible—for me, I just feel so lucky that I get to live in one of my favorite places in the world while speaking a language every day that I love so much and am so humbled by; I really do feel that I get to learn something every day. It’s also wonderful that bookstores still have such a presence in Belgrade: I found the authors I’m translating currently because I stumbled across their poetry in bookstores when I had a free hour.

As to attitudes toward literary translation, being a translator is much more commonplace here seeing as Serbian is a lesser-represented language. And one of the best things about this is that no one makes comments about how Google Translate is going to put us out of work!

Q: Of which of your translations are you the proudest? Which provided the greatest challenge?

A: I’m still very much an emerging translator, so my answer to both of these questions is circus shardamthe same: I translated Circus Shardam, an absurdist children’s puppet play by Soviet dissident writer Daniil Kharms. It was filled with challenges, number one being: it has to be funny for children! It was a joy and a challenge to try to render the text in English so that it would be funny to contemporary American children, which is going to be a different kind of funny than it was to Russian children in the 1920s. But it was also humbling to realize how much humor is international—who doesn’t love seeing a wooden puppet bonked on the head and break the fourth wall? I’m delighted that at this year’s conference in Bloomington, IN, which has a theater theme, a section of this play will be performed live, alongside the translations of the fabulous Anne Fisher, Gregary Racz, and Zachary Scalzo.

Q: What is your favorite part of managing ALTA’s communications and social media?

A: This is perhaps cheesy, but it has to be seeing how relevant literary translation is every day. We put out posts twice per weekday, which at first seemed like a lot; but the translation world is extremely active, so there’s always something on, it’s always growing. And it’s a joy to get to celebrate the work of ALTA members—I feel there’s always someone getting an award for their work, which means more books I need for my shelf.

Q: You completed your master’s in Russian Language and Literature, as well as studying Literary Translation, at Indiana University where ALTA41: Performances, Props, and Platforms will be held in just a few months. What are you most looking forward to in Bloomington? What should attendees look forward to there?

A: I am so looking forward to seeing the many folks in this really wonderful community and getting to nerd out with them about translation, celebrate their work, and meet many people I’ve only corresponded with over email. Besides this, I admit I’m very food-oriented: Bloomington is a wonderful place for food and drinks, so I’m looking forward to getting vegan donuts (something sadly lacking in Belgrade!) from Rainbow Bakery when I arrive.

Q: What three things do you need in order to translate?

A: A pile of dictionaries, a hot drink—and my cat!

Rachael Daum has worked with ALTA since 2014, and became ALTA’s Assistant Managing Director in 2017. She received her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Rochester and MA in Slavic Studies from Indiana University; she also received Certificates in Literary Translation from both institutions. Her original work and translations have appeared in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, TRANSverse, The Airship Daily, Mt. Island Magazine, Literary Laundry, and elsewhere. Rachael lives and works in Belgrade, Serbia, where she also runs a teaching and translation agency called Black Birch, and translates from Serbian, Russian, and German. Find her on Twitter at @rclouisedaum.

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On Ukrainian Bookstores, Translating Hawking, and Hemingway Haunts: An Interview with Translator Hanna Leliv

by Reilly Costigan-Humes

This interview between Ukrainian translator Hanna Leliv and ALTA emerging translator mentee Reilly Costigan-Humes was conducted over email.

Reilly Costigan-Humes: You’ve studied translation theory both in Ukraine and America. Are there any fundamental differences in terms of what schools of thought are emphasized or deemphasized?

Hanna Leliv: I had a chance to study translation theory at the University of Iowa’s MFA in Literary Translation program during my Fulbright fellowship there and, eight years ago, at the Lviv Ivan Franko National University in Ukraine where I did my MA inhemingway_birthplace_oak_park (1) English Language and Literature. I must admit, though, that translation studies were not my major back then and I took only a few related theoretical courses and workshops. Still, certain fundamental differences are obvious. In Ukraine, the reading list—at least eight years ago—covered classical translation theory (Schleiermacher, Benjamin, Nida), but more contemporary theorists were missing. Again, the situation might have changed over the past eight years. One of the aspects I really appreciated at the University of Iowa’s program is that the syllabus—while covering the classical approaches at length—leans toward the contemporary theorists (Spivak, Venuti, Chamberlain) and the latest trends. When I did my MA, the issues of gender in translation, the politics and power dynamics of translation, various ethical and advocacy issues related to translation did not exist in our theory classes. At the same time, the Ukrainian syllabus covered not only Western schools of thought, but also Ukrainian and Russian schools of translation. Looking back, I find it interesting to compare those approaches with the Western frameworks, tracing the similarities and the distinct features of the Ukrainian / Russian schools. I think it would be worthwhile if Western syllabi gave some insights into what’s going on in the translation studies domain in the Central and Eastern Europe, Asian countries or other, non-Western, regions. So far, those areas seem to be overlooked in a traditional syllabus. 

R.C.H.: You translate both into and from English. What are the most pressing challenges you face when working into Ukrainian? What about into English?

H.L.: I have a much longer experience of translating into Ukrainian, my mother tongue, than into English. It was only after I arrived in the USA on a Fulbright and enrolled in the translation workshops that I ventured to try my hand at working into English. I say “ventured”, since the ability or “right” of someone to translate into their second language is still a subject of heated discussions and triggers certain reservations and anxieties. The experience of working between the languages proved invaluable for me, as the nature, the inner mechanisms, and the subtleties of both languages—Ukrainian and English—became even more vivid and distinct, once each of them started to act as both a source and a target language. As a mediator in this two-way communication, I became more aware how these languages work in the interplay with one another and in which ways their systems differ. The challenges of translation remain pretty much the same, regardless into which language I work—how to build an authentic voice, how to render the author’s individual style into another language, how to recreate natural dialogues and deal with informal speech, slang, obscenities, dialects, etc. Punctuation works differently in these two languages, so this is something I should constantly keep an eye on so as not to create a nightmarish overload of m-dashes, colons, and semicolons in English or commit an error of frequency in Ukrainian. The issues of tone, register, temporal fabric are always there, as well, regardless which language are you working into.

R.C.H.: In 2009, most bookstores in Kyiv had a rather small selection in terms of Ukrainian-language titles. In 2016, the vast majority of books were in Ukrainian, instead of Russian.  To what do you attribute Ukrainian publishers’ commitment to translating and retranslating a wide range of books, from business literature to the classics, into Ukrainian?

H.L.: I’d say there are a number of reasons behind these changes, political among them. After the Revolution of Dignity and the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2014, the volume of books imported from Russia dropped due to political and economic reasons. According to Oleksandr Afonin, president of the Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association, the correlation between the books published in Ukraine and in Russia in the Ukrainian market was roughly 50/50. It was 60/40 in the Western Ukraine leliv interview 1(in favor of Ukrainian books), and 40/60 in the Eastern Ukraine (this time in favor of Russian publications). At the same time, over the past seven years, Ukrainian-language publications have outnumbered those in Russian. Another reason, as I see it, is the overall revival of interest toward Ukrainian culture and literature in particular in the wake of the Revolution of Dignity. People who used to read mostly Russian books turned their eyes to the shelves with the Ukrainian authors and discovered that their texts are no less engaging. Reading Ukrainian became trendy. Readings, lectures, and book festivals, concentrated mostly in Western and Central Ukraine, reach Eastern terrains more and more often, with Ukrainian texts and authors playing prominent part. I believe it was this combination of factors which spurred Ukrainian publishers to work more with Ukrainian authors and translate foreign books into Ukrainian. When it comes to classics, one of the intentions is to give a contemporary Ukrainian voice to the texts translated back in the Soviet times. This is true as in the case with the large-scale Hemingway re-translation project launched by a major Ukrainian press, the Old Lion Publishing House. Men without Women, the short story collection I re-translated, was first rendered into Ukrainian back in 1968, exactly fifty years ago. The language and the translation methodologies have evolved ever since, so it’s only natural that we’re seeing Hemingway being given a contemporary, fresh voice in the third decade of Ukraine’s independence.

R.C.H.: You mentioned at last year’s ALTA conference that Hemingway was “haunting you” while you were translating a collection of short stories by him. Did the great American novelist’s spirit come to you in dreams or something like that? 

H.L.: No, it took more realistic dimensions! I just noticed that after I started translating Hemingway’s short stories, he followed me everywhere. I went into a pub in Lviv—and spotted his portrait hanging on the wall, Hemingway winking mischievously. I arrived in an Air BnB in Minneapolis for the ALTA conference—and The Sun Also Rises was right there on the table. His picture was even hanging on the wall of an Iowa City rental apartment where I came for a showing (there was no way I could say no to that place after seeing this great American writer smiling on the wall). He made a cameo appearance in the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris I watched the other day, and right in the middle of Fight Club the protagonist also—surprise!—quotes good old Hemingway. This year I also visited his birthplace in Oak Park and had lunch at Hemingway’s bistro—but that was intentional, no spirits involved. I’m now translating Winner Take Nothing into Ukrainian and I’m very curious to see where Hemingway will appear or take me next. 

R.C.H.: You’ve translated several of Stephen Hawking’s young adult books into Ukrainian. What motivated you and the Old Lion Publishing House to undertake these projects? 

H.L.: A young adult book series by Stephen and Lucy Hawking has actually become my gateway to the Ukrainian literary translation scene. These are five books about the cosmic adventures of a teenage boy George and his friend Annie. The authors skillfully hemingwayinterweave a fascinating fictional plot and the actual, “serious” scientific facts, helping young readers to learn about the science behind the workings of the universe. I picked the first book from this series, George’s Secret Key to the Universe, myself, when scrolling through the list of New York Times bestsellers. I had participated in the collaborative translation of Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time before, so his YA book immediately grabbed my attention—I have to admit I didn’t even know he wrote popular science books for kids, as well. It occurred to me it might be a good fit for the Ukrainian book market, as this niche—children’s or YA literature which combines the elements of both fiction and non-fiction to help the readers grasp complex concepts in a fascinating, entertaining way—was almost empty at that time. So, I translated the first chapter of the book and pitched it to the Old Lion Publishing House. I admired that press for what it had been doing for the Ukrainian children’s literature. Later on, I have also translated Gilbert and Hemingway for them. But getting back to Hawking’s series, I must say that this project has turned out to be tremendously successful. One of the key reasons behind it is that the demand for children’s creative non-fiction was—and still is—very high. The author’s name played its role, too, of course. Also, the publishers commissioned an amazing book cover from Agrafka, a very successful Ukrainian team of designers, whose books won several Bologna book fair awards. The design of the first book was experimental—the planets drawn on the cover were coated in a special scratch-off material, like on a lottery ticket. The readers had to take a coin and scratch it off to see what planets were hiding underneath. All in all, the project has been very successful for a number of reasons, and I hope that my translation also contributed to it. The last, fifth book from this series is forthcoming this May. 

Reilly Costigan-Humes lives and works in Moscow, and translates literature from the Ukrainian and Russian. Reilly and his colleague Isaac Wheeler have translated Serhiy Zhadan’s Voroshilvogradand Mesopotamia, and they’re currently translating Lena Eltang’s novel Cartagena as part of ALTA’s Emerging Translator Mentorship Program.

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Announcing the Longlists for the 2018 National Translation Awards in Poetry and Prose!

July 16, 2018—The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is pleased to announce the longlists for the 2018 National Translation Awards (NTA) in Poetry and Prose! 2018 marks the twentieth year for the NTA, and the fourth year to award separate prizes in poetry and prose. The NTA, which is administered by ALTA, is the only national award for translated fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction that includes a rigorous examination of both the source text and its relation to the finished English work.

Featuring authors writing in 13 different languages, this year’s longlists expand the prize’s dedication to literary diversity in English. The selection criteria include the quality of the finished English language book, and the quality of the translation. This year’s judges for poetry are Kareem James Abu-Zeid, Jennifer Feeley, and Sawako Nakayasu. This year’s prose judges are Esther Allen, Tess Lewis, and Jeremy Tiang.

The winning translators will receive a $2,500 cash prize each. The awards will be announced at ALTA’s annual conference, held this year at the Indiana Memorial Union at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN from October 31 – November 3, 2018. The 5-title shortlists will be announced in September. In the meantime, ALTA will highlight each book on the longlists with features written by the judges on the ALTA blog:

The 2018 NTA Longlist in Poetry (in alphabetical order by title):

pessoa_book_of_disquiet_for_pwThe Book of Disquiet
by Fernando Pessoa
translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa
(New Directions)

ristovicvrDirections for Use
by Ana Ristović
translated from the Serbian by Steven Teref and Maja Teref
(Zephyr Press)

by Aase Berg
translated from the Swedish by Johannes Göransson
(Black Ocean)

I_Remember_Nightfall-bw-300dpiI Remember Nightfall
by Marosa di Giorgio
translated from the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas
(Ugly Duckling Presse)

If_I_Were_a_Suicide_Bomber-front-frameIf I Were a Suicide Bomber
by Per Aage Brandt
translated from the Danish by Thom Satterlee
(Open Letter Books)

Magnetic_PointMagnetic Point: Selected Poems 
by Ryszard Krynicki
translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh
(New Directions)

cover berenguerMy Lai
by Carmen Berenguer
translated from the Spanish by Liz Henry
(Cardboard House Press)

Cover_-_The_OdysseyThe Odyssey
by Homer
translated from the Greek by Emily Wilson
(W. W. Norton & Company)

Oxygen_jpegOxygen: Selected Poems
by Julia Fiedorczuk
translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
(Zephyr Press)

SonicPeace_coverSonic Peace
by Kiriu Minashita
translated from the Japanese by Spencer Thurlow and Eric Hyett
(Phoneme Media)

Spiral_Staircase_CoverSpiral Staircase: Collected Poems
by Hirato Renkichi
translated from the Japanese by Sho Sugita
(Ugly Duckling Presse)


Third-Millennium Heart
by Ursula Andkjær Olsen
translated from the Danish by Katrine Øgaard Jensen
(Action Books)


The 2018 NTA Longlist in Prose (in alphabetical order by title):

NGS Picture Id:613732

by Rodrigo Hasbún
translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes
(Simon & Schuster)

AUGUST_Cover - CopyAugust
by Romina Paula
translated from the Spanish by Jennifer Croft
(Feminist Press)

by Mathias Énard
translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell
(New Directions)

by Yasunari Kawabata
translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich
(New Directions)

9780143111689Ghachar Ghochar
by Vivek Shanbhag
translated from the Kannada by Srinath Perur
(Penguin Books)

Impossible_Fairy_TaleThe Impossible Fairy Tale
by Han Yujoo
translated from the Korean by Janet Hong
(Graywolf Press)

tipThe Invented Part
by Rodrigo Fresán
translated from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden
(Open Letter Books)

9781517900113Italian Chronicles
by Stendhal
translated from the French by Raymond N. MacKenzie
(University of Minnesota Press)

MovingThePalace-Cover-WEB-noqte-900x1200Moving the Palace
by Charif Majdalani
translated from the French by Edward Gauvin
(New Vessel Press)

Old-Rendering-Plant_Front-Cover-with-QuoteOld Rendering Plant
by Wolfgang Hilbig
translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole
(Two Lines Press)

9781945492044_FCSwallowing Mercury
by Wioletta Greg
translated from the Polish by Eliza Marciniak
(Transit Books)

World_Goes_OnThe World Goes On
by László Krasznahorkai
translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes, Ottilie Mulzet, and John Batki
(New Directions)

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