Friday, August 24, 2012

Take advantage of the multilingual features of Wikipedia

Although Wikipedia should always be taken with a grain of salt, the information it provides is usually a valuable help when we translate. One feature you can find particularly useful is the list of multilingual links that often accompany a Wikipedia page.

If, for example, you are looking for information of what "surge limit" means in a compressor, you won't find an article specifically devoted to it in the English Wikipedia, but you'll find an explanation of "compressor surge" under the Wikipedia article on Compressor stall. This page links to the articles devoted to the same subject in several other languages. Even if your language is not among the direct links (Italian is not, in this case), checking the articles in other languages may supply you with useful hints to arrive at the correct translation.

In this case, the French and Spanish pages for "Compressor stall" are titled in a similar way: "Pompage" in French, and "Pompaje" in Spanish. This was a critical clue: the Italian Wikipedia does not have an articled simply titled "Pompaggio", but, in the article on "Compressore" you can find a section about the differences between "condizione di stallo" and "condizione di pompaggio" - which, in turn, leads to an article on "limite di pompaggio" that specifically mentions that "limite di pompaggio" is, in English, "surge limit". I thus confirmed that I could use "limite di pompaggio" in my translation.

As you can see, the way to arrive to the correct translation is often roundabout, but learning to make good use of what Wikipedia has to offer for us yields goods results.

Monday, August 20, 2012

From BOMB magazine: An interview with Mary Jo Bang, poet and translator

Mary Jo Bang recently published a new translation of Dante's Inferno - a modernized translation that seems to have caused quite a stir.

Zachary Lazar interviewed the translator for BOMB magazine:
Imagine a contemporary translation of Dante that includes references to Pink Floyd, South Park, Donald Rumsfeld, and Star Trek. Now imagine that this isn’t gimmicky—this is the hardest but most important part to imagine. Imagine instead that the old warhorse is now scary again, and perversely funny, and lyrical and faux-lyrical in a way that sounds sometimes like Auden, sometimes like Nabokov, but always like Mary Jo Bang. 
The article also links to the entire translation of Canto XXXIV.

A very brief excerpt (verses 61-69):

"Quell'anima là sù c'ha maggior pena",
disse 'l maestro, "è Giuda Scarïotto,
che 'l capo ha dentro e fuor le gambe mena.
“That soul up there suffers the worst,”
My teacher said. “Judas Iscariot.
His head stays inside, while his kicking feet stick out.
De li altri due c'hanno il capo di sotto,
quel che pende dal nero ceffo è Bruto:
vedi come si storce, e non fa motto!;
Those other two whose heads hang down,
The one dangling from the dark mug is Brutus—
Look how he thrashes without uttering a word—
e l'altro è Cassio, che par sì membruto.
Ma la notte risurge, e oramai
è da partir, ché tutto avem veduto".
The other is Cassius, who looks much more muscular
Without his skin. But night’s coming again
And we have to go. We’ve seen all there is to see.”

Literary translation funding available from the National Endowment for the Arts

I've received the following message, which I believe should be of interest to literary translators in the USA:
The National Endowment for the Arts is pleased to announce that application guidelines are now available for the FY 2014 Literature Fellowships for Translation Projects. Through fellowships to published translators, the National Endowment for the Arts supports projects for the translation of specific works of prose, poetry, or drama from other languages into English. We encourage translations of writers and of work that are not well represented in English translation. All proposed projects must be for creative translations of literary material into English. The work to be translated should be of interest for its literary excellence and value. Priority will be given to projects that involve work that has not previously been translated into English. 
The deadline for application submission is January 3, 2013. For full grant application information and guidelines, go to: 
Fewer than five percent of all books published in the United States are works in translation, and an even smaller percentage of these books are works of fiction or poetry. To address this lack of foreign literature in the U.S., the NEA began awarding literary translation fellowships in 1981. Since then, it has been one of the most reliable sources of funding for literary translation in the country, awarding 339 fellowships for works in 62 languages from 72 countries. 
The NEA's website highlights many recent recipients of NEA Translation Fellowships: 

  • Writers' Corner features recent fellowship recipients, including bios, excerpts from the work to be translated, and a statement about the importance of bringing these works to American audiences.
  • The Art Works blog features interviews with recent translation fellows, including:
  • Johanna Warren, recipient of a 2013 NEA Fellowship for the translation of short fiction by contemporary Salvadoran author, Claudia Hernándezo   David Hinton, recipient of a 2012 NEA Fellowship for the translation of selected poems of Mei Yao-ch'eno   Esther Allen, recipient of a 2011 NEA Fellowship for the translation of Zama, a 1956 novel by Argentine  writer Antonio Di Benedettoo   Charlotte Mandell, recipient of a 2010 NEA Fellowship for the translation of Zone by Mathias Énard
  • The NEA's weekly podcast includes interviews with leading artists and arts experts, including
  • Natasha Wimmer, recipient of a 2007 NEA Fellowship for the translation of Roberto Bolaño's epic novel 2666o   Unai Ellorriaga, recipient of an NEA International Literary Award for Plants Don't Drink Coffee, and Amaia Gabantxo who translated the novel from Basque to English