Wednesday, 27 May 2020

How Paper Republic ended up leading what is possibly the world’s biggest collaborative translation

Nicky Harman writes about translating Chinese authors' reflections on Civid19, post-lockdown.

At the risk of blowing my (or at least, our Paper Republic's) trumpet a little, I’m going to start with the back-story: Brigitte Duzan, of Chinese-shortstories.com pointed out to me that a very well-known Chinese writer, Yan Geling, had written a piece blasting the authorities for mishandling the Covid19 crisis, which Duzan herself had translated into French. Why didn’t I do the same and post it on Paper-Republic? I did both, and a single post grew into the Read Paper Republic: Epidemic mini-series of essays and poems, exploring how some impressive Chinese writers (Yan Geling, Han Dong, A Yi, Lin Bai, and Wu Ang) have been personally affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Then the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, with whom Paper Republic has partnered on many projects, had a new idea. I quote, ‘What better way to spend lockdown than having a shot at literary translation? You know you always wanted to try it, so why not have a go now?’ The deal was that anyone, anywhere in the world, could have a go at translating a blog post by Deng Anqing (庆) on how he got shut in with his parents as the surrounding cities locked down, and how it affected his relationship with them. We were offering this opportunity to first-time or emerging translators, so after they had all submitted their work, there would be online feedback sessions by members of the Paper Republic team, including myself and Eric Abrahamsen. The final revised and agreed-on translation was to be published as the grand finale to the Read Paper Republic: Epidemic series.
We called the project Give-it-a-Go Translation. We put out the call, and we waited.

To our amazement, in the space of ten days, one hundred and twenty-four translators and would-be translators from twenty countries and five continents sent in their work. Hence our claim that this could be the biggest workshop-based co-translation effort ever!

To cope with the time zones, the Paper Republic team, including Eric Abrahamsen, Nicky Harman, Emily Jones, Yvette Zhu and Jack Hargreaves, ran four separate online workshops over one weekend. We produced a video about the process, which you can view here.





And finally, our collaborative translation of the piece, entitled in English, ‘Forty Days: Growing Closer to My Parents during Quarantine’ was published. It is a fitting finale to the Read Paper Republic: Epidemic series. But best of all, its simple aim – to get a lot of people interested in trying Chinese-to-English translation and to offer them free mentoring and feedback – was a resounding success.

A gratifyingly large number of the participants filled in our survey afterwards, and there were some great comments. One said, ‘It was lovely! I never had an opportunity to glimpse into the world of translators before. When I was a student learning Chinese I did a fair amount of translating, but with a different mentality (mostly shaking my dictionary and hoping the right words fell out). I really liked reading everyone else's take on the same passage too. It was interesting to see the different choices people made and how translating is such a creative activity.’ There was general appreciation of the trouble we Paper Republic folk had taken to give everyone feedback, but also a widely-expressed sentiment that it was a pity that the groups were quite large and the time too short, with the result that some groups did not manage to complete the revision of their allocated section. After at least one group had spent a considerable amount of time discussing whether Deng’s parent should be called in translation, ‘Father’ or Dad’ (with the corresponding shift in [in]formality), one participant commented wryly, ‘It's like herding cats, isn't it? So many people, so many words, so little time. Because you have so little time and so much to cover, perhaps pick your battles wisely.’

Point taken. But the overall feeling expressed was so positive that we plan to do similar events again. And perhaps next time, we really can make it a world record.
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Some more of Deng’s Covid blogs are online at LitHub here, translated by Na Zhong, and if you are looking for inspiration and more on the author himself, there is some in Chinese, here.



Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Nicky Harman interviews Avery Fischer Udagawa translator extraordinaire of children's and young adult fiction, and much more besides

NH: I'm delighted to be interviewing Avery Fischer Udagawa, because I have a huge admiration for translators who focus on young readers. I started by asking her about her latest translation piece in Words Without Borders, and why she wanted to translate it.


AFU: “Firstclaw” at Words Without Borders is my rendering of イチノツメと呼ばれた魔女 by Sachiko Kashiwaba, a fairy tale from her collection of linked tales, 王様に恋した魔女 (Kodansha, 2016). I encountered this story on precisely the morning of October 24, 2018, in the large Maruzen Marunouchi bookstore in Tokyo, where I had gone to spend time before a meeting with the author. Since we are all stuck at home these days needing vicarious outings, I’ll share that I savored this book over chiffon cake in Maruzen’s third floor café, glancing out as JR local trains and bullet trains pulled in and out of Tokyo Station. I even exchanged bows with a window washer who floated by in his rigging.

Hours later, Kashiwaba herself signed my book. That was a story scouting day for the ages!
“Firstclaw” struck me as a skillfully wrought, surprising tale of a reclusive witch, a resourceful princess, and a brave king. I found the ending (which I won’t spoil here) curiously joyful, and I chose to translate it out of readerly pleasure.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Inconvenient Daughter

Lauren J. Sharkey is a writer, teacher, and transracial adoptee. After her birth in South Korea, she was adopted by Irish Catholic parents and raised on Long Island. Sharkey holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Literature, and her creative nonfiction has appeared in the Asian American Feminist Collective’s digital storytelling project, First Times, as well as several anthologies including I Am Strength! and Women under Scrutiny.

Inconvenient Daughter, Lauren's debut novel, explores the questions surrounding transracial adoption, the ties that bind, and what it means to belong.

Novelist and Award-Winning Poet Reshma Ruia Chats With Elaine Chiew about her poetry collection A Dinner Party In The Home Counties

Courtesy of Author
Bio:

Reshma Ruia is an award winning writer and poet based in Manchester. She was born in India and brought up in Rome and did her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the London School of Economics. She worked as an economist with the United Nations in Rome and with the OECD in Paris.  Following her move to Manchester, she did a further Masters Degree and a PhD in Creative Writing and Critical Thought at Manchester University. She is a fiction editor at the Jaggery Literary Magazine and book reviewer at Words of Colour. She is also the co-founder of The Whole Kahani, a writers’ collective. Her first novel, ‘Something Black in the Lentil Soup’, was described in the Sunday Times as ‘a gem of straight-faced comedy.’ Her second novel manuscript, ‘A Mouthful of Silence’ was shortlisted for the SI Leeds literary award. Her writing has appeared in The Mechanics’ Institute Review, The Nottingham Review, Asia Literary Review, Confluence, Funny Pearls, Fictive Dream, The Good Journal, and various anthologies. They have also been commissioned and broadcast on BBC Radio. Her debut collection of poetry, ‘A Dinner Party in the Home Counties,’ winner is of the 2019 Word Masala Award is out now.

Synopsis:

‘A Dinner Party in the Home Counties’ explores the themes of belonging and identity against a backdrop of social mores and conventions. The poems explore the diasporic experience of leading a translated life, yearning to belong to a past that one no longer owns and a future that is murky and unclear. There is a sense of melancholic nostalgia in these poems but also a fierce kind of determination to embark on a new beginning and make the best of one’s circumstances. The poems are particularly relevant to our times when there is a growing sense of parochialism and hostility towards ‘the outsider.’ They will resonate with all those who have portable roots and are at home everywhere and nowhere. 

The poems also portray the emotive minefield of relationships, questioning the ambiguity behind maternal or filial love. Society conditions us to love our parent or child or partner but the poems challenge this by describing the tug of war between a woman’s sense of self and the roles she is expected to play.

There is an undercurrent of mortality running through some of the poems. A sense of an ending and a reflection on what the passage of time can do to one’s dreams and aspirations.


Monday, 11 May 2020

Talented Writer & Translator Tiffany Tsao Chats With Elaine Chiew About The Majesties

Book cover design by James Iacobelli
and artwork by Joseph Lee
Bio: 
Tiffany Tsao is a writer and literary translator. She is the author of The Majesties, as well as the Oddfits fantasy series (to date: The Oddfits and The More Known World). Her translations of Indonesian authors include Sergius Seeks Bacchus by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Paper Boats by Dee Lestari, and The Birdwoman’s Palate by Laksmi Pamuntjak. 

Synopsis:
 Gwendolyn and Estella have always been as close as sisters can be. Growing up in a wealthy, eminent, and sometimes deceitful family, they’ve relied on each other for support and confidence. But now Gwendolyn is lying in a coma, the sole survivor of Estella’s poisoning of their whole clan.

As Gwendolyn struggles to regain consciousness, she desperately retraces her memories, trying to uncover the moment that led to this shocking and brutal act. Was it their aunt’s mysterious death at sea? Estella’s unhappy marriage to a dangerously brutish man? Or were the shifting loyalties and unspoken resentments at the heart of their opulent world too much to bear? Can Gwendolyn, at last, confront the carefully buried mysteries in their family’s past and the truth about who she and her sister really are?

Traveling from the luxurious world of the rich and powerful in Indonesia to the most spectacular shows at Paris Fashion Week, from the sunny coasts of California to the melting pot of Melbourne’s university scene, The Majesties is a haunting and deeply evocative novel about the dark secrets that can build a family empire—and also bring it crashing down.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Tsundoku #9 - May 2020

It's out second Tsundoku of lockdown and maybe we have a problem - fewer books than normal are being published but maybe, if you're lucky, you're getting through your tsundoku pile? So this May is a little light, but some good stuff all the same...

Monday, 4 May 2020

First Three Way Translation Interview: Elaine Chiew Chats With Kulleh Grasi and Pauline Fan about Tell Me, Kenyalang

Courtesy of Circumference Books

Synopsis:


TELL ME, KENYALANG is a collection of poems by Kulleh Grasi, a writer and musician from Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. This groundbreaking book is one of a handful of contemporary works of poetry written in Malay to be translated into English and the first in decades to include Malaysian indigenous languages. Translator Pauline Fan brings the work into a thrilling, living English. Kulleh Grasi's poems are entirely new and yet intimate. They are entwined with myth and nature and yet are fully post-modern. They are outside the context of American poetry and also deeply inside the questions and experiences American poets are grappling with today: questions of identity in relation to nation and language and sexuality. 

Grasi, both a known poet and rock star in Malaysia, writes new rivers and islands into the landscape of identity. Grasi says: "I was reading all kinds of Malay literature. None of it spoke from the experience of Borneo's indigenous people, so I started keeping journals, writing about the lives of indigenous communities that I observed with my own eyes. This was the true beginning of my poetry." 

TELL ME, KENYALANG will change the way people think of contemporary poetry throughout the world and about the role of indigenous languages in global literature and in translation. The book is a powerhouse.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Japan's Greatest Victory, Britain's Worst Defeat - A Memoir of the Battle of Singapore


It’s often said “history is written by the victors,” and this only half true. While the narrative of World War II is definitely constructed from the Allied lens, this does not mean that the vanquished were unable to tell their stories. German officers and soldiers pumped out volumes of memoirs during the postwar years, many of which were consumed voraciously by readers in America and Britain. Japanese memoirs were more sparse, at least regarding translations that made it to the West. One notable exception was Masanobu Tsuji’s memoir Japan’s Greatest Victory, Britain’s Worst Defeat.