Announcing the 2012 PEN Translation Fund Grant Recipients
Bernard Adams for his translation of Andrea Tompa‘s A Hóhér Háza (The Hangman’s House), a poignant and beautiful novel about a girl growing up in a Romanian-Hungarian family during the 70s and 80s in Ceauşescu’s Romania. The translation combines a fine-fingered attention to detail with a powerful emotional sweep. (Available for publication)
from “Thirty Eggs”
. . . there was a wait of more than three hours in the night for the connection at Kocsárd, as there’d been no direct link between Marosvásárhely and Kolozsvár in living memory, and you always had to change trains at the most impossible times: in the night or at dawn, so that only the most determined people should travel, those with serious business that could not be put off, if, for example they wanted to buy a whole heap of eggs by so child’s-play a method as shopping for them without standing in a queue, so she spent the warm summer night in the smoky, beer-smelling waiting-room at Kocsárd, spent six lei on a plate of paszulyfőzelék(costiţă cu fasole in Romanian), the only available dish on the list, haricot beans with sausage, and eating it in the small hours reminded her of the flavour of summer-time camping . . .
Alexander Booth for Im Felderlatein (In Latin Fields) by Lutz Seiler. Widely acknowledged as one of the major German poets of his generation, the work of Seiler has been translated only sporadically. Booth’s translations give a strong sense of Seiler’s poetic voice, with an incessant use of fragmentation as he attempts to pin down memory (usually childhood memory, sometimes of traumatic events) and the stark imagery of his terse lines. (Available for publication)
everything about me
there was a time when very slowly
with my ears from out
of the rain i came, saw rain
& could think of rain.
like oil gods
the old motors would crawl
out behind the hill &
the harvest began. i
would stick my arms deep
into the grain, would press
the seeds between my fingers &
had to close my eyes.
down from the beam hung a thin
skim of fat, upon which the dead
flies slept &
in the hollow mold of the walls
hovered a child who
would call on me. he knew
everything about me
Brent Edwards for L’Afrique fantome (Phantom Africa) by Michel Leiris. A diaristic account of Leiris’s activities as the “secretary-archivist” of Marcel Griaule’s Mission Dakar-Djibouti (1931-33), often compared to Lévi-Strauss’sTristes Tropiques for introducing a path-breaking critical self-reflexivity into the discourse of anthropology. (Seagull Books)
from “May 24 (Pentecost)”
In the afternoon, a big session of oiling boots and shoes on the bridge, all of us roasting in the sun. We are now off the coast of Morocco. A few signs of the tropics: cockroaches appear on the walls; at breakfast, some tiny ants marched across the tablecloth and climbed up the bread. In the afternoon, saw jellyfish with purple crests trailing the ship’s hull. Spent the evening with Griaule, on the forecastle, chatting, him lying extended, me sitting, looking at the stem, the sky, the seafroth.
Joshua Daniel Edwin for kummerang (gloomerang), the first book by young German poet Dagmara Kraus. These translations display an explosive inventiveness and poetic intelligence that find surprising, engaging ways to render Kraus’s poems. They appeal as much through their sly punning and syncopated rhythms as they do through the stories told between the lines. (Available for publication)
medusa’s silent hitmen saunter in, tell dido nil in
their frosted menace. i’m benzine linen. i mire
thirteen selves in flame. knifegush sows the brow tic i’d
rather elide. slits, ribs, tidbits: i can’t be revised. the wiz-
kid in shock. innate rhythm ignited, chinch cinched. van zan-
te hills. cry. hide in her ionic tomb. bribe me.
Musharraf Ali Farooqi for his translation from the Urdu of Muhammad Husain Jah and Ahmed Husain Qamar’s Hoshruba: The Prisoner of Batin, the second volume of an 8,000-page late-nineteenth century epic of magical fantasy based on the popular oral narrative tradition. (Random House India)
from “Sorceress Nafarman”
As she rode out of the city, she beheld a ring of fire that stretched for miles and heard the weeping and wailing of prisoners from within. She beheld Faulad Drug-Glutton marching with his twelve magic slaves and the army of sorcerers. Princess Nafarman brought her magic peacock forward and called out, “Bravo, O warrior! A most excellent accomplishment! Pray stop a moment to have a word with me!”
Deborah Garfinkle for her translation of Worm-Eaten Time: Poems from a Life Under Normalization, a selection of hallucinatory poems that were banned by the government and circulated in samizdat copies, by the Czech poetPavel Šrut. Šrut’s poems were written during the Prague Spring of 1968 and then, after a ten-year silence, in the 1980s before the fall of Communism. (Available for publication)
from “Worm-Eaten Light”
By the tracks, a dog
climbs into a rabbit skin. Frost
lifts the countryside with the chain pump’s
snapping, the countryside
Turns over the swollen tongue
of earth. I still remember
the straw blooming in the rabbit’s
slick entrails, its straw-stuffed
Innards, and your eyes.
Countryside, the only thing in them.
They weigh water
drawn from somewhere in the deep.
Hillary Gulley for the translation of Marcelo Cohen’s El fin de lo mismo (The End of the Same). A formal experimentation and sci-fi-inflected mini-plots—including a prison on the beach and a man in love with a woman with three arms—shape this finely wrought Argentinean novel. (Available for publication)
There are men on the beach. They are prisoners. Right now they are establishing a routine in order to accommodate various states of rage, depression, and reverie. Most of them have been unsuccessful. . . It seems as though some of them have already met before prison, or maybe they are just drawn to each other by their rancorous affinities; now some of them lounge in the shade of the canopies on the beach, others sit on the parapet between the sand and the asphalt, others keep their distance, lying at the water’s edge, and still there are others who do not leave their cells, perhaps because they have never seen the sea and are more skeptical than curious.
Bonnie Huie for her translation of Notes of a Crocodile by the Taiwanese writer Qiu Miaojin. The only novel published by Qiu before her suicide at 26, this work is an extraordinary combination of mash note, love story, comic shtick, aesthetic manifesto, and spiritual autobiography. It is a groundbreaking queer novel and a classic of modern Taiwanese literature. (Available for publication)
from “Notebook #1″
Shui-Ling, please don’t knock on my door anymore. You don’t know how dark it is here in my heart. I don’t know who I am at all. What’s ahead of me is unclear, yet I must move forward. I don’t want to become myself. I know the answer to the riddle, but I can’t stand to have it revealed. The first time I saw you, I knew I would fall in love with you. That my love would be wild, raging, and passionate, but also illicit. That it could never develop into anything, and instead, it would split apart like pieces of a landslide.
Jacquelyn Pope for her translation of Hester Knibbe’s Hungerpots, from the Dutch. These wry, unsentimental poems gently upend myths of domestic life and wax anti-poetically (yet beautifully) on the most ordinary manifestations of nature. (Available for publication)
Saved two children last night.
They lay under thin black ice
one gone blue, the other grey.
I laid them out on grass
that snapped under my step
wrung their bodies warm and dry
gave them the gust of my breath.
Then I looked out at the morning
that lay lukewarm on the water
put on a tank top
arranged some grasses in a vase
fished two children out of sleep.
Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad for a delightfully light-on-its-feet translation of the novel in Urdu Mirages of the Mind by Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi. Tracing an arc of nostalgia between Pakistan and India, its main characters are all Indian Muslim immigrants in Pakistan whose struggles veer from the comic to the tragic. The translators’ touch is graceful, lively, and supple. (Available for publication)
from “The Sweetshop and a Dog’s Breakfast”
Now this became the pattern. Basharat would give the dog a jalebi and then quickly stuff one into his own mouth. But if there was any delay, the dog would go back to licking Basharat’s calf with the same feverish intensity as before, apparently trying to get at the bone inside. Basharat was no longer scared and he began to notice the dog’s cold nose tickling him. Right then and there he made two important decisions. One, never again would he stop to eat jalebis in the middle of the street like some country bumpkin from Kanpur. And two, never again would he try to imitate the fine folks from Lucknow by wearing wide-bottomed pajamas.
Carrie Reed for a complete translation of Youyang zazu (Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang) by Duan Chengshi. A vast compendium from the Tang Dynasty of weird scientific and ethnographic information and generally strange stories. (Available for publication)
There was also the bandit Zhao Wujian who, on one-hundred and sixty places, had tattooed overlapping impressions of wheeling magpies and other birds. On his left and right arms he had tattooed the poem:
Wild ducks resting overnight on a sandbank,
Attacked by falcons morning after morning.
Suddenly in alarm they fly into the water,
Their lives spared until this morning.
Furthermore, in Gaoling county, a man named Song Yuansu, whose body was tattooed, was arrested. He was tattooed in seventy-one places. His left arm said:
In days gone by, before my house was poor,
I wouldn’t begrudge a thousand gold pieces to form a close friendship;
Now I’ve lost my way, and I seek those close friends,
Yet roaming over every pass and mountain, not a single one appears.
Nathanaël for The Mausoleum of Lovers by Hervé Guibert, a posthumous collection of the private journals that the well-known novelist and AIDS activist kept from 1976-1991—a series of literary snapshots of the author’s various objects of desire and mourning and already a classic of French autobiography. (Nightboat Books)
Gray afternoon: desire to jerk off, to pull on my cock, to slam the hammer. Desire to be jerked off. Desire to have a cock in my hand. I hesitate over whether to go to the Brady, or some theatre of the sort, I know it’s a waste of time, a waste of energy (transit, the métro all the way to Strasbourg-St-Denis, etc.) and I’d rather satisfy myself, and then read. And I don’t regret it: as it happens, T., whom I have just filtered through other unknown, ungraspable figures and postures, calls me on the phone: “Will you come to Metz to sleep with me?”
The Advisory Board is also pleased to announce that its nominee for a 2012 New York State Council on the Arts translation grant, Ana Božičević, was awarded a grant in January for her translation of It Was Easy to Set the Snow on Fire by Serbian poet Zvonko Karanović. Karanović, a countercultural icon, writes in a vivid, sophisticated vernacular of desire and transcendence amid cultural and political change. (Available for publication)
from “In the Silver Mines”
Life in the silver mines nears its end
and soon time will come
for everyone to take responsibility
for what they didn’t say
the people passing by
touched my cotton shirts
swinging on the string
and my window smashed a thousand times
and Franz Kafka
who sat next to me
in the classroom overlooking the playground
I remember him each time
I fall drunk upon a feather pillow
and put my arms around the fields of grain
swaying in the wind
Publishers and editors who wish to express an interest in any of these projects are invited to contact Paul Morris (paul at pen dot org ) or Michael Moore (michael dot moore at esteri dot it).
The Fund gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of Amazon.com, which has assisted the Fund’s work this year with a gift of $25,000.