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Imaginary Gardens With Real Robots in Them: On Translating Science Fiction

Singularity & Co., 18 Bridge S., Brooklyn, NY 11201

Presented by the PEN Translation Committee and the Bridge Series


PEN is proud to announce the PEN Translation Committee’s Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Event.

All translators face challenges, but translators of science fiction have a unique task before them: how do you come up with English equivalents for words and concepts that are sui generis even in the original language? Join three prominent translators—from Polish, Japanese, and German—as they discuss their craft at this launch event marking the new partnership between the PEN Translation Committee and the Bridge Series, a reading and discussion series for literary translation.

ROSS BENJAMIN is a translator of German literature and a writer living in Nyack, New York. His translations include Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hyperion, Kevin Vennemann’s Close to Jedenew, Joseph Roth’s Job, Thomas Pletzinger’s Funeral for a Dog, and Clemens J. Setz’s Indigo. He was awarded the 2010 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize for his rendering of Michael Maar’s Speak, Nabokov and a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship to translate Clemens J. Setz’s The Frequencies. His literary criticism has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, Bookforum, The Nation, and other publications. He was a 2003–2004 Fulbright Scholar in Berlin and is a graduate of Vassar College. He is currently at work on a translation of Franz Kafka’s complete Diaries to be published by Liveright/Norton.

TERRY GALLAGHER is best known for his translations of Toh Enjoe, 2012 winner of Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize. Gallagher’s translation of Enjoe’s debut work, Self-Reference ENGINE (Viz Media, 2013), received the Philip K. Dick Award Special Citation this year. In the 1990s, Gallagher contributed translations of short stories by Masahiko Shimada and Amy Yamada to Monkey Brain Sushi (Kodansha), a ground-breaking anthology of new Japanese literature. He has translated a total of five book-length works for Viz Media, and short stories for the anthologies Monkey Business 4 (A Public Space, 2014), The Future is Japanese (Viz, 2012), and Speculative Japan 2 (Kurodahan Press, 2011). Gallagher spent 15 years as a journalist for Reuters and Dow Jones, in Tokyo, Bonn and New York. Originally from Brooklyn, he graduated from Brown University, and has now lived for 15 years on Cape Cod (yes, even in winter).

MICHAEL KANDEL is perhaps best known for his translation of major works—including Fiasco, His Master’s Voice, The Cyberiad, A Perfect Vacuum, and The Futurological Congress—of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem. He also worked as an editor at Harcourt, where he acquired authors Jonathan Lethem, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Morrow, and others. Kandel was a Fulbright student in Poland, 1966-67; received his PhD in Slavic at Indiana University; taught Russian literature at George Washington University; wrote a few articles on Lem; and has written science fiction, short stories, and a few novels (published by Bantam, St. Martin’s); and is presently an editor at the Modern Language Association. Kandel has recently translated works by Jacek Dukaj and Andrzej Sapkoswki, and he is the editor and translator of the anthology A Polish Book of Monsters.

SAL ROBINSON (moderator) is an editor at Melville House and co-organizer of the Bridge series.