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The Business of Literary Translation: A Bridge Series Event in Four Parts, Co-Presented by the PEN America Translation Committee. Part One: Breaking In

The Business of Literary Translation: A Four-Part Series

Literary translation — as an art, a profession, and a presence in the publishing industry — has come a long way in the past decade. In this four-part event, co-presented by the Bridge Series and the PEN America Translation Committee, translators, editors, publishers, and booksellers hone in on four aspects of the business of literary translation, discussing what’s changed and what hasn’t, for better and for worse.

The Series will continues at the Center for Fiction every third Tuesday of the month, February through May. Events to follow will be dedicated to editing (March 15), contracts (April 19), and bookselling (May 17), and will feature lively and candid discussions with translations, editors, publishers, and booksellers.


Part One: Breaking In

The front door or the back window? Emerging and seasoned translators discuss how they got into the “house” of literary translation. Does the existence of MFA programs make it easier than it used to be? How important is it to have mentors? And is it possible to make a living as a translator?

Moderator: Allison Markin Powell Participants: Allison Charette, Heather Cleary, Katrine Øgaard Jensen, Mary Ann Newman

Allison Markin Powell is a literary translator, editor, and publishing consultant in New York City. She has worked in the editorial departments of American and Japanese book and magazine publishing, and has translated works by Osamu Dazai, Hiromi Kawakami, and Fuminori Nakamura, among others. Her translation of Kawakami’s The Briefcase was nominated for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize, and the UK edition (Strange Weather in Tokyo) was nominated for the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Powell was the guest editor of Words Without Borders’ first Japan issue in May 2009 and she maintains the database http://www.japaneseliteratureinenglish.com.

Allison M. Charette translates literature from French into English. She received a 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for Naivo’s Beyond the Rice Fields, the first novel to be translated from Madagascar, forthcoming from Restless Books in 2017. She founded the Emerging Literary Translators’ Network in America (ELTNA.org), a networking and support group for early­-career translators. Allison has published two book­-length translations, in addition to short translated fiction that has appeared in Words Without Borders, The Other Stories, InTranslation, the SAND Journal, and others. Find her online at charettetranslations.com.



Heather Cleary’s translations and literary criticism have appeared in Two Lines, A Public Space, The Quarterly Conversation and Words Without Borders, among other publications. Her book-length translations include Sergio Chejfec’s The Planets (finalist, Best Translated Book Award 2013) and The Dark (nominee, ALTA’s National Translation Award 2014) and Poems to Read on a Streetcar, a selection of Girondo’s poetry published by New Directions (recipient, PEN and Programa SUR translation grants). She holds an MA in Comparative Literature from NYU and a PhD in Latin American and Iberian Cultures from Columbia University. She was a judge of the 2015 PEN Translation Prize, and is currently on the jury of the 2016 BTBA. In 2012 she cofounded the Buenos Aires Review—a digital, bilingual magazine of literature and culture.


Katrine Øgaard Jensen is a journalist, writer, and translator from the Danish. She previously served as editor-­in-­chief of Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art and as blog editor at Asymptote. A two-­time Thanks To Scandinavia scholar, she now edits the Words Without Borders blog while serving as poetry judge for the Best Translated Book Award. Her translation of Ursula Andkjær Olsen’s poetry collection Third­-Millennium Heart is forthcoming from Broken Dimanche Press in 2016. Katrine teaches fiction in Columbia University’s undergraduate creative writing program.


Mary Ann Newman is the Director of the Farragut Fund for Catalan culture in the U.S. She is a translator, editor, and occasional writer on Catalan culture. She has translated a novel and a short story collection by Quim Monzó, essays by Xavier Rubert de Ventós, and a collection of poems by Josep Carner. Her latest translation is de Sagarra, published by Archipelago Books.




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