World Literature Speakers’ Bureau for Public Libraries
In order to promote an appreciation of world literature and cultivate global solidarity within the general public in the U.S., members of PEN America’s Translation Committee are offering to speak at public libraries. Our members offer presentations on various topics related to the books which they have translated or the cultures/nations in which they specialize. These presentations can be made via Zoom or in person. While donations/honoraria for speakers will be appreciated, they are not mandatory. Below is the list of speakers and books/topics with contact information for each speaker. This list will continue to be updated and expanded. If you are a librarian or library employee who is interested in partnering with a member of the Translation Committee, please reach out directly using the contact information below.
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Frieda Afary is an Iranian American librarian, translator and author. Her education includes a B.A. in history, an M.A. in social and political philosophy and a master’s in library and information science. She has translated and published four books on social and political philosophy, from English to Persian. Her book, Socialist Feminism: A New Approach was published by Pluto Press in 2022. Frieda is deeply committed to amplifying the voices of those who seek social justice, from the U.S. to Iran and Afghanistan, from China and Myanmar to Ukraine, and from Sudan to Venezuela. She is the producer of Iranian Progressive in Translation. www.iranianprogressives.org
Contact Information: [email protected]
Azar Nafisy’s Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003) is a dialogue between an Iranian woman English professor, her students and several great works of English literature. It takes place in the years 1979 to 1997 after the Iranian Revolution against an authoritarian monarchical system was transformed into yet another even more authoritarian religious fundamentalist system. Since its publication in 2008 in the U.S., Reading Lolita in Tehran has become a classic in its own right. A discussion of this work can illuminate the historical context of the recent woman-led protests in Iran. It also reveals the importance of literature in promoting critical thinking at a time when authoritarianism is on the rise around the globe.
Rethinking the Concepts of Woman, Life, Freedom: Iran and the U.S.
“Woman, Life, Freedom” became the slogan of the uprising that started in Iran in September 2022 after the state police beating and murder of a young Kurdish woman for not wearing her hijab “correctly.” This slogan raises important questions not only for Iran but also for those in the United States and around the world who are concerned about women’s rights and human rights. This presentation will discuss the ways in which Iranians are thinking about the concepts of woman, life and freedom today. It will also explore some ways in which these concepts have been addressed by feminist thinkers and eighteenth and nineteenth century philosophers. I can discuss the views of Audre Lorde, Judith Butler, Rosemary Hennessy, Katha Pollitt, Ann Foreman, and also past philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx. Comparing and contrasting these views can help shed light on key issues in today’s debates on gender, reproductive rights, individual rights and social responsibility.
Nancy Naomi Carlson is a poet, essayist and translator. Her translation of Khal Torabully’s Cargo Hold of Stars: Coolitude (Seagull Books, 2021) won the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. She has authored twelve titles (eight translated), including An Infusion of Violets (Seagull Books, 2019), her second full-length poetry collection, which was named “New & Noteworthy” by The New York Times. A recipient of two translation grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and decorated by the French government with the Academic Palms, her work has appeared in Poetry, APR, Academy of American Poets, Paris Review, and The Georgia Review. She is the Translations Editor for On the Seawall.
Contact Information: https://www.nancynaomicarlson.com/contact.html
Click here for the full collection of works translated or authored by Nancy Naomi Carlson.
Annelise Finegan is Academic Director of Translation and Interpreting and Clinical Assistant Professor of Translation at the NYU School of Professional Studies. Her research in literature and theater focuses on how ideas, texts, and traditions accrue new and sometimes unexpected meanings in the transfer across cultures. Annelise has published translations from Chinese including novels, short fiction, and non-fiction by prominent contemporary and historical authors. She has worked for academic and textbook publishers as an acquisitions editor, publishing coordinator, bilingual copy editor, and project manager.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Can Xue’s Love in the New Millennium
In this darkly comic novel, a group of women inhabits a world of constant surveillance, where informants lurk in the flower beds and false reports fly. Conspiracies abound in a community that normalizes paranoia and suspicion. Some try to flee to ancestral homes that can be reached only underground through muddy caves, sewers, and tunnels. Others seek out the refuge of Nest County, where traditional Chinese herbal medicines can reshape or psychologically transport the self. Can Xue’s masterful love stories for the new millennium trace love’s many guises—satirical, tragic, transient, lasting, nebulous, and fulfilling—against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of commerce and industry, fraud and exploitation, and sex and romance drawn from the East and the West.
Mia Spangenberg translates fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature from Finnish, Swedish, and German into English. Her work has been published in Finland, the US, and the UK, and in journals such as LitHub and Asymptote, and she is a regular contributor to the WorldKidLit blog. Her translation of Pirkko Saisio’s autofictive novel The Red Book of Farewells (2003) will be published in 2023 by Two Lines Press, and she was awarded an honorable mention for an
excerpt of her translation by the American-Scandinavian Foundation. She is currently serving as a committee member for the 2023 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize. She holds a Ph.D. in Scandinavian studies from the University of Washington, Seattle, where she resides with her family.
- Website: https://www.miaspangenberg.com/
Pirkko Saisio’s The Red Book of Farewells, Two Lines Press, 2023. Translated by Mia Spangenberg. Autofictional novel from Finland. Audience: adults.
Pirkko Saisio (b. 1949), a celebrated author, actress, and director in her native country of Finland, has been recognized with many awards, including the 2003 Finlandia Prize, Finland’s most prestigious literary prize, for her novel The Red Book of Farewells. This novel is a contemporary classic that explores identity, politics, and revolution. It embeds readers in a delirious Finland, where art and communist politics are hopelessly intertwined, and where
queer love, still a crime, thrives in underground bars. It is uniquely composed as a series of farewells written by the narrator to her mother, to girlfriends she thought she’d spend her life
with, and, finally, to her daughter.
Children’s literature in translation. Audience: adults.
As a translator of children’s books specialized in Nordic children’s literature and a committee member and contributor to WorldKidLit, I can speak on a range of topics, including the WorldKidLit initiative, new and/or award-winning translations of children’s literature, themes in Nordic children’s literature, or translating picture books.
Samantha Schnee is the founding editor of Words Without Borders. Her translation of Jeannette Clariond’s Goddesses of Water was published by World Poetry Editions in September and featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Modern Poetry in Translation. She recently translated a bilingual poetry anthology, Grandes en Casa, which will be launched in Houston at Rice University in November. Her translation of Carmen Boullosa’s Texas: The Great Theft was shortlisted for the PEN America Translation Prize in 2015 and her translation of Boullosa’s El libro de Eva, which was shortlisted for the Mario Vargas Llosa Biennial Novel Prize, will be published by Deep Vellum in March 2023.
Contact Information: WordsWithoutBorders.org
Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa
Loosely based on the little-known 1859 Mexican invasion of the United States, Texas is a richly imagined evocation of the volatile Tex-Mex borderland. Boullosa views border history through distinctly Mexican eyes, and her sympathetic portrayal of each of her wildly diverse characters—Mexican ranchers and Texas Rangers, Comanches and cowboys, German socialists and runaway slaves, Southern belles and dancehall girls—makes her storytelling tremendously powerful and absorbing.Shedding important historical light on current battles over the Mexican–American frontier while telling a gripping story with Boullosa’s singular prose and formal innovation, Texas marks the welcome return [to English] of a major writer.
The Book of Anna by Carmen Boullosa
Saint Petersburg, 1905. Behind the gates of the Karenin Palace, Sergei, son of Anna Karenina, meets Tolstoy in his dreams and finds reminders of his mother everywhere: the vivid portrait that the tsar intends to acquire and the opium-infused manuscripts Anna wrote just before her death, which open a trapdoor to a wild feminist fairy tale. Across the city, Clementine, an anarchist seamstress, and Father Gapon, the charismatic leader of the proletariat, plan protests that embroil the downstairs members of the Karenin household in their plots and tip the country ever closer to revolution. Boullosa tells a polyphonic and subversive tale of the Russian revolution through the lens of Tolstoy’s most beloved work.
The Book of Eve by Carmen Boullosa
In brilliant prose, Carmen Boullosa offers a twist on the Book of Genesis that dismantles patriarchy and rebuilds our understanding of the world—from the origin of gastronomy, to the domestication of animals, to the cultivation of land and pleasure—all through the feminine gaze. Based on this exploration, at times both joyful painful, The Book of Eve takes a tour through the stories we’ve been told since childhood, which have helped to foster (and cement) the absurd idea that woman is the companion, complement, and even accessory to man, opening the door to criminal violence against women. Boullosa refutes this entrenched, dangerous perspective in her foundational and brazen feminist novel.
Goddesses of Water by Jeannette Clariond
Mexican poet Jeannette L. Clariond’s sixth book in English translation reconstructs the myth of the moon goddess Coyolxauhqui, employing the lyricism of Nahuatl philosophy and investigating gender construction and fluidity in Aztec mythology. Printed in a bilingual edition, the cycle of poems is accompanied by a glossary of the Nahuatl words and Aztec concepts critical to its comprehension. In Samantha Schnee’s keen and urgent translation, this collection of poems presents a surprising window on an invisible war waged against thousands of Mexican women. Clariond astounds us with her ability to painstakingly analyze a phenomenon that has drawn attention around the globe.
Marian Schwartz translates Russian fiction and nonfiction, including classics such as Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and contemporary novels such as Mikhail Shishkin’s Maidenhair. She is the recipient of numerous honors, including two NEA Translation Fellowships, the 2014 Read Russia Prize for Contemporary Literature, and the 2018 Linda Gaboriau Award for Translation awarded by the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and is a past president of ALTA. Her latest translations include Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Nina Berberova’s first novel, The Last and the First, and Eugene Vodolazkin’s Brisbane. For more info about her and a full list of the books she has translated.
Contact Information: www.marianschwartz.com
Nina Berberova,The Last and the First (Pushkin Press, 2021). Fiction. For adults.
On a crisp September morning, trouble comes to the Gorbatovs’ farm. Having fled revolution and civil war in Russia, the family has worked tirelessly to establish themselves as crop farmers in Provence, their hopes of returning home a distant dream. While young Ilya Stepanovich is committed to this new way of life, his step-brother Vasya looks only to the past. With the arrival of a letter from Paris, a plot to lure Vasya back to Russia begins in earnest, and Ilya must set out for the capital to try to preserve his family’s fragile stability.
The first novel by the celebrated Russian writer Nina Berberova, The Last and the First is an elegant and devastating portrayal of the internal struggles of a generation of émigrés in France between the wars.
Eugene Vodolazkin, Brisbane (Plough Press, 2022). Fiction. For adults.
After Gleb Yanovsky, a celebrated guitarist, is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age fifty, he permits a writer to pen his biography. For years, they meet regularly as Gleb recounts the life he’s lived thus far: a difficult childhood in Kyiv, his formative musical studies in St. Petersburg, and his later years in Munich, where he lives with his wife and meets a thirteen-year-old virtuoso whom he embraces as his own daughter. In a mischievous and tender account, Gleb recalls a personal story of a lifetime quest for meaning, and how the burden of success changes with age. Vodolazkin explores music and fame, heritage and belonging, time and memory. In a dueling interplay between Gleb’s first-person recollections and Nesterov’s interpretation, the carefully knit stitches unravel into a puzzle: Whose story is it – the subject’s or the writer’s? Are art and love really no match for death? Is memory a reliable narrator? In Brisbane, the city of our dreams, as in music, Gleb hopes he’s found a path to eternity – and a way to stop the clock.
Sandra Smith has published over thirty translations, including Suite Française (Irène Némirovsky), But You Did Not Come Back (Marceline Loridan-Ivens), The Necklace and Other Stories: Maupassant for Modern Times, The Stranger (published in the UK as The Outsider by Albert Camus), Jacques Schiffrin: A Publisher in Exile, (Amos Reichman), Create Dangerously (Albert Camus), among others. Her most recent publications include Inseparable, the newly discovered novel by Simone de Beauvoir, The Prodigal Child, a novella by Irène Némirovsky, In the Shadow of Paris: the Nazi Concentration Camp that dimmed the City of Light by Anne Sinclair, and Master of Souls, a novel by Irène Némirovsky.
She has won the French-American Translation Prize, the PEN Translation Prize, the Independent British Booksellers Book of the Year Prize and the National Jewish Book Award.
Contact Information: [email protected]
- What is Literary Translation?
- Irène Némirovsky – her life and Suite française
- Albert Camus – Linguistic and cultural challenges of translating The Stranger
- Guy de Maupassant – life and works
- Jacques Schiffrin: A Publisher in Exile
- Simone de Beauvoir – life and passages from Inseparable
Click here for a list of over 30 books translated or authored by Sandra Smith.
D.P. Snyder is a bilingual writer and translator from Spanish. Her writing has appeared in The Sewanee Review, Exile Quarterly, Two Lines Journal, World Literature Today, Review: Literature and Art of the Americas, and World Literature Today among other publications. Her story “La puerta secreta” (The Secret Door) won recognition at the 2020 International Short Story Competition of the San Miguel Writers Conference. She is a contributor to Public Seminar, Reading in Translation, and Asymptote. Meaty Pleasures, her translation of stories by award-winning Mexican writer Mónica Lavín, was published by Katakana Editores in September 2021.
- Website: dpsnyder.us
- Twitter: @DorothyPS
- Facebook: dorothy.pottersnyder
- Instagram: @dpsnyder_writer
Meaty Pleasures (English and bilingual editions), Katakana Editores, 2021. Author: Mónica Lavín (México). Translator; DP Snyder (USA). Short literary fiction collection from Mexico. Audience: adult. What does the body yearn for, fear, need? A woman feels as if she is falling into a hole when a tree branch blocks her window. A woman is kidnapped from the bus and held captive — or is she? A daughter recalls her parents’ love for each other, expressed through the art of butchery. In these and nine other stories, award-winning writer Mónica Lavín explores the limits, memories and desire of the human body and its role in her characters’ destinies.
Arrhythmias (English edition), Literal Publishing, November 2022. Author: Angelina Muñiz-Huberman (México). Translator: D.P. Snyder (USA). Audience: Adult. In a series of linked poetic essays, award-winning writer Muñiz-Huberman, credited for introducing Sephardic mysticism into Mexican literature, explores the 20th century, “the century that gave me birth”. WWII, the holocaust, refugees, the Spanish Civil War, the author’s own memories of exile, and literature relating to these topics become motives for wonder about the fate of mankind and our obsession with destruction.
Tess Lewis is a writer and translator from French and German. Her translations include works by Peter Handke, Walter Benjamin, Lutz Seiler, Jonas Lüscher and Philippe Jaccottet. Her awards include the 2017 PEN Translation Award for her translation of Maja Haderlap’s novel Angel of Oblivion and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her essays and reviews have appeared in a number of publications including Granta, Bookforum, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She is an Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review and co-curator of the Festival Neue Literature, New York City’s annual festival of German language literature in English. In 2022, she was a Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.
Contact Information: www.tesslewis.org
Ernst Jünger’s On The Marble Cliffs (NYRB 2023)
Now in a new translation, an imaginative, darkly radiant fable about a pair of brothers, formerly warriors, whose idyll is shattered by an encroaching fascistic force.
Anne Weber’s Epic Annette: A Heroine’s Tale (Indigo Press, 2022)
Epic Annette is the extraordinary true story of Annette Beaumanoir: brilliant and fierce, she was a medical student living in a world at war who, at nineteen years old, joined the French Resistance and saved the lives of two Jewish children in Paris on the eve of their deportation to the camps.
Judith Keller’s The Questionable Ones (Seagull Books, 2023)
A brilliant collection of micro-fiction, reflecting our fragmented times. With quirky humor and wry insight, Swiss author Judith Keller’s micro-fictions unravel the fabric of daily life. She delves into the aporia of language by taking idiomatic expressions literally, unpacking the multiple meanings of words, and confounding expectations.
Maja Haderlap’s distant transit (Archipelago Books 2022)
Infused with movement, Maja Haderlap’s distant transit traverses Slovenia’s scenic landscape and violent history, searching for a sense of place within its evershifting boundaries. Avoiding traditional forms and pronounced rhythms, Haderlap unleashes a flow of evocative, captivating passages whose power lies in their associative richness and precision of expression, vividly conjuring Slovenia’s natural world – its rolling meadows, snow-capped alps, and sparkling Adriatic coast.
Katherine E. Young is the author of the poetry collections Woman Drinking Absinthe and Day of the Border Guards (2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist). She is the translator of work by Anna Starobinets (memoir), Akram Aylisli (fiction), and numerous Russophone poets from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine. Awards include the 2022 Granum Foundation Translation Prize, the 2022 Pushkin House Translation Residency (UK) and a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellowship (US). From 2016-2018, she served as the inaugural Poet Laureate for Arlington, Virginia.
Contact Information: https://katherine-young-poet.com/
Akram Aylisli, Farewell, Aylis (Academic Studies Press, 2018) and Stone Dreams (Academic Studies Press, 2022), translated by Katherine E. Young
In 2012 Azerbaijani writer Akram Aylisli published the second novella of his trilogy Farewell, Aylis in a Russian literary magazine. The publication of Stone Dreams (which depicts the real-life pogroms carried out by Azerbaijanis against Armenians as the Soviet Union broke apart, as well as an anti-Armenian pogrom in the early 20th century) set off a firestorm in Azerbaijan, where some perceived the work as unpatriotic—or worse. Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev stripped Aylisli of the title of “People’s Writer” and his presidential pension. Aylisli’s books were burned, his son and wife were fired from their jobs, he received death threats, and trumped-up legal charges were eventually filed against him. Aylisli’s case has been chronicled by The Washington Post, The Independent, The Guardian, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, Index on Censorship, and many others and championed by PEN International, Human Rights Watch, PEN America and other international human rights organizations. In 2014 supporters in Russia, the U.K, the U.S., and elsewhere nominated Aylisli for the Nobel Peace Prize. With legal proceedings still pending against him, Aylisli currently lives under de facto house arrest in Azerbaijan.
Anna Starobinets, Look at Him (Three String Books, 2020), translated by Katherine E. Young
Journalist, scriptwriter, and novelist Anna Starobinets—often called “Russia’s Stephen King”—is best known for her work in horror and her writing for children. In this groundbreaking memoir, Starobinets chronicles the devastating loss of her unborn son to a fatal birth defect. After her son’s death, Starobinets suffers from nightmares and panic attacks; the memoir describes her struggle to find sympathy, community, and psychological support for herself and her family. A finalist for the 2018 National Bestseller Prize, Look at Him ignited a firestorm in Russia, prompting both high praise and severe condemnation for the author’s willingness to discuss long-taboo issues of women’s agency over their own bodies, the aftereffects of abortion and miscarriage on marriage and family life, and the callousness and ignorance displayed by many in Russia in situations like hers. Beautiful, darkly humorous, and deeply moving, Look at Him explores moral, ethical—and quintessentially human—issues that resonate for families in the world beyond Russia, as well. Its unflinching discussion of abortion in the case of a doomed pregnancy is particularly relevant for American readers in the post-Dobbs world.