Postapocalyptic Postmen (non-Brin)

January 22nd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m awfully late with this (it’s been live since the year turned, more or less, but I’ve only just gotten ’round to publicizing), but better late than never: a bit of science fiction in translation, an excerpt from the graphic novel Letter to Survivors, a comic by the inimitable Gébé rendered by yours truly, up at Words Without Borders. I did another Gébé piece in WWB last fall, and I’m terrifically fond of the author, his whimsy, wit, and pained humanism.

Adventures of a Postapocalyptic Postman

Everywhere the surrealists

January 22nd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

left their visiting cards: ‘Parents! Tell your children your dreams.’ The Bureau of Surrealist Inquiries was opened at 15 rue de Grenelle, Paris, in October 1924. ‘The Bureau of Surrealist Inquiries is engaged in collecting, by every appropriate means, communications relevant to the diverse forms which the unconscious activity of the mind is likely to take.’ The general public were invited to the Bureau to confide their rarest dreams, to debate morality, to allow the staff to judge the quality of those striking coincidences that reveal the arbitrary, irrational magical correspondences of life.
~ Angela Carter, “The Alchemy of the Word”

Health is the last

January 23rd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

emergent post-Christian religion. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the former abortionist who is now a leader of the pro-life movement, remarks that modern man seeks “somatic immortality” instead of God. This obsession with Nautilus machines and herbal tea was anticipated by Nietzsche, who predicted that the further man got from the supernatural, the more preoccupied he would be with health. The more Nietzsche himself turned against God, the more obsessed he became with the smallest details of his diet and physical tone. (“No meals between meals,” we read in Ecce Homo, “no coffee: coffee spreads darkness…”)
~ George Sim Johnston, “Break Glass In Case of Emergency”

In another passage of his lecture

January 23rd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

bearing on the dialectic of the foreign and the domestic, Schleiermacher argues that the ideal translator is not one who has mastered the foreign language so fully that that he is completely at home in it. Such a translator, he suggests, can produce in the reader an impression of the text that resembles that a native speaker of the language would have—that is, one in which the text seems natural and familiar. But the best translator, Schleiermacher maintains, is one who is never fully at home in the foreign language, and seeks to evoke in the reader an experience like his own, that is, the experience of someone for whom the foreign language is simultaneously legible and alien. Schleiermacher’s ideal translator operates in the space between languages and cultures, between the domestic and the foreign—for only by contrast with the domestic can the foreignness of the foreign be maintained. Like the reader/writer in Roland Barthes’s The Pleasure of the Text, he commutes between the secure pleasures of the familiar and the seductive bliss of its destruction… » Read the rest of this entry «

When the brilliant twenty-year-old chemist

January 25th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Humphry Davy discovered the potency of nitrous oxide, “laughing gas,” at the recently founded Pneumatic Institution in Bristol in April 1799, he inhaled the new mind-altering substance himself, and shared it with his friends. These included Samuel Taylor Coleridge, already, in his mid-twenties, hiding a growing opium addiction, who noted that he felt “more unmingled pleasure than I had ever before experienced.” The poet Robert Southey, a youthful radical who would later become a conservative-minded poet laureate, also experienced “a sensation perfectly new and delightful,” adding that “the atmosphere of the highest of all possible heavens must be composed of this gas.”

~ Jenny Uglow, “Romantic Scientists” (review of The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr. Beddoes and His Sons of Genius by Mike Jay in the NYRB)

The first time I experienced the joy of nitrous was, like most people, at the dentist. It must have been December, because he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I delivered a description in loving, hilarious detail of the entire line of He-Man action figures then available.

The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr. Beddoes and His Sons of Genius

Noël Devaulx at The Quarterly Conversation

January 26th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I have a concise if characteristically abstruse appreciation of French fabulist Noël Devaulx up at The Quarterly Conversation, a top-notch site for readers seeking enlightened commentary. It’s an entry in a feature hatched by editors Annie Janusch and Scott Esposito called “Translate This Book!” Which is exactly what it sounds like: fervent recommendations from impassioned professionals in the field, forty-odd reformist theses nailed to publishing’s door. The article has attracted the attention of, among other places, The New Yorker.

Available for Pre-Order

January 26th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

at PS Publishing is the mega-double special issue 20/21 of Postscripts, Edison’s Frankenstein, featuring my translation of Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s “The Denham Inheritance,” a meditation on great apes and loss,  my Clarion teacher Paul Park’s story (which he read aloud at Mysterious Galaxy over the summer), and work by host of terrific writers. It comes in regular and special collector’s editions, the latter with pages of contributors’ signatures. Editor Pete Crowther was kind enough to include me as well as the author; signing all two hundred translucent sheets in a single sitting was a lesson in the vagaries of one’s own autograph. It reminded me of a story another teacher of mine once told me about a similar experience. Imagining her signature consistent, if only through so much concentrated practice, she’d held the stack of sheets up to the light, only to see how erratic it was. A small fable of selfhood.

French Voices

January 27th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

I’m delighted to announce that Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s A Life on Paper, due out from Small Beer Press in May, has been selected as part of this year’s French Voices grant program. As French Book News explains:

“In 2006 the French Cultural Services and PEN American Center inaugurated an ambitious new program of support for translations from French into English.  The program’s goal is to create a US-published series of fifty books representing the very best of contemporary French writing in a number of fields.”

A Life on Paper, which was also recently awarded a Hemingway Grant by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, joins truly prestigious company. I see this as not only a vote of confidence for the quality of Châteaureynaud’s work, and for independent for-profit publishers like Small Beer, but for the addition of a new kind of voice–a new tonal range, so to speak–to the chorus readers have generally come to know as French literature. We all have a notion of what French letters are about, however narrow or hidebound that may be, a notion tied in part to others historical and national, and often shaped by hidden contingencies of canon and cultural exchange, but periodically that notion needs to evolve. The French Voices program is engaged in a noble battle to broaden the expectations American audiences have of French literature–its offerings and possibilities–by giving its imprimatur to what best represents France at this moment: in this case, deeming fabulism and fantasy a worthy addition to the transatlantic conversation. » Read the rest of this entry «

One Month Left to Apply to Clarion

January 29th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Undoubtedly the best experience I had last year and a turning point in my life. Alas, I can’t go again (and it wouldn’t be the same!) but you can, so DO IT NOW:

Established in 1968, the Clarion Writers’ Workshop is the oldest workshop of its kind and is widely recognized as a premier proving and training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction. Many graduates have become well-known writers, and a large number have won major awards. The six-week workshop is held on the beautiful beachside campus of the University of California, San Diego.

The 2010 writers in residence are Delia Sherman, George R.R. Martin, Dale Bailey, Samuel R. Delany, Jeff VanderMeer, and Ann VanderMeer. The 2010 Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop will take place June 27 through August 7, 2010 at University of California, San Diego. » Read the rest of this entry «

Profile

January 30th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Nicely tying two recent posts together—Noël Devaulx and French Voices—un grand merci to Chad Post at Three Percent for running a lovely profile of me in his post-ALTA convention project “Making the Translator Visible.” Check out the series: at the 2009 convention Chad interviewed many an intelligent talent that puts present company to shame.

The verb is actually spelled indifférer, but clearly… I couldn’t care less.

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