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International
Tuesday 4 August 2020

Lightning in a Bottle: A Case Study of Publishing Literary Translation

Featuring Yoko Tawada with Margaret Mitsutani, Susan Bernofsky, Barbara Epler, Jeffrey Yang & Rivka Galchen, moderated by Stephen Snyder

Tuesday 4 August 2020

PEN America, the Center for the Humanities at CUNY Graduate Center, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library presented Lightning in a Bottle: A Case Study of Publishing Literary Translation livestreamed on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Tuesday 4 August 2020 at 10:30 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 12:30 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 1:30 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4) / 18:30 BST (London, UTC +1) / 19:30 CEST (Berlin, UTC +2).

What makes a successful book in translation? Have you ever wondered how many people are involved in various stages and how many pieces need to fall into place for an astonishing work of literary translation to make it into the hands and hearts of readers? Featuring Yoko Tawada with Margaret Mitsutani, Susan Bernofsky, Barbara Epler, Jeffrey Yang & Rivka Galchen, moderated by Stephen Snyder. Sponsored by Middlebury Language Schools.

Yoko Tawada was born in Tokyo in 1960, moved to Hamburg when she was twenty-two, and then to Berlin in 2006. She writes in both Japanese and German, and has published several books—stories, novels, poems, plays, essays—in both languages. She has received numerous awards for her writing including the Akutagawa Prize, the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, the Tanizaki Prize, the Kleist Prize, the Goethe Medal, and the National Book Award (US). New Directions publishes her story collections Where Europe Begins (with a Preface by Wim Wenders) and Facing the Bridge, as well her novels The Naked Eye, The Bridegroom Was a Dog, Memoirs of a Polar Bear, and The Emissary.
Margaret Mitsutani is a translator of Yoko Tawada and Japan’s 1994 Nobel Prize laureate Kenzaburo Oe.
Susan Bernofsky directs the program in literary translation at Columbia University. She has translated Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, and is currently working on a new translation of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain for W.W. Norton. Her biography of Robert Walser is forthcoming from Yale UP in spring 2021.
Barbara Epler started working at New Directions after graduating from college in 1984, and is now the president and publisher. She has been lucky to work with with great translators of such wonderful writers as Yoko Tawada, W.G. Sebald, Laszlo Krasznahorkhai , César Aira, Clarice Lispector, Ingeborg Bachmann, Joseph Roth, Bei Dao, Alejandra Pizarnik, Fleur Jaeggy, Yoel Hoffmann, Roberto Bolaño, Takashi Hiraide, Robert Walser, among many others.
Jeffrey Yang is the author of Hey, Marfa; Vanishing-Ling; and An Aquarium. He works as an editor at New Directions Publishing.

Rivka Galchen is an award-winning fiction writer and journalist who loves noodles and numbers and modest-sized towns where her dad might have worked. Her work appears often in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The London Review of Books and The New York Times. She is the author of three books: Atmospheric Disturbances (Novel, FSG, 2008), American Innovations (Short Stories, FSG 2014) and Little Labors (Essays, New Directions, 2016). She has received numerous prizes and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Fellowship, The Berlin Prize and The William J Saroyan International Prize in Fiction. In 2010, she was named to The New Yorker’s list of 20 Writers Under 40. Galchen also holds an MD from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Rat Rule 79 is her first book for young readers.

Stephen Snyder, Kawashima Professor of Japanese Studies at Middlebury College, serves as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Language Schools. He is the author of Fictions of Desire: Narrative Form in the Novels of Nagai Kafū (University of Hawai’i Press 2000) and has translated works by Yōko Ogawa and Kenzaburō Ōe, among others. His translation of Ogawa’s Hotel Iris was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2011, and his translation of Ogawa’s Revenge was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction prize in 2014. His translation of Ogawa’s Memory Police was a finalist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature and is a finalist for the International Booker Prize. He is currently working on a study of the publishing industry and its effect on literary canons in translation.

***

Esther Allen: Hello and welcome, I'm Esther Allen, a professor at City University of New York. And I'm joined by Allison Markin Powell who translates Japanese literature and works with the PEN Translation Committee. She and I are co-organizers of Translating the Future, the conference you are attending. Back in May, for week two of conference, we were joined from Beirut by the brilliant Lena Munzer, the horrifying news of massive explosions in that city just a few hours ago have shaken us and the whole world to the core. It appears that Lena herself is physically unharmed. She, her family and community and the whole city of Beirut are in our hearts. We will check with friends in Lebanon on what actions we can take to best be of assistance.

Allison Markin Powell: Yes, Lena, we hope you and your loved ones are safe And our thoughts and prayers go out to Beirutes and those who have family and friends there. And thank you all for joining us here for this 13th installment of our weekly program. Today's conversation lightning in a bottle is a case study snap to tail, if you like of the publication of an astonishing author, Yoko Tawada, who was born in Tokyo and lives in Germany. Her award-winning books are written in Japanese and in German. Yoko Tawada joins us today, along with two of her translators, Margaret Mitsutani and Susan Bernofsky, publisher Barbara Epler and editor Jeffrey Yang of New Directions, which publishes Tawada's books and novelist Rivka Galchen who has written about Tawada's work. You can learn more about all of today's illustrious speakers by reading their full bios on the Center for the Humanities site. We are particularly grateful to Middlebury Language Schools for generously sponsoring today's conversation. And we are thrilled to have Dean Stephen Snyder himself, an eminent translator of modern Japanese literature as our moderator.

Esther: In her marvelous book, "This Little Art", the translator and SAS, Kate Briggs, who will be joining us in September for the final week of Translating the Future, sums up the crucial importance of the complex collaborative process that will be discussed today. We need translations urgently, Briggs writes, it is through translation that we are able to reach the literatures written in the languages that people can't read, from the places where we don't or can't live offering us the chance of understanding as well as the necessary and instructive experience of failing to understand, of being confused and challenged. We receive these books newly made by the hands of translators and publishers and editors and the small contacts that those hands make between translator and writer, reader and translator language and language, culture and culture, experience and experience are as Edith Grossman puts it, as vital to our continual reading and writing to the vitality of our languages, our cultures, and our experiences as the books themselves.

Allison: Today’s conversation will show just how many people are involved in the publication of a work of translation at various stages on its way into the hands of readers. From the translator to the publisher and editor to the critic. All these pieces falling into place are as extraordinary as lightening in a bottle. And the process whereby that happens is as you'll see, every bit as exhilarating and vital as Kate Briggs says. Given the number of participants in today's program, we've allowed ourselves an extra 15 minutes, just this once, the conversation will last until 2:30 p.m. Eastern time, and we'll address questions from the audience until 2:45 Eastern time. Please email your questions for Yoko Tawada, Margaret Mitsutani, Susan Bernofsky, Barbara Epler, Jeffrey Yang, Rivka Galchen, and Stephen Snyder to translatingthefuture2020@gmail.com. We'll keep questions anonymous, unless you note in your email that you would like us to read your name.

Esther: Translating the Future will continue in its current form through September. The conference is originally planned dates in late September, several large scale events will happen. We'll be here every Tuesday until the week's hour long conversation. Please join us next Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern daylight time for building communities and communities for translation with Paige Aniyah Morris, who will be joining us from time, Shuchi Saraswat, Allison Markin Powell and Marshall Lynx Qualey. And do keep checking the Center for the Humanities site for future events.

Allison: Translating the Future is convened by PEN America's Translation Committee, which advocates on behalf of literary translators, working to foster a wider understanding of their art and offering professional resources for translators, publishers, critics, bloggers, and others with an interest in international literature. The committee is currently co-chaired by Lyn Miller-Lachmann and Larissa Kyzer. For more information, look for translation resources at pen.org.

Esther: If you know anyone who was unable to join us for the live stream today, a recording will be available afterwards on the HowlRound and Center for the Humanities sites. Before we turn it over to Yoko and the gang we'd like to offer our utmost gratitude as ever to our partners at the Center for the Humanities at the graduate center, CUNY, the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, the Cullman center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, PEN America, and the Masters of Dark Zoom Magic at HowlRound who make this livestream possible. And today we particularly like to thank the Middlebury Language Schools for their generous support for today's events. And now we turn this over to Steve Snyder.

Steve Snyder: Hello, I am enormously honored to be able to facilitate today's event and want to start by thanking the PEN America Center and the Center for Humanities for sponsoring Translating Future, which has been extraordinary from its beginning and it looks to be to the end of the program. I also wanna personally thank Allison and Esther for conceiving of this event and asking me to be involved. They told me that I could plug the Middlebury Language Schools very briefly as a cosponsor of today's events. So I'll just say that normally we would be teaching our summer languages in full immersion face-to-face language pledge base form in Vermont, but in this extraordinary summer for the first time in 115 years, we have over a thousand students studying 12 languages remotely from around the world and it seems to be going very well indeed, despite the challenges. I'll just add that for those of you who are budding translators or would be translators and wanna gain additional language and culture proficiency, and that will allow you to become the translators of the future, the Middlebury Language Schools are an excellent option. I'm delighted and honored to be serving as moderator for the panel today, it promises to be a fascinating behind the scenes glimpse at the processes that take a literary text out of its original linguistic and cultural contexts and make it accessible in a new language to a new literary market and readership. Ultimately, we'll be looking at some of the forces at work in determining how a text gets selected for translation, in this case of the Japanese fiction or poetry published every year, thousands of titles honed down to one, how a translator is chosen, how the text is edited, marketed and produced as a physical object and ultimately sold and read in the new literary sphere. And therefore in a larger sense, we're really looking at how a Canon of national literature is formed in translation. The format today as Allison and Esther said is one that we hope will be a visual representation of that process to some extent. We'll begin with a small number of people on camera and begin adding people to show the complexity of the process. I think we all realize that while the original writer and the translator played key roles, there are many other actors who take part in what I sometimes call a translation discourse. Lots of voices, not cacophonous voices, but organized voices who all have a say to some extent in how a text gets moved from one cultural context into another. These include editors, literary agents, publishers, marketing directors, jacket designers, critics, and readers themselves and I'm sure I've left out a number of other people who are involved. Hopefully today we will be hearing from some of these voices and discussing the process in detail. But the most important voice in this process is of course, that of the original author. And today we have with us an extraordinary writer who probably has more sensitivity to and knowledge of the process we're talking about than almost anyone I could imagine. Tawada Yoko has been writing in German and Japanese since the inception of her career, she exists in what she sometimes calls an exophonic universe where language is always foreign always being translated. And today we are gonna begin talking with her about how the text that she creates relates to this translation process. I can't imagine anybody who has more to say on this subject or has thought more deeply about it. So if you could join us Tawada-san, we will begin our discussion. Welcome.

Tawada Yoko: Hi.

Steve: It’s a huge pleasure and honor to meet you and to be with you on camera today. And as I just said, I think that in many ways, you're better positioned to begin this discussion than any writer I can imagine. I wonder if you could just talk for a moment about your almost unique position as a major writer in two literary tradition simultaneously affects your conception of the act of translation, both yourself translation, and to some extent the translations that others do of your work.

Yoko: Yeah, to me to be a exophonic writer, that means when I write, I may be free from the idea how the Japanese language should be or how German should be because I'm outside of the language. So for me, the Japanese language, is not only that one language that people write today in Japan, but also maybe languages that produced in the language class abroad, maybe wrong sentences also, they are all possibilities to use for poets. And I remember that when I used to live in Japan, I was interested in writing style of [Yoko speaks in Japanese 11:50], where or people who didn't like them, they criticized and said that their writing it's like bad translation. That means you can see the influence from outside in the text, it's transparent. It's transparent and foreign language, but you can see all the ways behind the sentences, something foreign and that's exactly what I love, I want to write like that translation. And when I finish my texts, for example, in German, I write one text, but I don't have the feelings that that's a final form of this text, but it's not closed. From the text itself I feel it's a wish of the text, they want to be reborn in another language or as the voice of the text, it said, translate me, translate me and this voice go all over the world to many translators. And it's just the original is just a temporary form of the text and it is just the beginning of the text and it must go ahead in other forms on that translation.

Steve: That’s the fascinating concept that works are begging to be translated, that they need to be translated. Do you have a sense of when you write, which version your German version or your Japanese version is the original or are they both originals?

Yoko: Most of my texts exist only in German or in Japanese. And sometimes I translate, it's so complicate, the naked eye that there is a English translation of that, nowhere, there are two originals. And because I wrote in two languages at the same time and the Emissary is just really Japanese text, the German version is not translated by me, but if I pay the partner. "The Memoir of a Polar Bear", I don't know why I wrote it at first in Japanese, It was my mistake so I wrote it again in German and yeah, the mistake is original, the other one is a translation.

Steve: Very quickly, we're going to bring in your translators from Japanese and German, but I wonder if you could talk for a moment about the role you play in shaping their translations before we get their version of that story, do you select your translators? Do you work with them closely since you have so many linguistic skills yourself, or what is the relationship that you have to translators since you are a translator yourself?

Yoko: I never chose translator, but say they found me, I must be visible so that they can find me. And to me it is important that they choose and translate one story, if the translator has a feeling, they want to tell the story in their own language, they must have a connection, the very personal connection to the text, and yeah.

Steve: Yeah, I think that's the most important thing for a translator to love what you're translating and that makes it possible. I was rereading "Kentoshi", the Emissary for today's discussion and I was struck how again and again, you return to the nature of Japanese language itself and particularly the context of this kind of budding rebirth of Eto society and the cutoff country. And you talk about shapes of characters and you talk about the derivation of words. And as a translator, those are some of the very most difficult things to translate because they rely on an understanding of a language that by definition, the foreign reader doesn't understand. So I'm wondering whether you focus on that as a kind of impediment to the translation process or what drew you to that kind of self referentially language?

Yoko: When I wrote the "Emissary", I didn't think about the translation, it's not my intention, or I didn't want that Margaret and Susan suffers also. with what prey in Japanese. It's no intention and I was very surprised to see how good it was translated. But I think the poets love the things that it's difficult to express and also I know that translator loves untranslatable text. I don't know why, but they love it and I know it. And maybe in the process of very difficult translating, you can feel the resistance of the word and it is resistance of the language and it's not intention of the writer, but it's a moment that you can really understand what's a language is. So the resistance is a positive thing, yeah.

Steve: It’s fascinating. It may be then time soon to bring in Margaret and Susan, But I want to ask maybe one more related question, and that is several of your recent works talk about a Japan that's cut off from the rest of the world, a world where Japanese, for instance, in "The Emissary", you talk about the fact that foreign fiction no longer is allowed in the country and Japanese fiction no longer flows out. Your career has by definition been a transnational career, you've lived in a kind of liminal space from the very beginning. I'm curious what that new thematizing I know that some of it's rooted in the 3/11 disaster, but what that current theme of the breakdown of globalization, that breakdown of free movement between countries and free movement of texts and ideas and people means to you in your writing in recent years.

Yoko: ”The Emissary" wrote it after the Fukushima disaster. So I felt the people in Japan it's like they wanted to return to the ADU period of the isolation. I thought it's a very typical Japanese feeling after big tragedy or a catastrophe go back and close their identity and less contact with outside, it's very Japanese way to handle a catastrophe, I thought. But then now we have the corona and that's kind of national isolation and national borders, it comes back and I never thought that also in Europe, there are suddenly many borders that did not exist before. Also maybe, yeah, of course we are the big topic of the world literature is now the globalization and no border and international and so on, but maybe our future, we must think about this isolation in the future.

Steve: It’s a frightening prospect, but obviously one where reality is catching up with your fiction at some point. Thank you so much what an honor, to be able to talk for a few minutes with you. And now I would like to bring in Susan Bernofsky and Margaret Mitsutani your translators from German and Japanese respectively and expand the conversation because obviously their function, their role in this translation discourse is an enormously important one and without them, we wouldn't have these texts that, that you've created. So I'd love to talk for a minute with the two of you about your relationship with Tawada-san’s texts. Could I ask both of you maybe to speak just briefly about how you first began translating the work of Tawada Yoko?

Margaret Mitsutani: Which one of us should go for first?

Steve: Why don't you go ahead.

Margaret: Okay, well, let's see, back in the '90s, sort of maybe '97 or so, I had just translated a novel by Kenzaburo and published from Kodansha International, which is a subsidy of the publishing house, Kodansha a big publisher in Japan and the editor for the Oe book said that he had heard about this story, which ended up being translated as "The Bridegroom Was a Dog" and he said, there's some hot shot from Columbia University who wants to translate it, but I want you to translate it because people who are excellent academics aren't always good translators. And I had already read it and I really, really liked it, so I said, Oh, sure, fine. And then I've got, this is the book, of course it's out of print because the company doesn't exist anymore and I picked two other stories to go with it, "Missing Heels", and the other one was "The Gotthard Railway.” And so when I started translating that I had never met Tawada-san. And I think we met when one of her plays was put on in a small theatre near the near with the [inaudible 23:35]. And I think we met at the performance. And I remember when I ordered tickets, there was a number to call and I called it and the man who answered the phone, he told me about the [inaudible 23:50] he said, oh, by the way, I'm Yoko's father.

Steve: So connections matter.

Margaret: Yeah.

Steve: At this point, Tawada-san you were already living in Germany.

Yoko: Yes.

Steve: And so this was the occasion that you met when you came for the production of this play. Did it matter to you who the translator was or how she was selected? A hotshot from Columbia is another option, where you or did the give you, I know who the editor is, who Margaret is referring to, did the press give you an option about translators?

Yoko: No, I have no idea, I didn't know that there are options.

Steve: It could have been Steven Shaw the legendary editor at national… yeah. He was prescient in wanting to publish this work, obviously it was brilliant. Susan, could you tell us a little about how you first came to be translating Tawada-san’s work.

Susan Bernofsky: So we're going to go even a little further back in time now, I first read Yoko Tawada's work when I was living in Germany in Stuttgart in 1992, I went into my favorite bookstore in Stuttgart [Susan says the name of the bookstore 25:10], yes, Yoko's laughing 'cause she knows it, an excellent little book shop, that's just crammed full of stuff, like you open the door and something is going to fall on you. And when I was in there, I picked up this, I found this in my house this morning, this beautiful 30th anniversary volume of the Austrian magazine "Manuscript" and it was very attractive. It has a little, you could lift up the little baby skirt and there's a list of the authors and a little sort of risque rhyme here, written an old German script. Anyway, I picked up this attractive magazine volume and was reading through it on a visit to Berlin and I looked this morning at my copy and I saw that the in the table of contents, there's one big check mark that I made next to the Yoko Tawada story. So I read this magazine and when I reached the story, which now exists in English with the title, "Canned Foreign", I read the story, I thought, what is this? Oh my God. I was completely blown away by this short little essay, a stick story that was so strange and inventive and it was just a couple pages long and I immediately thought I need to translate this. I must've been 25 then, we were all young then, yeah. And so I translated the story and I sent my translation to the magazine, to Yoko care of the magazine and they forwarded it to her. And I said, so I'm Susan, I translated your story, I love it, may I have your permission to transcend it to an American magazine to get it published? And I immediately got back a response from her saying, excellent, please do send your translation to a magazine and here's another story, do you wanna translate that one too? I think she was taking on blind faith that the translation was okay, that's how it started for me.

Steve: Fascinating, Tawada-san do you look at your translations into English? Do you check them or do you intervene? I'm always curious, I actually had a research project that started years ago where I asked many, many translators and authors what their relationship is like and the degree to which the writer feels responsibility for, or is involved in the translation process. So I'd love to know what you think of the process and then I'd love to hear from Margaret and from Susan about what they think of your role in the translation.

Yoko: No, I don't check because I need much time to read English. If I would do it, I don't have time to write, so I don't check, but after it's published, I have many occasions to read it in the United States, in the seminar and in readings. And so I see the people are very happy about the texts, I feel it and so this is the best way of checking. Wow, I can't say if something is good or not, but in the reaction of the audience, I can see how wonderful the translation is. And I read the translation many times in the United States, it comes to me like, this is original, I want it, this English version and for that, I wrote it in German so that Susan can translate it into English.

Steve: Fascinating, I would add that a national book award in translated literature is also a pretty good validation of the quality of what your—

Yoko: [Laughing] Yeah, yeah.

Steve: So Margaret and Susan, do you ask a lot of questions of Tawada-san when you're working? Do you discuss the work as it goes along?

Margaret: I think I did the very first book that I just held up, I think I called Yoko in Germany.

Yoko: Yes, yeah.

Margaret: Yeah, a few times. I was very nervous about being up but recently I didn't ask anything about "The Emissary". When something is translated, it inevitably changes, things change in translation. And one thing I remember once I was translating a story of Yoko's that takes place in Vietnam and a woman is riding the train in Vietnam and she suddenly thinks to herself if and to translate that into English, if the ear is of bread, if I cut off the ears of bread, which is the crusts of bread, they're called ears in Japanese, and I thought, oh, what am I gonna do with this? And, but I thought rice has ears, corn has ears and we talk about ears of wheat so probably rice has, so I changed it to rice. If I cut off ears of rice with my ears, so it came out something like that. So, I mean, and especially with something like "The Emissary" where there's so much wordplay, you can't just translate the words, it's not gonna work, so things change. But I think Yoko Knows the inevitability of change in translation so I don't worry about it too much.

Steve: Probably would that than any writer you could imagine, exactly and particularly he knows wordplay. So it's a wonderful thing to have a writer who's conscious but also understanding of the process of translation. Susan, how about you, do you work closely with Tawada-san when you're working?

Susan: I think I do send questions, but often if I send a question it's because something in the German was ambiguous and you had to make a decision one way or the other, you know sometimes, in every language we take advantage of ambiguities, and translators are always at the sort of crossroad where it can mean this or that, but in the English, it's gonna have to mean one or the other. And I'll ask her that kind of thing but in general, I would say, you can tell what the text that the writing, the texts are like open pored. It's like the texts are already written in such a way that the translation is going to enter into the pores and there's those gaps for translation written into the text. Like I remember one of the early stories of hers, I translated the title story of the collection "Where Europe Begins", Oh, here's the beautiful German edition. It's a beautiful travel story, this a publishing house, beautiful small press in Germany that makes gorgeous books. But the story ends with sort of alphabet soup where it's sort of surreal all these elements in this fairytale story come back together and the first letters of each of the objects spell out a word and in English, the words are spelled differently than in German. So I was in the position of writing a new one and it was obvious that, that was gonna have to happen and I wound up introducing words into the story that I thought were tangentially related to what was happening and I remember sending Yoko the words that I wanted to introduce into her story and say, I had to do this, is this okay? And she's like, well, yeah, of course. And then from that moment on, I understood that from her point of view, also, this was really a collaborative venture and I love having that sense of permission to continue the play, which also brings with it responsibility because if you're adding things into the text, are the things you're adding serving the texts? Are they carrying the story further? Are they part of it in a productive way? And so in a way that it's hard, having more permission can be more difficult sometimes, but it's fun.

Steve: Fascinating, so this is the primary dyad as I see it between the author and the translator, but I'd love to bring more voices in because once you all have produced your texts and that is already a conversation, and in the case of Tawada-san’s work, it's a conversation between languages even than the production of the original text, but other people come into the discussion. And so I know that all of us realize the role that editors play, even though they're completely unsung, editors play an absolutely crucial role in helping a text be selected, for instance, out of the thousands of possibilities and they have their own agendas and their own reasons, publishers have a list that they want to create and shape and certain writers fit in and others don't. And particularly in translated fiction, you have in some cases, dozens of works in existence by a writer that need to be curated into a form in the target language. So I'd love to now bring in Barbara and Jeffrey, Barbara Epler and Jeffrey Yang to discuss how New Directions came to begin publishing Tawada-san’s work. And we've been looking at beautiful covers for instance, and maybe give us some insight into things beyond the editing of the text, but also things like how a jacket designer is selected and to what degree is the author or the translator involved in that process? Or how are titles created because titles often do form from one language to the other. So if we could bring in our next two speakers, it would be wonderful to introduce them.

Jeffrey Yang: Barbara, you wanna start?

Barbara Epler: No, start, Jeffrey.

Jeffrey: What was the question? I'm sorry.

[Laughter.]

Steve: The question is how did you two first encounter Tawada-san’s work and how did New Directions make the decision once Kodansha International moved on and ultimately folded, how did New Directions become primary English language publisher?

Jeffrey: No, thank you, it's so great to be here. Okay, so I guess I'll start 'cause Barbara doesn't want to. [Laughs.] No, it's interesting to see the pipeline that's being created with this program, and we're really grateful for that and to see everyone here. So picking up for kind of where Margaret and Susan were speaking about finding Tawada's work. I first read a "Bridegroom Was a Dog" that book that Margaret had brought up in a graduate course with Keith Vincent, who was teaching at the time at NYU. And it was a class on Japanese literature, masculinity, and a lot of queer theory involved and it was all kind of an amazing class 'cause the work, I didn't know. And so we read one of her stories, we read Soseki and some Oe but Tawada's story was fabulous. And when I started to work at New Directions, I was talking to Barbara about Tawada's work and she said, oh, I know that book. I wanted to publish that book. So she could talk more about that, but she was kind of already on the radar in New Directions. And so she kind of encouraged me to look into more of her work and so looking to see around that time too, I had also found some of Tawada's stories translated by Susan, and I think it was "Conjunctions" or a couple of journals, I think that's how it was. And so I kind of just chased the trail and we ended up publishing "Where Europe Begins", which is this book that Susan translated with Yumi Selden, translated a couple of the Japanese stories. And then with Margaret, I worked on this book with her called "Facing the Bridge", which is three kinds of novella length stories. And then we continued on, I worked with Susan on the "Naked Eye" and then Barbara was working on some of her books later on, too. And yeah, so Barbara, I mean, she could—

Barbara: I don't know how it happened, but I read Margaret's translation of "The Bridegroom Was a Dog" when it seemed like American rights were being offered by the Kodasha Japan before, I don't know how that worked. But anyhow, I read it and I loved it, but I'd recently dragged our wonderful publisher at the time or the managing director, Griselda, and Griselda was this really wonderful person, but she was kind of a proper lady and I had already dragged her into Kono Taeko or Taeko Kono. We had a big drama about that because I thought it was really great and James Laughlin, our publisher owner was still alive. And they both agreed that it was beautiful literature, but they both disliked the S&M content. And so we got into a fight with Griselda me and I said, but you've agreed, it's good literature. And if we can publish "Sperm and Mishima,” we can publish, "Kono Taeko." Upon which Griselda all right, but get out of my office. So I left and I didn't bother her for a few days, but then not too long after that I brought her "Bridegroom Was a Dog" and you always had to get your boss to agree and she liked it, also saw that Yoko was a wonderful writer, but she didn't like something very much, she didn't like something. And they were kind of nearly the same time and I said, well, is it the inner species thing? And she was like, nope, it was the Kleenexes. Remember the teacher and the kid?

Margaret: Oh yeah.

Barbara: Didn’t like that at all. Anyhow, but so I really liked Yoko's writing already and I thought she would be great someone to publish for us. And actually I met you Yoko when you lived in Hamburg, in the little fairytale house on the river.

Yoko: Yeah.

Barbara: Yeah, that was like 2001? And we talked about Leonora Carrington and Victor [Victor’s last name, inaudible 40:20], I guess a long time ago, but anyhow, and then Jeffrey really was the one who got the show on the road though and organized Susan and organized Yumi and put together the first and this is a really wonderful story to publisher. And so I'd like you to talk more about what that took, 'cause there was all sorts of people like the remarkable Claudia Gerke, who I've never met, but I love her publishing, the way she publishes. And then a lot of different Japanese publishers, it seemed like at the time more than just Kodansha then. But anyhow, I wanted to say something about something like this, like CUNY or the support we get from Columbia or Princeton and the support we get from PEN and the Goethe Institute and the Japan foundation, so Yoko-san can come and visit us and we can have events. New Directions is really small, we couldn't afford that, and we do a lot of literature and also the booksellers and writers like Rivka, who's gonna talk soon I hope, and I don't know, there's so many people who support somebody like Yoko Tawada and it takes sometimes a long time to build them up. But it was really, really, really gratifying to see with every book her audience grew. And like with the polar bears kind of got bigger, but then to win the National Book Award, that was the first National Book Award they had for translation since the 1970s, big thing, it was really great. And I just think there's all these people who help us and there's some authors who really blaze out like Roberto Bolano or W.G. Sebald and their first book makes them famous. But other really great writers like Yoko-san, Lázló Krasznahorkai, Clarice Lispector, Jenny Erpenbeck, it's over decades, and all those translators are working. Like we're all trying hard and we have so much support. So I just wanted to thank everybody, including the host of this event and the translation network of PEN and the Haim Awards and Esther and Allison it's a trip and it's such a good heart. So anyway, that's what I want to say, but Jeffrey, you've got to go back on.

I mean, she's doing things in the language that are fun and very kind of focused. Her story has come out of so much of the beauty of a language or wrestling with language and translation.

Jeffrey: I mean, I could talk more about how the books that we originally published kind of were put together and Susan and Margaret could talk about that too, but I don't what your timing is.

Steve: We have a few more minutes and then we're gonna bring in Rivka, but it'd be great to hear a little bit about how you put together a particular volume, how you picked the stories. Obviously in many cases, they're not republished together in a Japanese volume or a German volume, they're things that you crafted in New Directions. And then even if you can talk about the physical books, who does the covers and how you have that conversation, it fascinates, I think all of us who end up reading them or buying them in bookshops.

Jeffrey: Right, okay, I'll say a couple of things about each of these two books, which is the first two books that we brought out, Susan and Margaret both worked on these and they're kind of match in ways 'cause they're stories and that thematically they match and they both start with like this one starts with a little friend is a piece of an ear and the other one started with an eye, with some eyes. So Susan basically kind of had an idea of what to include in where your begins. And she sent us a number of stories and enlisted Yumi Selden, who she was friends with and to translate a couple, a few of the stories as well. And so once we got kind of a number of these translations, I looked at it, Barbara looked at, and I think a couple other editors were all kind of like looking at this work and then we kind of just chose what we thought would work really well in like a first or in this book of stories. And so, yeah, I don't know if Susan wants to add to anything to that, but I think she was kind of had an idea of the arc.

Susan: I’ve been trying to assemble a volume of Tawada's stories to present to publishers and I had transcended about a hundred pages worth of stories and sent it to very small publishers because I was nobody and I don't think I would have dreamed of approaching the great New Directions, which I had been in awe of as the great publisher of modernist literature, I'm sure I didn't dare submit. I don't even remember what publishers I submitted to, but I already had sort of a small book proposal that I had sent around and gotten rejected everywhere. So I was sort of dejected and it was so thrilling to get contacted by Jeffrey, out of the blue saying, "Hey, we're interested in Yoko Towada, do you have any more translations?" It was like as a matter of fact here, and it was very exciting to work with Yumi Selden because it was collaborative, we were dear friends and we read each other's work and had a lot of conversations about every sentence and every word and I was looking at the German translations of the same stories that she was translating from Japanese into English, so we were sort of triangulating among all that, it was a very joyful process.

Steve: Conversations, wonderful. Do you detect any difference between the translations out of German and out of Japanese in the final English texts? Or are they just all visible as Tawada Yoko?

Jeffrey: Yeah, well, I mean, I don't read those languages and so I'm just working with the English text and I mean, I don't know if I'm making this up I don't know if the sentences, maybe at the time I was feeling in Japanese, maybe Tawada will disagree completely with me, but they seem to be a little longer to me, like just the way that the clauses work, but other than that, to me, thematically and content wise, it all is Tawada you know? And so I think it fits together. I mean, she's doing things in the language that are fun and very kind of focused. Her story has come out of so much of the beauty of a language or wrestling with language and translation. I mean, in both of these books, like in "Where Europe Begins", like with the story that Susan had mentioned, "Canned Foreign", and this other story called "Storytellers Without Souls" and then in this other book "Saint George and The Dragon" and they're all so focused or if they come out of translation, like translation plays a big part of these stories, but they're also very fun.

Margaret: It was "Saint George and the Translator".

Jeffrey: The translator, sorry. Which was originally titled “Wound in the Alphabet,” correct.

Margaret: “Wound in the Alphabet,” sure

Jeffrey: Can I just read like two lines of what Margaret I mean, it'd be nice just to hear like a little bit, 'cause she mentioned this thing about rice and ear. So this is the part that she mentioned in the story, which is in front of “Tran Tan Bridge,” so Margaret says or translates: “If you cut off ears of rice and throw them away, which you get an earache? And why shouldn't bread have ears too? People say dizzy spells are caused by a breakdown and the balancing mechanism deep within the inner ear. The Japanese are prejudiced against foreign rice, so why don't they complain about foreign bread?” So there's this really wonderful way of like kind of the narrative being carried along in this way, that's just seems to come right out of the story and the writing and no. And the translations of course is what for us is what makes it possible.

Margaret: Yeah and with reference to foreign rice, there was quite awhile ago, but the rice crop in Japan, it was just kind of a disaster for the rice crop. And they were importing rice from Thailand, which, I mean, it's a different kind of rice, but there were awful stories about kids who were being bullied, being called Thai rice, which was just… [Laughs.] So, I wasn't thinking about that when I wrote that sentence, but it really turned out to be true.

Jeffrey: Those are the best choices that converge into this external meaningful translation.

Steve: Now we'd like to complete our grid, so to speak and bring in Rivka Galchen and who is a critic who has written most distinctly about Japanese women writers in her book, "Little Labors", but who is, I think will stand in for us as the reader and observer of this process that you all have created and the person who then gets to decide what the value is of this translation discourse. So Rivka, if you'd be willing to join us, hi. And I wonder if you could just talk for a moment about how same question again, how did you first encounter Tawada-san's work, and what role does it play in sort of your thinking about the literary imagination?

Rivka Galchen: Yeah first I wanted to say that it's sort of, especially exciting for me to be in this Zoom room with these people because I've never come across great books, obviously by sort of Googling on the search, it's always been extremely personal. And for me, works in translation have always been the most important to me, I actually track that back to a childhood in Norman, Oklahoma, and it just sort of always felt so important and so alive actually took me years to take English language seriously. I just had this feeling that everything important was somewhere else and coming in from somewhere. So I already had that predisposition that I really think I would have been very lost without actually a lot of the people who are here today. I remember after I published my first novel, suddenly, I was like had this tiny little sliver where I could pitch something to a magazine or to review. I had like a little bit of power over which books were talked about. And, literally it was Esther Allen who introduced me to the writer, Cesar Aira, and Barbara and Jeff, and I think Michael Barron sent me Tawada's work from New Directions, I think, 'cause they already had a sense of my sensibility because I had written about Ira. And I had also worked with Susan when I wrote about Robert Walser. And so these are exactly the people that I'm so grateful to for bringing these writers who are so important to me and that I don't stumble into randomly, they're not necessarily popping up on lists. Maybe they are now, but they weren't when I first came to their work. And I'm always thinking about what Jeffrey said about coming across Tawada's work just on a syllabus and how important that is in terms of like building ways for people to encounter work they don't already know. So really all the people in this room, Margaret included, although I didn't have a personal relationship with her, have been absolutely essential to just bringing work to my attention, I'm so grateful for it.

Steve: Thank you and could you talk a little bit about your perception of the current state of Japanese women writers in particular, since you've written about that, it seems to be, and I'd love to have Tawada-san’s take on this as well, but it's an extraordinary moment for Japanese women writers while fiction and translation in general still seems to struggle, there are a number of writers who are very very visible in the international publishing scene who receive prizes and we could also talk about prizes as another aspect of this and who are regularly published by some large presses. And I'm just wondering you in fact, I think play a role in helping that to happen Rivka, but I'm just curious why you think this might be a phenomenon at the moment.

Rivka: Well, I sort of feel like I would much rather hear actually from Allison about this who I feel like, and from you about this too, I feel like would have a lot more insight, I feel like I'm really kind of the reader on the ground who's not particularly great at being zoomed out, but I do often wonder about chance and funny little doorways that get opened, although it's so different, I feel like the massive bestseller that Haruki Murakami was whether you love him, whether you don't love him, however you feel about him. It just kind of like left a lot of light all around him and left a kind of whole halo of interest around him, whether that's like a great method to bring attention to people or not is another question, but it's certainly something like I observed as a reader.

Steve: I certainly couldn't agree more with that, I think it's absolutely the case in a lot of the works I've translated have been the result of publishers and editors and agents saying, "Who's the next Murakami Haruki?” And so I think that has been a definite updraft for this particular field for a long time. But interestingly, the beneficiaries are in many cases, women writers, and there's just been a very interesting dialogue between Kawakami, Miyako and Murakami about the nature of his works and attitudes toward women. But Tawada-san, I wonder if you could tell us in the current moment how do you feel about being joined by so many interesting writers, both Kawakami Hiromi and Kawakami Miyako and Ogawa Yoko? And a variety of the people whose work now has become visible in the wake of yours. Do you feel kinship with each other or is it a kind of growing sisterhood or is it just a phenomenon that we are observing from the outside?

Yoko: It’s good question, but there is something like women writing in Japan, and in this context, you can see maybe something in each of texts that maybe you could not see if you read on the one woman writer. I like this context and I don't believe that women always write in a different way than men, I don't believe that. But still it is not nonsense to thinking about women writing and what we can discover if you read only, not only one Japanese writer, but a series of women writers.

Steve: I think that's absolutely fascinating and I think that in fact, that's what we're all realizing is that this group together creates a kind of a momentum of its own. I'd love to hear what Jeffrey and Barbara have to say about that in terms of publishing, are you conscious of this or is each writer's career something individual and distinct or do you think of that kind of a group phenomenon when you're trying to develop a list?

Barbara: I mean, it's an odd thing 'cause I always think if you're really doing translated fiction, it takes a while, you've gotta choose someone, then you've got to have them translated and then you have to edit it and then the production cycle, and you have a galley six months before. So if somebody becomes like the big thing, like Latin American fiction, like in the early eighties or whenever, "A Hundred Years of Solitude" came out, then everybody seems to be copycatting and I feel like the trains are leaving the station and we're not on them, if it's not part of our thinking. Now our thinking is just more like, I don't know if it's thinking it's like honeybees or something and there's a lot of flowers and we kind of try them out on each other. I mean, I don't think we think that way Jeffrey, I mean, and there's a lot of us, you know, there's five or six people here who read and then we all argue or discuss, we discuss. So I think it's helpful when there's any more women or any more people of color, I think that's all only a win-win for everybody and more people from areas that are not very well published in America. So that's all true, but we don't really think that way, I don't think, I mean, we do say to each other, wow, a writer from Indonesia, what have we read since 30 years from Indonesia, maybe we're really ignorant, and so that kind of gives us an extra point in our thinking like this is a voice or an area we'd never heard from in a really long time and it's a voice that's really interesting, but it has to be that the voice is really interesting. Otherwise we don't do well with books if they're not really great, that's the problem with translation. Good books, which are good enough in their own languages won't work with us anyway, I mean, they may work with other publishers, I don't know. They have to be really great I think to work in translation for a little list like ours.

Jeffrey: And just the time it takes and I mean, just so much of the community is involved in the making of the book. I mean, to go back a little bit to your question, I mean, I think so much also is of that kind of period of when, or of when say Japanese literature or Arabic literature is something seems to be coming into English more, it's very much dependent on the translators. I mean, we're getting samples or we're getting submissions in and I think, yeah. And then that is connected to other things, even political issues, with how literature suddenly, maybe it gets more funding, I'm sure it all kind of feeds into how we're seeing certain things come in as well. But I agree with Barbara, it's never been like, oh, this person is huge from this country, maybe we should look into, it's always been more about... I mean, at the beginning of New Directions has always been about world literature, not just American writers, but publishing from translation and that's since 1936. And so that's kind of just been the way we've approached it.

Barbara: I mean we have this thing sometimes where just because you do have a success, like say with Cesar, then you're suddenly like German translators are thinking more about you and German publishers, they're sending you things that happens or like with Cesar Aira then every Spanish language publisher and translator just kind of you're on their radar too, so it's like a circle.

Steve: In some ways this speaks to the extraordinary position of New Directions, the ability to attract writers like that because of the list you've created and your reputation is kind of a foundational publishing house for modern literature. And many publishing houses when they're publishing literature and translation work from prizes and sales in the original country. So books that are prize winners, the global prize winners, I suspect that was the original case for "The Bridegroom Was a Dog" being published, but Margaret could speak to that, but also I've had the experience of books that even if they didn't win a prize were extraordinary bestsellers, then commercial publishers are interested in them. Does New Directions function that way or do you work simply from the quality of the text?

Barbara: Prizes are interesting, but there are a lot of them, I mean we just do like 35 books a year and some of them are those poets that we publish for years. So it's not like we have 35 slots, I mean it's like... And then there's people you wanna keep publishing like Yoko-san, you know? And so, no, I mean, we had our first bestseller with this strange Japanese book called the "Guest Cat" a little book by a person we already published as a poet Takashi Hiraide and I didn't even know he wrote novels and I didn't ever think that. I mean, it's an essayistic odd thing that goes in geometry and stuff. I mean, Zelkova trees and it's not just about pussycats and anyhow. So no, we wouldn't know. I mean, the two things don't really track for us.

Steve: Understood, so we have reached the end of our normal time period and we saved 15 minutes for some Q&A and we have questions that have been emailed to us and so I thought I would pose the first one and it's actually probably for you Margaret. And this is a listener who's wondering about translation of names in "The Emissary" and the decision to leave Mumei as a Japanese name that you do, I think at one point interpolate and explained that it means no name, but whereas other names are translated and there is kind of a convention even going back to Soseki of giving literal translations of names that means something in Japanese. So I'm just curious how you made that decision.

Margaret: Well, Mumei, I thought to call him no name, well with Japanese names, they're written in Chinese characters that have meanings so you can always translate it, a Japanese name. But I generally don't, I mean, I don't know Mumei is Mumei and I thought, there's a scene where Yoshiro tells the baby has just been born and his father is there and the great grandfather says, "I've named him Mumei, a name that means no name." How about that or something like that. But I didn't translate Yoshiro, I can't think of any other names that I translated. I don't think there's a tradition of... Well, Madame Chrysanthemum, well, that's definitely a translation of the name, but—

Yoko: Madame Butterfly.

Margaret: Madame butterfly, yeah. Well, Madame Chrysanthemum and Madame Butterfly, are like cousins, Madame Chrysanthemum was Pierre Loti’s novel, in Japanese it's but you know, Chucho Fujino is Madame Butterfly. But generally, names are not translated, I don't know what this questioner is thinking of, but when you translated the name as in Madame chrysanthemum, it sounds kind of quaint or exotic and it kind of turns me off.

Steve: Next question is actually for Tawada-san and it's referring back to the notion and you can confirm or deny it that you write some of your books simultaneously, or more or less simultaneously in German and Japanese, like "The Polar Bear" or "The Naked Eye". And the question really has to do with whether there's a prior text and a subsequent text and it goes back to my question, to some extent about the original, is there a way in which either the Japanese or the German precedes the other and then does that affect the way Susan and Margaret would translate it?

Yoko: And I don't understand the question itself the before, yes, but what’s the question?

Steve: The question, I guess, is there a prior text, is the Japanese or the German in any given case in fact, the first text and you create the other one from it, or is there a way in which you translate simultaneously?

Yoko: I mean, the case of "The Naked Eye", it was only once and simultaneously was no good idea. At the same time, you cannot really write at the same time if you use both hands and write.

Steve: Both sides of your brain.

Yoko: Yeah, but that means I wrote five sentences in Japanese, translated it into German, continued writing in German, five sentences, translated back into Japanese and so on. I mean, that was the case, "The Naked Eye" but it was not a good idea because after that you have two texts and do you read through the text and so you must change so many things because the text is not just a collection of sentences, but it is a river, like, yeah, so you must change it and then you must change the original translation German version, understand, you must change the German version, this process have no end, really.

Susan: I think it was good for the book because the character there is such a sense of disorientation and she feels like estranged from her own language and I think somehow your suffering made the book more interesting.

Yoko: I don't want to suffer, that's translators.

Steve: Not good to suffer, right.

Margaret: What about “Opium pour Ovide?”

Yoko: In that case I wrote it in German—

Margaret: In German and then translated into Japanese.

Yoko: And Japanese is very difficult to understand, my Japanese readers don't like the book.

Margaret: Well, yeah, it went out of print, I guess, that young guys, the really tall guy do you remember? You gave him a copy of that book and he was just thrilled, so not everybody disliked it, but I thought another thing, all the characters come from from Greek myth, and they're not so familiar to Japanese readers, but now that you're famous, it's come back in print and paperback.

Yoko: Yes.

Margaret: Also, [Margaret says the name of one of Yoko’s pieces 1:09:15] I think, didn’t you write that as a sort of travel essay in German? And then the Japanese version turned into something completely different which I ended up translating into English, very, very interesting.

Yoko: Not translation but a transformation because I will say in German and from that same story, but not the same story in Japanese.

Steve: Can I ask a question that goes back to, and maybe this is a question for Jeffrey and Barbara, but it goes back to my obsession with book jackets and I absolutely loved the jacket for "The Emissary", I think it's brilliant and I think this—

Margaret: Yeah I do too.

Steve: And the entire construction is wonderful. And I'm just wondering, and I've had some very, this person had some very interesting and strange experiences dealing with jacket designs and in a couple of cases, I'll have to say that I vetoed things that were proposed and didn't even have that power and still manage to scream enough to make that happen. But this is a brilliant design and I'm curious if you could just talk for a minute about how you can do it and how Tawada Sensei was involved, or if you were, whose voices are heard when that project is going on?

Barbara: We have a really great art director, you could see it all the way through, anyhow, Erik Rieselbach and he's done an interesting thing of reaching out to various designers and kind of asking them who their favorite authors are and getting them on board. And this is by John Gaul, who previously worked on a Tennessee Williams book, I remember. And he did this recently, a very beautiful collage for a selected poems of Thomas Burton, going back to an older. And yeah, so there's kind of a whole group designers who use this. The early books are by a wonderful designer named Semena Meghan and she was really part of the reviving of the end do you think And then this one is actually by an artist that Susan Bernofsky had bought a piece by, and I think this cover just makes it... And sometimes when the art is so great, her name is Alyssa Cartwright, when the arts really great, we just asked Eric to add the type, 'cause Eric's also a book designer, he loves the interiors particularly, like he loves to make the settings. [Susan shows the cover art on her screen, which is framed on the wall of the room she is in 1:11:50] So different, oh, here's the art. It’s a white polar bear.

Susan: Yeah, that's Alyssa Cartwright. So she was a young, is a young artist who loves polar bears and I recommended her to New Directions on the basis of her love of polar bears and then she did the first sketch she provided was this amazing, amazingly beautiful cover.

Barbara: We really wanted it to be, 'cause we had actually a very nice, much more commercial cover originally, but it involved a typewriter and a bear kind of coming out like a piece of white paper. And it was just a very good design technically, but not in the feel of the bear with its pen that Yoko and Susan are bringing into the world as a handwriting there.

Steve: These conversations are, I love to see where the translator gets involved in something that's not really your business, but is your business.

Susan: All the time.

Barbara: And the author awesome too and the editors too. And sometimes Eric wants to kill us.

Jeffrey: But before Eric, we were really responsible ourselves for at least the initial ideas of the cover. Like these two are by a photographer, Gerd Ludwig that I had found that seemed to connect to the books and everyone seemed to like them and then Semena Meghan designer was designing the cover. But yeah, so it's kind of a range, right? But lately it's like how Barbara has been described it.

Barbara: Designers are really amazing, they bring a lot to us.

Margaret: Through our editors.

Susan: So true, it's so true without editors-

Barbara: Susan let me ask you, was sea lion literally “sea lion” in the polar bear book?

Susan: Yes, seelöwen right?

Barbara: The publisher?

Susan: Yeah, he had the name sea lion and it was presented as it was his name, but in German, the difference between what's a name and what's not a name is more fluid than in English. In German, you can say “the sea lion” and that also is a way of naming, too. So you have to decide in English, is it gonna be presented just as a name or a name as… in German it can be a name and a noun at the same time.

Barbara: Yeah.

Steve: Well, I see that Allison and Esther have joined. [crosstalk 1:14;30] …in a fascinating discussion it's so interesting to see how these extraordinary works that Tawada-san creates in Japanese and in German move through the hands of Margaret and Susan and into the publishing companies that do this amazing work of putting into the hands of readers. And that Rivka then has something to write about and something to help us in the circle, promote to wider audiences of readers. This is an enormous pleasure and an honor, and I will turn it back to Allison and Esther for a conclusion.

Allison: Thank you, Steve, you did such a marvelous job moderating and just it was just so many ripples and so many different effects that were being demonstrated visually and thematically, it was fascinating. And I do also want to, I'm not sure we gave enough credit to booksellers. I want to give a shout out to them because they are so important and they also need all of our support right now. But we thank you all so much for being here, I believe we are spanning four different countries here, we have many different time zones that we're covering and I'd also want to make it clear that Margaret Mitsutani's awake in the middle of the night in Tokyo.

Margaret: Actually it’s, hang on a minute, it's 3:46. Early or late, depending on how you wanna see it.

Jeffrey: Usual wake up time.

Allison: Yes, once again, we'd also like to thank our partners. HowlRound, PEN America, The Center For the Humanities at the graduate center, CUNY, the Cullman Center For Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library and the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, with special gratitude to Middlebury Language Schools, which sponsored today's conversation. Esther, did you want to close this out?

Esther: Thank you so much, everybody, and it was a wonderful conversation and you're all such dear friends and so beloved.

[Crosstalk as everyone says variants of “thank you!” 1:16:30.]

Margaret: I’m going to bed!

About this Conference and Conversation Series
Translating the Future launched with weekly hour-long online conversations with renowned translators throughout the late spring and summer and will culminate in late September with several large-scale programs, including a symposium among Olga Tokarczuk's translators into languages including English, Japanese, Hindi, and more.

The conference, co-sponsored by PEN America, the Center for the Humanities at The Graduate Center CUNY, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, with additional support from the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, commemorates and carries forward PEN's 1970 World of Translation conference, convened by Gregory Rabassa and Robert Payne, and featuring Muriel Rukeyser, Irving Howe, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and many others. It billed itself as "the first international literary translation conference in the United States" and had a major impact on US literary culture.

The conversations are hosted by Esther Allen & Allison Markin Powell.

About HowlRound TV
HowlRound TV is a global, commons-based peer produced, open access livestreaming and video archive project stewarded by the nonprofit HowlRound. HowlRound TV is a free and shared resource for live conversations and performances relevant to the world's performing arts and cultural fields. Its mission is to break geographic isolation, promote resource sharing, and to develop our knowledge commons collectively. Participate in a community of peer organizations revolutionizing the flow of information, knowledge, and access in our field by becoming a producer and co-producing with us. Learn more by going to our participate page. For any other queries, email tv@howlround.com, or call Vijay Mathew at +1 917.686.3185 Signal/WhatsApp. View the video archive of past events.

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