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TALKING TO THE AUTHOR: AN INTERVIEW WITH MARINA ŠUR PUHLOVSKI

Posted on August 22, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments

An anti-love story set in 1970s Croatia. An attempt to love, and attempt to succeed, at a time of economic hardship. The tale of a woman who must go wild to free herself from socially and historically imposed ‘prisons’ and a nightmarish marriage. Wild Woman by Marina Šur Puhlovski, published by Istros Books, is the story of an everywoman from a poor family looking for freedom.

Croatian writer Marina Šur Puhlovski has answered a few questions for our blog, taking us through her career as a literature-loving self-made writer, her work, her characters, her past and future projects.

 

 Can you tell us more about yourself and your journey to becoming an author?

I became an author when I published my first story – when I was twenty-five. But I started writing much earlier. I cannot recall a time when I wasn’t obsessively reading and writing. Until I was eighteen, I wrote poetry, and then I encountered T. S. Eliot – and, to my horror, had to admit that I will never be able to write such powerful poetry. So, I won’t write poetry anymore, I told myself, and turned to prose. However, I didn’t want to follow fashionable postmodernist trends, I had other criteria, I was looking for “my voice”. Moreover, I thought my generation of writers was slowly but surely sinking into kitsch. I separated myself, resisted, got left all alone and – unrecognized. I wrote nine books before I managed to get my first one published in 1991. I was 43 then and the war just broke out in former Yugoslavia. Publishing days were over. After the war, and nearing fifty, I found myself in a situation where I had been writing my whole life and I authored just one book. It looked hopeless. But when writing is your life – there is no despairing. I managed to publish all of the books “from the drawer,” as well as those I wrote later on. A few years ago, I met an extraordinary editor, Drago Glamuzina (from V.B.Z. publishing house) and I am finally on track. I published three books in the span of a year and six months – all written earlier. And Wild Woman, my twentieth book, became a hit – for our standards, of course.

Was there a book/author in particular that inspired you to become a writer?

There wasn’t. In my earliest childhood days, I discovered the world of the unreal – and wanted to remain there. First as a reader, then as an author. That does not mean there aren’t any writers who have formed me. I studied comparative literature, which means world literature, and that was my “writing school”. There were none back then. We learnt from the masters whose books weren’t eaten by time. They were my support in difficult times when I couldn’t find a publisher. There I found an affirmation of my understanding of literature – as a search for truth. I didn’t think of literature as a game and a fun way to kill time. I didn’t think that mastering the craft and letting the words lead you was enough. If the author isn’t present in every word they write – they are nowhere… Then art doesn’t exist anymore. All that remains is empty form. Words without concepts. I studied Goethe, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Hardy, Kafka, Joyce, T. Mann, Camus, and many others – but, you see, they were all fathers. And mothers? It took some time for me to realize and wonder about my world. A woman’s world. A world of different experiences, different views. I didn’t have a role model there. I formed myself.

 
“… If the author isn’t present in every word they write – they are nowhere…
Then art doesn’t exist anymore.” – Marina Šur Puhlovski on the art of writing.

 

How did Wild Woman come to life? What motivated you to write this story?

Events from youth… All my novels and stories belong to the same life. I never made up stories – they came on their own. In my youth, an astrologist told me I will live a life filled with events and above average in terms of intensity of experience. She was right. Life offered me an abundance of material – and it was up to me to discover the truth of what happened, to pierce into destiny. Which I feel as my own – not someone else’s, as most of today’s writers do. The protagonist of Wild Woman, Sofija Kralj, is the main character in my three other novels – Nesanica (“Insomnia”), Ljubav (“Love”) and Igrač (“Player”). They represent three lives of the same character, told from different perspectives and through different relationships. In Wild Woman, Sofija Kralj is twenty-seven, in Insomnia – fifty-seven. The story from Wild Woman is present in Nesanica, as an episode. That episode grew up to become a novel. Many side characters from the novels have been given a story in one of my five story collections. I’ve built an entire world that way, with all of the social and political connotations. All of those novels and stories function independently from each other, you don’t have to be familiar with any of the others to understand one of them.

Did you have a particular audience in mind when writing the book? And how does it feel to know that your work has been translated into a global language such as English?

I never have an audience in mind. I don’t write novels with targeted, attractive topics. I don’t write genre prose. As I said already: I am building a world. I am striving to come ever closer to the Secret. I am seeking truth without hope that I will ever reach it, but, who knows, maybe that is precisely where the meaning lies, in the search. Because, as Kafka said, “Truth is perhaps life itself.” But that doesn’t mean I don’t consider the reader at all; I stick to Horatio’s “Dulce et utile” (enjoyable and instructive). Literature isn’t a philosophical debate, nor is it only an entertainment tool: it is both, in its own way. And I am sure that the “language” of truth is universal, that it knows no limits, that truth alone is enough to capture readers – if it manages to reach them. If literary politicking doesn’t “steal” its audience.

Regarding the second question – for a writer who has been marginalized in a small environment for half a century, it is incredible to suddenly reach the readers of the world. Like turning from an ugly duckling into a swan. Somewhere around forty I wrote in my diary: “I think my literary failure is just a joke which will be funny one day.” So, it happened, and I am laughing…
 
What is your experience of being a translated author?
This is the first time one of my books has been translated – I have no experience in that regard.

Are you working on any new projects?

Yes, I am. I am writing a fifth book about Sofija Kralj – the sequel to Igrač and Wild Woman. Once again from a new perspective. I have also found a “misplaced” novel which I have written twenty years ago – Wild Woman before Wild Woman, a portrait of an artist as a young woman, to paraphrase Joyce. It will be published next year. I am also arranging the publication of my five-hundred-page diary which I wrote between the ages of thirty and forty-five. It is not the usual everyday kind of diary; it is literature in itself. Deliberations on life and literature. Because I haven’t been writing just novels, stories, travelogues, I contemplated literature through diary entries and essays. I wrote about literature. I am also preparing a poetry collection which I wrote recently in one great wave of inspiration. I have returned to my first love.

Are there any Croatian writers you would like to recommend to our readers and/or would like to see translated into English?

Since postmodernism has cancelled the difference between art and kitsch – literary production became enormous. I can’t follow everything; I follow sporadically. But, you see, we are a very small literary scene, we all know each other, and every recommendation of one author is an insult to the one who hasn’t been recommended. So, I better refrain from making any kind of recommendation. I have already incurred two lives worth of displeasure for my “hard” literary stances which I took in my essays “Književnost me iznevjerila” (“Literature Let Me Down”). I would like to save what’s left.

 

Read an excerpt from the book here!

 

We kindly thank the author Marina Šur Puhlovski, and publishers Istros Books and VBZ for their contribution to our blog.

 

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THE TRANSLATOR'S (INTER)VIEW: JEAN BOASE-BEIER ON POETRY OF THE HOLOCAUST

Posted on August 20, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments

This month, our Inpress Translated Book of the Month is the multilingual poetry anthology Poetry of the Holocaust, edited by Jean Boase-Beier and Marian de Vooght and published by Arc Publications. 

This is a new, very innovative anthology, which aims to be more comprehensive than previous publications on the topic. It includes poems about the Holocaust written in many languages -German, Dutch, Polish or Yiddish, but also Greek, Norwegian, even Japanese- and not only those written by Jewish Holocaust victims across Europe but also those written by people who were targeted on other grounds. 

Jean Boase-Beier, one of the anthology’s editors, has answered our questions thoroughly to tell us more about this big, very important project, how it differs from previous ones, and what it means, from a personal, human, historical and technical point of view, to translate and study Holocaust poetry.   

What makes this new anthology unique, different from previous ones?

I and my co-editor, Marian de Vooght, set out to collect poems that were representative of the broad range of people who became victims of the Holocaust. While it is true that the main targets of Nazi genocide were Jewish people, there were many, many other victims.

   Some poets wrote out of a sense of foreboding, as laws were passed in Germany to shut Jews and other sections of society out of everyday life. Some people wrote about being victimised for their political or religious views. Once the transportation of Jews, political prisoners and others to be killed or used as slave-labourers had begun, people wrote about their experiences in camps, ghettos, prisons, or in hiding. We wanted to try and capture these very varied situations and to honour the fact that people wrote under the most difficult of circumstances.

   Our research had shown that, when readers think of Holocaust poetry, they think of poetry written in camps, and indeed there are anthologies of the poetry of specific camps or ghettos. But not everyone knows that poems were written by those in prison awaiting execution, or those who were about to be deported, or those who had to come to terms with the loss of their family after the war. Readers will be familiar with some of the well-known Holocaust poets such as Paul Celan or Nelly Sachs but even in these cases they are likely to know only a few poems, because the same poems tend to be collected in different anthologies.

   But Holocaust poems were not only written by well-known poets. Some were written by those who perhaps would have become famous if they had not died. Not all Holocaust poems were written in German or Polish or Yiddish. We specifically searched for poems in other languages: in Norwegian, or Greek or Lithuanian.

   So this anthology is broader in scope than earlier ones and contains poems that relate to many more aspects of the Holocaust. 

How were the poems for the anthology selected?

Besides aiming to select poems by less well-known poets, or relatively unknown poems by more famous ones, we also chose poems that were not too long, so that we could include more. Inevitably, it was easier to find poems in German and Polish, French and Dutch, than in languages such as Japanese or Spanish. So we particularly looked for poems that were from other languages not so often represented in Holocaust anthologies. We also tried to find poems by or about victims whose voices are not often heard: the man imprisoned for being friends with Communists, the Polish Resistance fighter confined to a wheelchair from birth, the contemporary poet with Down’s Syndrome reflecting on the Nazi murder of those with Down’s, the child writing in terror.

   It was important to assemble an anthology that worked as a collection of poetry in English. So we chose good poems, and poems that fitted well together. We translated some ourselves and called on very large number of other translators for languages in which we are not competent.

 

Translator and editor Jean Boase-Beier.

Can you tell us more about the peculiarities, challenges and importance of translating poetry of the Holocaust?

Every translation is a retelling of someone’s story. A translator will always try not to misrepresent the original author’s words, but the words of the translation are different words. Rather than seeing the changes translation brings as a necessary evil, it makes more sense to see them as an important addition to someone else’s way of seeing the world and expressing particular thoughts and feelings. When you translate a poem you are showing that you value it and that you think your readers will value it. You are giving voice to someone who is not able to speak, or not able to speak in your language. You are taking their words and passing them on to a new audience, with your own particular slant, your voice, your interpretation added. This is important, because it’s how stories survive.

   We know far too little about the Holocaust. We might know, or easily be able to find, the bare facts. But poems are not pieces of documentary evidence. They might bear witness, but they are not witness statements. They tell us how people felt, how they coped. For all these reasons poetry has an important role to play in our understanding of the Holocaust.

   Holocaust poetry has its own particular language and images, irrespective of the language it is written in. Images of snow, stars, darkness, black and white, feature in many of the poems. Images of nature -- sometimes an escape from the dreadful situation of writing -- are common. Perhaps unexpectedly, a certain boldness, almost a flippancy of tone, as in Alfred Kerr’s ‘The Most Afflicted’, is not unusual. It contrasts uncomfortably with the momentousness of the events unfolding, especially as seen by us, later. It is crucial not to smooth over such contrasts. It is also important to keep the details and the way they are described: Catherine Roux’s “I have no hanky”, in Tim Adès’s translation of a poem that describes the process of losing everything on entering a camp (her clothes, her hair, her name) is extremely haunting. You have nothing, so you don’t have a hanky, but what do you do if you need one? And will you need one or are you about to die in a moment?

   These details of place, date, time, attitude, are all crucial and present particular challenges. You want to be ironical, if the original poet was, but not lose sight of the subject matter. You have to put yourself in the position of the person writing. This, for me, was the greatest challenge, and it was not a linguistic one. You must imagine you are standing naked on a ramp, or that your child has just been killed. You never must lose sight of the fact that you have not actually experienced those things, whereas others have. But still, it is emotionally draining. 

What was your journey to becoming a translator, a poetry in translation editor, and an expert in Holocaust poetry in translation? What motivated you throughout your career?

I now translate mainly from German but I first realised that I loved translating when I had to do translations from and into French at school. When you were translating into French you were trying to be a French person. We had a French teacher, Miss Mitchell, who would put on the different voices of Agrippine and Néron for us when we were reading Racine’s Britannicus. And her voice not only changed with the character, but became French. The idea that you could take on another nationality and voice was exhilarating, and I experienced it again later when I was in the drama group at Regensburg University.

   When you were translating into English it was something quite different: you found you could mould and form the English and make it do all sorts of things. I realised this was what I wanted to do. When I went to live in Germany at the age of 19, I both wanted to become a German person and also to stay English. I translated German folk songs into English as part of my first job as a student assistant. You had to try and fit the music as well, an added challenge. 

   At German universities, at least in the 1980s, you had to choose 5 or 6 topics for your “Magister” oral exams. Most of mine related to poetry, but one was “Translation Theories”. And I made a discovery: the theory showed me things about the practice I didn’t know. By the time I finished my degree I knew I would keep translating.

   Then, while I was still living in Germany, I saw an exhibition of Holocaust photographs. There was the main street in Regensburg, there were Jewish people being marched away, there were the nervous citizens watching out of the windows of the flats above the shops I knew so well, many of them the same shops in 1943 as in 1983.

   I remembered then how my parents had talked about the Holocaust back in the early 1960’s, when I was a small child in England. Those things – the sense that the people looking out of the windows should do something; the certainty that the people in the street were going to be killed; the feeling that you ought to explain all this to others – led me to research Holocaust literature.

   When I had finished my PhD in Regensburg, I taught poetry, stylistics, linguistics, German for foreign students and translation theory, and all were linked by translation. After we came to England in the early 1990’s, and I took up my post at the University of East Anglia, there was enormous pressure to research and publish. At that point I remembered the people looking out of the windows in the Maximilianstraβe in the photo of 1943 Regensburg and began to translate the Holocaust poets Rose Ausländer and Volker von Törne, in both cases together with the theatre translator, Anthony Vivis.

   It was a conversation with the late Max (W.G.) Sebald that led to my editorship with Arc. He suggested a series of translated poetry books. I phoned Tony Ward, who had published Ausländer in English, and the series “Visible Poets” was born. 

Can you tell us more about your role as Translations Editor at Arc Publications?  

Discussing other people’s translations with them is great fun. Over the years I have worked on poetry translated from Norwegian, French, Polish, German, Hungarian. Whether or not I speak the source language, my main concern is with whether the poem in English works. Because I trust the translators I work with to understand the original. That is not my job. Of course, if it’s a language I speak I often think I would have done it differently. But that is neither here nor there. My job is to be a second pair of eyes, a partner in discussion. The things I have learned, and keep learning, about other languages and cultures and other translators’ way of translating are endlessly fascinating.

   But working with translators on their translations is only part of what I do, and the degree of my involvement varies greatly. Before we get to this stage I first read what the translator has submitted and look at it together with the original (if I can). Not all translators are equally good or experienced but I trust them all to have done a serious job. Sometimes I don’t like the result. Sometimes it would not fit any of our series (I edit 4) and sometimes I think the original poetry is too weak to carry the weight of a translation. In those cases I suggest to Tony and Angela at Arc that we reject it. Very often I can see the work is excellent but I can also see we have no room in the programme. I hate having to tell people this, but often I have to.

   I prefer to deal with the translator, even if the original poet is alive. We are publishing the words of the translator and the translator is a poet who has thought deeply about what the original poet says, and how to say it in English. Sometimes, though, I do discuss things with both the translator and the original poet, and such exchanges are always fascinating. A discussion with Iain Galbraith and Jan Wagner about quince jelly comes to mind. I was sure that, when you cook quinces, the result is jelly rather than paste, whatever some English chefs might say. And, more than this, “jelly” fitted the sounds in the poem so well. But the translator always has the final say. 

Do you have a favourite poem from this anthology?

It is hard to speak of favourites when the subject matter is so horrible. Abraham Sutzkever’s ‘To the Child’ is certainly one of the most affecting. I read it recently at the Ledbury Poetry Festival and I could not stop thinking what it must have been like to actually say these words, originally written in Yiddish. Other poems become better the more often you read them. András Mezei’s ‘Gustav!’, in Thomas Land’s translation from Hungarian, describes a brief episode, in which the reader’s perception changes in the final line. But maybe I like the Yiddish poems in particular because the Nazis wanted to destroy Yiddish along with the Jews who spoke it. Translating from Yiddish feels like a little act of defiance. 

Are there any other Holocaust poems/poets that could not be included in the anthology that you would like to suggest to our readers?

There are many poems and poets we could not include. Some are well-known and have been translated many times: Primo Levi or Jerzy Ficowski, or Yevgeny Yevtushenko. All these poets are worth reading, and there are excellent translations available.

   There must also be poetry we have not yet found. We were expecting more poetry by disabled people or those who had been taken from hospitals by the Nazis to be murdered before the main killing of the Jews began. We have found little such poetry, but it is possible it is still held in Germany or Poland in archives. The planned murder of disabled or sick people was known as the “Euthanasia” or “T4” programme (after Tiergartenstraβe 4 in Berlin, from where it was organised) and we still hope that in the future such poems might materialise. Disabled people have often been forgotten as Holocaust victims, though there were at least 200,000 such victims in Germany, and an unknown number in Poland and Russia. We have also found no poems written by people incarcerated for being gay, though we have included one long poem “The Rag”, about these victims.

Perhaps readers of this interview will have ideas for poems we might not know? 

 

We kindly thank the translator and editor Jean Boase-Beier and Arc Publications
 for their contribution to this blog.

 

Jean Boase-Beier is a translator and editor of poetry, and an academic writer. Her poetry translations (all by Arc Publications) include the collections by modern German poets Ernst Meister (2003), Rose Ausländer (2014), and Volker von Törne (2017), and she has just co-edited (with Marian de Vooght) Poetry of the Holocaust: An Anthology (2019).

Her academic work focuses on translation, style and poetry, and recently on the translation of Holocaust poetry. Academic publications include Stylistic Approaches to Translation (2006, Routledge; to appear in a revised, enlarged edition as Translation and Style, 2019), Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust (2015, Bloomsbury), and the co-edited volumes Translating Holocaust Lives (2017, Bloomsbury) and The Palgrave Handbook of Literary Translation (2018).  

Jean Boase-Beier is Professor Emerita of Literature and Translation at the University of East Anglia, where she founded the MA in Literary Translation in 1992 and ran it until 2015, and is also Translations Editor for Arc Publications.

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THE TRANSLATOR'S (INTER)VIEW: LESLEY SAUNDERS ON POINT OF HONOUR

Posted on August 12, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments

Not only a book of translated poetry, but a book of poems that made history: Two Rivers Press have recently published the dual-language volume Point of Honour, bringing to the English-speaking public the influential work of Portuguese feminist Maria Teresa Horta. The poems in this anthology, selected by the poet herself from her 21 volumes of poetry across six decades, provide us with an overview of her career and make us reflect deeply on the power and meaning of literature, and the history of feminism and feminist writing.

The book’s translator, the poet Lesley Saunders, has kindly answered our questions and revealed us more about how this brilliant anthology came to life and the great importance and the challenges of translating Maria Teresa Horta’s poetry.

 

What makes Point of Honour special?

Maria Teresa Horta is one of the most revered writers of modern Portugal and this dual language book, published by Two Rivers Press, is the first anthology of her poetry containing both the original poems and facing-page English translations. The 90-plus poems were selected by the poet herself from each of her volumes of poetry published over a writing career that spans six decades.

The book also includes a critical essay by my friend and colleague, the Portuguese academic Ana Raquel Fernandes: it enables an anglophone readership to acquire a sense of the formal, emotional and intellectual power and significance of this poet’s work.

And for me personally, the book underlines the importance of creating and sustaining literary connections between the UK and the continent of Europe as the UK makes preparations to leave the European Union.

I am most grateful to Peter Robinson, Editor at Two Rivers Press, for his belief in this book, which is the first dual-language volume published by the press.

Can you tell us more about the influential, contemporary Portuguese poet Maria Teresa Horta and her impact on Portuguese literature? 

Maria Teresa was born in 1937 and began writing before the 1974 ‘Carnation Revolution’ that deposed the brutal Estado Novo regime then under President Caetano; her early work was banned for being ‘an outrage to public morals’. With Maria Isabel Barreno and Maria Velho da Costa, she was one of the Three Marias who in 1971 co-authored the extraordinarily imaginative, erotic and experimental collaboration Novas Cartas Portuguesas (New Portuguese Letters), a book composed of letters, poems and dream-like stories that has remained central to the feminist literary canon. The book’s publication in Portugal led to the authors being arrested and the book banned and confiscated, though its English translation drew admiring reviews and a wide readership across Europe and the USA. The work was hugely influential on the literary development and expression of second-wave feminists, and is now being re-discovered by later generations. 

For me as a young woman in the 1970s, the book challenged my sense of what literature could accomplish, formally as well as psychologically and politically; in a real sense it changed my life, because my first published book of poetry, Christina The Astonishing, was a collaboration with the poet Jane Draycott – both its form and content were inspired by New Portuguese Letters.

Maria Teresa has continued to publish novels, short stories and journalism, although she considers herself a poet above all: her first collection Espelho Inicial (First Mirror) was published in 1960 and her latest collection, published in May this year, is called Eu Sou a Minha Poesia (I Am My Poetry).

 


Point of Honour: Selected Poems of Maria Teresa Horta, translated by Lesley Saunders (Two Rivers Press, May 2019). Front cover.

Was there a poem that you found particularly difficult to translate and why?

Maria Teresa is an elliptical, allusive and uncompromising writer, with a strong vision of her own work – it is powerful, political, erotically charged, almost visionary, and I suspect would have been a challenge for any translator. I was lucky enough to have the constant help and support in making the translations, not only of Maria Teresa herself, but also of Ana Raquel Fernandes and of Luís Barros, Teresa’s beloved companion, who acted as a critical friend and consultant. There were many drafts and re-drafts of several of the poems; though I do remember two that were particularly difficult, ‘Oponho’ (‘I Oppose’, from Candelabro) and a poem from Feiticeiras (Witches) – the latter poem didn’t make it into the anthology, because I felt its imagery of an active inquisitorial Catholicism were too far from contemporary English experience: I found I simply couldn’t translate it into modern English. 

With ‘Oponho’, I understood the individual words and lines, but I couldn’t fathom what they meant! I ended up asking Maria Teresa what experience lay behind the poem, and she recounted a particular time in her life when everything was turned upside down. I won’t divulge what she told me, because the whole point is that the openness of the poem (shown in its structure as well as its language) is the opposite, it seems to me, of self-exposure, of the ‘poem-as-confessional’. We are offered psychological closeness, an almost propulsive intimacy, without any conventional autobiographical detail.

You are a poet too. How did this influence the translation process?

I would say almost completely – I believed making a good poem-in-translation would depend much more on my experience as a poet and editor than on my (limited) expertise as a linguist. In some ways it helped that Teresa’s poetic – dynamic compression, parataxis, declamation, the location of white spaces/silence – is quite different from mine, so I was not tempted to turn her poetry into something I might have written.

Read more about the translation process in Lesley’s Translator’s Note in Point of Honour!

What was your journey to becoming a poet and a translator of poetry? Have you ever met the poet in person?

My journey towards becoming a poet (a journey I’m still on) started when I studied T. S. Eliot for A-level English, though I didn’t begin writing poems myself until I was in my twenties. I went on to read Classics at university, and translation into, as well as from, Latin and Greek, was an integral part of the syllabus.

I don’t consider myself a translator, however; so, as far as translating Maria Teresa’s poems is concerned, it was a much more personal story. As I said, New Portuguese Letters has stayed with me as an influence throughout my life. Eventually, as a much older woman and with little knowledge of Portuguese, I decided to try my hand at translating a few of Maria Teresa’s poems. Extraordinarily enough, one of them, ‘Poema’ (‘Poem’) won the 2016 Stephen Spender prize for poetry in translation. And then I had the strong feeling that I wanted to meet Maria Teresa. The long chain of connections that the internet makes possible resulted, via email contact with various colleagues, in my acquaintance with Ana Raquel Fernandes, who then kindly organised a rendez-vous for the three of us in the Café Namur in Lisbon. (The French word is relevant here because French was the language Teresa and I shared at that point!)

We met several times after that initial rendez-vous: Maria Teresa and Luís were kind enough to invite me (and my husband) to their apartment so that we could sit down at the table with Ana Raquel and discuss my drafts in great detail. I saw Maria Teresa most recently this May, at the three-day conference organised in her honour in Lisbon; I’m delighted to say that Point of Honour had its official launch there!

I will be forever grateful for the warmth, patience and encouraging support shown to me by Maria Teresa, Luís and Ana Raquel.

 

 

(Left to right) Ana Raquel Fernandes, Maria Teresa Horta and Lesley Saunders in Café Namur in Lisbon in 2015. 


What are your favourite verses by Horta? 

It’s very difficult to choose, though I do love ‘Rosa Sangrenta’ (‘Rose That Bleeds’), a sequence celebrating menstruation, in which this once-taboo (still taboo?) subject is couched in passionate and flamboyantly lyrical images. It’s a profoundly affirmative series of poems, not least in its expansive length, but one that doesn’t wield an overtly political programme. The whole sequence is framed by a unifying metaphor: the rose that bleeds, an image that surely has intentional associations with the sacred symbols of the bleeding heart (of Christ’s Passion) and the Rose without thorns which is a symbol of the virgin Mary (about whom I gather it is a matter of theological dispute whether she menstruated), or even of Christ himself. There may perhaps also be a resonance with the rose that represents the chalice of the Grail which conceals the mystery of the essential centre. Whatever the case, the poems’ composition, their pace and diction and imagery, is realised with what I feel impelled to call courtesy: the sequence reads like an enactment, albeit a highly unconventional one, of that courtly form of love for the beloved, the lady of one’s heart. A definition of courtly love given by Francis X. Newman as ‘a love at once illicit and morally elevating, passionate and disciplined, humiliating and exalting, human and transcendent’ seems to me to touch on something fundamental about this particular work of Maria Teresa’s.

 
We kindly thank poet and translator Lesley Saunders and Two Rivers Press  
for their contribution to this blog.  

 
Lesley Saunders is the author of several books of poetry – most recently Nominy Dominy, her praise-song for the classical literature she grew up with. Her previous collection Cloud Camera was described by Michael Hulse in The Poetry Review as ‘the most intelligent and thrilling book of poetry I’ve seen in several years’. In 2016 Lesley won the Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation with her version of a poem by Maria Teresa Horta; judge Sean O’Brien described Lesley’s translation as: ‘a witty, erotic piece which traces the way a poem comes into being.’ Point of Honour, containing 90-plus translated poems of Horta’s, was published in May 2019 by Two Rivers Press. Lesley’s most recent collaboration is with the poet Philip Gross on A Part of the Main, a response to the political and social upheavals surrounding the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Otherwise, Lesley is a visiting professor in education policy at Newman University, Birmingham, and an honorary research fellow at Oxford University Department of Education

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OUR TRANSLATED BOOK OF THE MONTH: POETRY OF THE HOLOCAUST. A NEW ANTHOLOGY FROM ARC PUBLICATIONS

Posted on August 06, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments

Our Translated Book of the Month in August is the new poetry in translation project from Arc Publications: Poetry of the Holocaust, edited and introduced by Jean Boase-Beier and Marian de Vooght, funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign

This unique, multilingual poetry anthology explores Holocaust poetry from an innovative angle, aiming to be more comprehensive than previous volumes on the topic, from both a historical and a linguistic point of view.

The poems selected were written in different periods and also from different perspectives. These poems, divided into three sections, explore the beginning of the Holocaust, life in ghettos, camps, prisons and the outside world and life afterwards, focusing on the extreme horrors of the Holocaust and the personal and historical traumas caused by it. Not only poems written by members of the Jewish communities across Europe are included, but also poems by those who were targeted on other grounds, for example because of their disabilities, sexuality, religion or political views.

Furthermore, the collection includes poems translated from a variety of languages, for example Polish, German, Dutch, Yiddish and Hebrew, French and Italian, but also Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Greek, Estonian, Ladino, etc., and even Japanese. All source text poems are included.

Arising from the AHRC-funded project ‘Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust, as explained in the anthology’s introduction, this publication wants to - quoting the editors - "give voice to victims we may not have heard of" and "to show that there is more to Holocaust poetry than we suspected" (Jean Boase-Beier & Marian de Vooght). It is also an extensive study on this type of poetry and on its translation.

 

If you’re looking for more poetry in translation this month, Arc Publications are also publishing the following collections: The Unknown Neruda, poems by Pablo Neruda never before published in English, edited and translated by Neruda’s biographer Adam Feinstein; To the Outermost Stars by Norwegian poet and playwright Stein Mehren, translated by Agnes Langeland; The Iron Flute: War Poetry from Ancient & Medieval China, a collection of work by 50 Chinese war poets spanning across sixteen centuries, edited by Kevin Maynard.

 

For sources and more information:
http://translatingcultures.org.uk/awards/fellowship-awards/translating-the-poetry-of-the-holocaust/
https://www.arcpublications.co.uk/
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/545039739/poetry-of-the-holocaust

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THE TRANSLATOR’S (INTER)VIEW: ARUNAVA SINHA ON THE YOGINI

Posted on August 01, 2019 by Cristina Peligra | 0 comments

If you haven’t already, check out our Translated Book of the Month in July: The Yogini by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, translated from Bengali by prize-winning Arunava Sinha (Tilted Axis Press). The gripping story of a modern, middle-class woman from Kolkata obsessed with the idea of fate, questioning the boundaries between reality and fantasy.

Today, Arunava Sinha, who has also translated Bandyopadhyay’s previous novels Panty and Abandon for Tilted Axis Press, answers our questions on this prominent figure in feminist literature , this must-read and his experience of translating it.


 
The translator Arunava Sinha. 


 What is The Yogini about? What does Bandyopadhyay want to tell us and how? Read about all this and more from the translator’s perspective. 

How would you describe The Yogini? What is it really about?
This novel, like most of Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay's works, is located in a unique space somewhere between the objective everyday world and a landscape, with all the appearances of reality, inside the main character's head. If there's a theme, it's the question of whether an individual – specifically, a woman – can defy fate even while she's convinced her life is controlled by it. But that is too reductionist a way of looking at the novel.

What is ‘The Yogini’?
I'm not sure, and I think the reader needs to draw their own conclusion. But it would be best not to relate the title to any specific religion or religious practice.
 
What would you say are the main features of Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay’s writing and how does The Yogini fit within her work, from your perspective?
Sangeeta's writing is, to borrow the title of a novel by another author, a 'fever dream'. It is driven by an energy bordering on the manic, and is yet extremely controlled in its choice of words, phrases and sentence structure. All her novels explore central questions of existence facing an individual woman, and The Yogini works along the same lines. However, each of her novels has a distinct form and plays with a unique situation and experience, and to that extent every novel is different from the rest.
 
What was your journey to becoming a translator, and, in particular, how have you become the translator of Bandyopadhyay’s Panty, Abandon and The Yogini?
I no longer remember how or why I started translating. Initially it was for my own pleasure, but once my work began to be published, I started reading extensively for books to translate. That was how I came across Bandyopadhyay's works. At that time – some six or seven years ago – there weren't many people translating from Bengali into English, and those that were looked mostly at classics rather than modern or contemporary writing. So I got the job easily enough.
 
What is your experience of translating Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay’s novels?
I'll quote (roughly) my own tweet here: it is like being in the middle of an extended hallucination.
 
How has your relationship with the author evolved in these years and how has this influenced you as a translator?
I have always had conversations with Sangeeta about her work. Not about individual details in the text, but about where she's coming from as a writer. Like many good writers, she keeps her author self and personal selfs distinct, so it's not just a matter of understanding her as a person, but more a case of understanding her writing impulses. I use this understanding, such as it is, to gauge the outcome of my translations of her works, rather than letting it affect the process.
 
Did you have any linguistic and/or cultural difficulties while translating The Yogini?
Not really. The Yogini is, arguably, the most direct and, to that extent, easiest to translate, of the four novels of her that I've translated.
 
Do you have a favourite line or passage from The Yogini?
This passage is one:

She had often poked her fingers into the pirate’s eyes, asking, ‘How do you get so horny in your sleep?’
Hoisting her on top of himself, the pirate had replied, 
‘It’s an automatic machine, not some cosmic consciousness or revolution.’

Who would you particularly recommend this book to and why?
I'd recommend this to anyone who is convinced their lives are in the hands of powers outside of themselves, powers with a purpose, that is. Not for validation, but for a challenge to that assumption, so that the reader is forced to confront the question and arrive at a solution.  

 
We thank the translator Arunava Sinha and Tilted Axis Press for their contribution to this blog.


 
More about the translator:
Arunava Sinha is the translator of Panty, Abandon and The Yogini. He has translated over fifty books from Bengali. Winner of the Crossword translation award, for both Sankar’s Chowringhee and Anita Agnihotri’s Seventeen, and of the Muse India translation award for Buddhadeva Bose’s When The Time Is Right, his translation of Chowringhee was also shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. His translation for Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay's The Yogini has won an English PEN award. He was born and grew up in Kolkata, and lives and writes in New Delhi.

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