Five Women Writers in Translation
The original is unfaithful to the translation.
Jorge Luis Borges
In 2014, I had the good fortune of participating in the Puterbaugh Festival of International Literature & Culture honoring Spanish-Argentine author Andrés Neuman, whose work I had translated for our parent publication World Literature Today, which sponsors the biennial event.
During the gala dinner, amid the pomp and circumstance, just minutes before Andrés was to deliver his Puterbaugh address, I began to choke on a piece of steak. For several minutes, Andrés and some 200 assembled guests watched as three different men administered the Heimlich maneuver and, quite literally, brought me back from the brink of death. With my permission, Andrés would later recount the harrowing episode in his blog, writing:
In addition to reordering our priorities, George reminded us in dramatic fashion of three other things. That translators deserve much more attention than they usually receive. That a story’s breath depends on them. And that, if one day we did not have them, the entire world would be left speechless.
I mention this anecdote by way of introduction to this dossier dedicated to translators to underscore the importance that translators play in the creation of world literature. With good reason Portuguese novelist José Saramago wrote: “Writers make literatures national and translators make literature universal. Without translators, writers would be nothing, we would be condemned to live locked away in our language.” Saramago was keenly aware that his stature as a writer of world literature was due in no small part to his translators. Indeed, the Nobel laureate’s novels would be unknown to the English-speaking world if not for the labor of translators like Margaret Jull Costa and Giovanni Pontiero. What’s more, only a handful of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature would have reached this highest pinnacle of literary success if not for their translators.
Imagine for a moment that Cien años de soledad, La muerte de Artemio Cruz, La ciudad y los perros, and Rayuela had never been translated into the dozens of languages they now inhabit. Quite simply, there may never have been a so-called Boom, and the works of García Márquez, Fuentes, Vargas Llosa, and Cortázar may have been relegated to mere national literature, selling thousands of copies in their native countries and throughout Latin American and not the millions of copies they have sold, and continue to sell, worldwide. These novels, however, have one other thing in common. Not only were they all written by male authors, they were also all translated by male translators. Only later did women translators, Margaret Sayers Peden, Edith Grossman, and Natasha Wimmer, begin to translate these giants of Latin American, nay world literature.
Coincidentally, but fortuitously, all the writers chosen for this dossier are women, Jazmina Barrera (Mexico), Carmen Boullosa (Mexico), Jeannette Clariond (Mexico), Mariana Torres (Brazil), and Luisa Valenzuela (Argentina). If nothing else, this happy coincidence suggests that the male-dominated world of writers and translators is changing. And Latin American Literature Today is proud to be part of this changing trend.
The translators featured here are among the most exciting and respected translators working in Latin American literature today: Lisa Dillman, Christina MacSweeny, Lawrence Schimel, Samantha Schnee, and Grady Wray. Accompanying each translation are short conversations between translator and author (Dillman, MacSweeney, and Schnee), or, in the case of Schimel and Wray, more detailed accounts of the challenges each translator encountered and the strategies each one employed to resolve them. In every case, these texts provide a unique insight, to borrow a phrase from Benjamin, into the task of translator, without whose endeavor literature would remain forever foreign.
George Henson is a literary translator and lecturer of Spanish at the University of Oklahoma. He is the translator of Cervantes Prize laureate Sergio Pitol’s The Art of Flight, The Journey, and The Magician of Vienna, as well as fellow Cervantes recipient Elena Poniatowska’s The Heart of the Artichoke. His translations have appeared in a variety of literary venues, including The Literary Review, Bomb, The Buenos Aires Review, The Kenyon Review, Words Without Borders, and World Literature Today, where he is a contributing editor. He is also the Translation Editor for Latin American Literature Today.
The fourth issue of LALT highlights underrepresented but deserving voices from across Latin America, with a focus on women writers as well as special sections dedicated to genre-bending science fiction, indigenous-language poetry and prose, and the essential relationship between author and translator.
Table of Contents
- "The Poetry of Pedro Lastra" by Marcelo Pellegrini
- "Against the Eviction of the Poet: An Introduction to the Poetry of Juan Arabia" by Rodrigo Arriagada Zubieta
- "Physics and Poetry: An Introduction to Luis Correa-Díaz" by Alberto G. Rojo
- "Juan Ramón Jiménez, Parisian Perfumer" by Néstor Mendoza
- "In Memoriam: Rius for (Absolute) Beginners" by Radmila Stefkova
- "The Copy is the Original: The Problematics of Juan Luis Martínez’s Posthumous Works" by Scott Weintraub
- "A Room, a House, a City of One’s Own: Four Women Prose Writers from Latin America" by Sebastián Diez
- ESSAY: "Five Women Writers in Translation" by George Henson
- FICTION: "Pharos" by Jazmina Barrera
- INTERVIEW: "Eavesdropping": Snippets of a Conversation between Jazmina Barrera and Christina MacSweeney
- FICTION: "Tree Monster Boy Tree" by Mariana Torres
- INTERVIEW: “There is no better reader than a translator”: A Conversation with Mariana Torres by Lisa Dillman
- FICTION: "Series 201" by Luisa Valenzuela
- ESSAY: "Too Cute for Tiny Tale Tellers: Some Thoughts on Translating Series 201 with Luisa Valenzuela" by Grady C. Wray
- POETRY: "March 10, NY" by Jeannette L. Clariond
- INTERVIEW: A Conversation with Jeannette L. Clariond by Samantha Schnee
- POETRY: Three Poems by Carmen Boullosa
- Sarah Booker: Translation is like "Trying to Remember a Dream": A Conversation with Denise Kripper
- “Living out of place has led me towards the defeat of the real”: A Conversation with Pablo Brescia by Thomas Nulley-Valdés
- "Symphonies of Literary Violence: A Conversation with Pedro Novoa" by Gabriel T. Saxton-Ruiz
- "A Sample of Colombian Poetry" by Camila Charry Noriega
- "Poetics" by Juan Manuel Roca
- "Outdoors" by Amparo Osorio
- "Two Days for Lázaro" by Mery Yolanda Sánchez
- "Perfect Unreality" by Pedro Arturo Estrada
- "Light and Shadow Make Up the House" by María Tabares
- "Downpours" by Alejandro Cortés González
- "I Make My Way Through the Deserted City" by Lucía Estrada
- "Untitled" by Juan Guillermo Sánchez
- "The Snack" by Andrea Cote-Botero
- "Janis Joplin" by Henry Alexander Gómez
- "Eternal" by Margarita Losada Vargas
- "They say the last flame" by Tania Ganitsky
- "The House" by Jenny Bernal
- "From a Distance, You Can Only Ask" by Juan Afanador
- "Magdalena River" by Robert Max Steenkist
- Antonio Skármeta: Nuevas Lecturas by César Ferreira and Jason Jolley
- Arboretum by Jotacé López
- El último apaga la luz by Nicanor Parra
- Lennon bajo el sol by José Adiak Montoya.
- Temporada de huracanes by Fernanda Melchor
- Pasos Pesados by Gunter Silva
- La derrota de lo real by Pablo Brescia
- La troupe Samsonite by Francisco Font Acevedo
- And We Were All Alive by Olvido García Valdés
- Cicatrices y estrellas by Francisco Véjar