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September 07, 2010


I love that you are a fangirl of translators! I listened to the Reading the World podcast with Esther Allen, which inspired me to read books in translations deliberately.

I admit that I didn't even notice the gender ratio, but you make a good point. I'm of two minds: yes, there's a dearth of translated fiction by female authors and oh man, there's a dearth of translated fiction period.

I don't remember who tweeted it but someone proposed, rather cheekily, that he/she'd prefer to say that a book had been Englished, rather than translated. I had a good laugh.

Yeah, I loved that Reading the World podcast! I'd love your recommendations of favorite books in translations.

Englished is a fun word. I like that it makes the point that a book is translated into English specifically, rather than letting the word "translated" just be PRESUMED to mean "translated into English"--when the book could've been translated into 20 other languages before it ever made its way to English.

So far, I've enjoyed Brodeck by Philippe Claudel, tr by John Cullen. One one hand, it's a novel about WWII but what was most interesting and horrifying was the negative effects of group think and rejection of outsiders/other.

Another is I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouthi, tr by Edward Said. I haven't finished it but what I've read has been eye-opening about Palestine (although I have to remind myself that this is just one man's view, that I really don't know much about the Israeli/Palestinian tensions). Taking politics out of the equation, Barghouthi jumps back and forth, comparing memories of his childhood in Palestine to the city he's walking through as an adult after having been exiled for 30 years. His thoughts on homecoming vs memory are compelling. Hope to finish this sooner rather than later.

Do you have any recommendations?

Ugh, Barghouti not Barghouthi.

Ooo, I'm especially interested in "I Saw Ramallah" -- there's so much I have to learn about Palestine and Israel, and I feel a little overwhelmed by how much text there is about it. It's great to be pointed directly to the good stuff. Thank you!

Translation I've like recently:

"Broken Glass Park" by Alina Bronsky, translated from German by Tim Mohr. (Europa Editions) It's in the voice of a super-smart 17 year old Russian immigrant living in Germany. She's just months beyond witness her mother murdered by her stepfather. Very sharp book, very strong characters; I swallowed it whole.

"The Golden Calf" by Ilya Ilf & Evgeny Petrov, translated by Konstantin Gourevitch and Nancy Anderson. (Open Letter Books) It's a comic novel from 1928-1930 in the Soviet Union and features Ostap Bender, a con man who's become a classic figure in Russian culture. The humor really holds up, and it's an unusual vantage into a strange time and place. Lots of fun. Russian Life also published a new version of this book as "The Little Golden Book" with Anne C. Fisher translating.

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