Natasha Wimmer Interview Glossary

Allende, Isabel (b. 1942)
Most popular Chilean author of Late-Stage Magic Realism. Margaret Sayers Peden has the translation of Allende’s novels on lockdown.

Cabrera Infante, Guillermo (1929 – 2005)
The milk. This author and photographer, once editor-in-chief of the famous "Carteles" journal, would eventually become one of the many victims of Fidel’s Cuba, going into exile permanently in 1965, just before the publication of his greatest work, Tres Tristes Tigres (translated heartbreakingly well by Suzanne Jill Levine when she was only 22!!). If I were Fidel, I would make it illegal for so much of Cabrera Infante’s work to not have been translated into English yet. And there’s this: Cabrera Infante translated Joyce’s Ulysses into Spanish.

Cercas, Javier (b. 1962)
The “new” novel Natasha mentions is “The Speed of Light” translated by Anne McLean.

Confiant, Rafaël (b. 1951)
Francophone author and critic from Martinique. Almost none of his extensive bibliography is available in English translation.

Generación 50
Group primarily of poets active immediately after the end of the Spanish Civil War. As you can see from the interview, there is some disagreement about where the heart of this movement resides. Some major writers of the period (excluding the ones with their own glossary entry), all underrepresented in English translation: Carlos Barral (1928 – 1989), José Manuel Caballero Bonald (b. 1926), and Ángel González (b. 1925), all prize-winning poets with almost no translations available in English. Get to work!

Gutiérrez, Pedro Juan (b. 1950)
Hard-boiled Cuban novelist and journalist who cut his teeth cutting sugar cane for many years. To undersand the seriousness and pain of this work: Cotton pickers warn misbehaving children with threats to send them to work sugarcane, a prospect of unimaginable terror. His literary teeth were set through several years of work as a journalist. His work has been categorized as “dirty realism” because of its unflinching documentation of underworlds (Cuban and otherwise). His work is widely available in English. Besides Wimmer’s translation of "Dirty Havana Trilogy," would especially recommend the recent The Insatiable Spider Man, translation by John King. Much of his work in Spanish is available at his wesbite:

Hemon, Aleksandar (b. 1964)
Yugoslav-born author writing to much acclaim in English. As Natasha suggests, this writer’s work is marked by brilliant stylistic and generic shifts.

Herodotus (484BC – 425BC)
Worth mentioning here for a couple of reasons. 1. Significant controversy reamains over translations of the colloquial Greek used to write The Histories, and 2. A nice cross-reference opportunity availed itself to me with Brandon’s interview: Bolesław Prus’s Pharaoh is directly inspired by Book II of The Histories.

Krauze, Enrique (b. 1947)
Massive literary figure in Mexico. A sort of latter-day Alfred A. Knopf, without the mustache.

Laforet, Carmen (1921 – 2004)
Arguably one of the most important writers of the Spanish generación 50 period. Her first novel, Nada was recently translated by Edith Grossman. After Natasha mentioned the book I left-handed it from Borders and it turns out she was right, Grossman’s translation is good, though I didn't pay for it, so... Unfortunately, none of Laforet’s other novels are available in English translation, even Al volver la esquina, said by many to be her best work.

Marías, Javier (b. 1951) Most interesting to us as a translator into Spanish, notably of Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, and a collection of Nabokov’s poetry called "Desde que te vi morir". Others he’s translated: Yeats, Stevenson, Wallace Stevens, Thomas Hardy, Faulkner, Dinesen, Thomas Browne, and Auden. Impressive.

Márquez, Gabriel García (b. 1927)
Colombia’s patron saint of letters. There’s really very little I can say here. Only this: Is anyone with me in thinking it’s possible that Gregory Rabassa’s translation, One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad) won Márquez the Nobel Prize?

Matute, Ana María (b. 1926)
A sacred name in Spanish letters. Widely considered the best writer of the posguerra period, Matute was a candidate for the Nobel prize in 1979, has won every prize under the sun, and even has a literary prize in her name. Her literary biography is especially compelling.

Montaigne (1533 – 1592)
Statesman, courtier, essayist and, of course, translator. Wore cartwheel-style neck ruffs handsomely.

Pérez-Reverte, Artuto (b. 1951)
English translations widely available, in airports.

Puig, Manuel (1932 – 1990)
Argentine-born novelist and playwright. If you don’t know this gentleman’s work, stop reading this glossary right now and waddle down to your local book retailer and buy Suzanne Jill Levine’s incredible translation of El beso de la mujer araña (The Kiss of the Spider Woman). Also great, his English-language novel and playdate with the act of translation, Eternal Curse on the Reader of These Pages, a novel with versions (both authored by Puig) in Spanish and English.

Rimbaud, Arthur (1854 – 1891)
As the interview suggests, Rimbaud is the archetypical avan-garde poet, whose life adds pulpy context to his work. Louise Varèse’s translation of A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat is a nicely-translated introduction to his work.

Rodoreda, Mercé (1908 – 1983)
Post-Spanish Civil War Catalan novelist and winner of many literary prizes. Her work is widely available in English.

Singer, Issac Bashevis (1902 – 1991)
Fantastically prolific Yiddish author, translator, survivor of two World Wars and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1978. Notable works in English translation include The Slave, The Golem, and Shosha. Translated Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain into Yiddish.

Trulock, Camilo José Cela (1916 – 2002)
An enigmatic and contentious literary figure from Spain. Cela started out his literary career as a censor for the Franco government, a regime he went to war to put into power. And then after writing some fantastic novels (La colmena, San Camilo 1936, Christo versus Arizona) he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1989 and the Cervantes Prize (the highest award a Spanish poet can win) in 1995. I suggest starting at the end with Cela: Patricia Haugaars’s Boxwood and Mazurka for 2 Dead Men are sensitive and telling translations.

Vargas Llosa, Mario (b. 1936)
Born Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa, this Peruvian novelist is one of the most widely read Latin American novelists of the 20th C. Naturally, his work is easily acquirable in English, though some translations are best kept in quarantine. Lysander Kemp’s translation of La ciudad y los perros (somehow translated as The Time of the Hero) is just plain wretched. Yuck. Edith Grossman’s translation The Feast of the Goat (La fiesta del chivo), on the other hand, is very good.

Wimmer, Natasha (translation bibliography)
Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Dirty Havana Trilogy, FSG 2001
Mario Vargas Llosa, Letters to a Young Novelist, FSG 2002
Mario Vargas Llosa, The Language of Passion, FSG 2003
Gabriel Zaid, So Many Books, Paul Dry Books 2003
Mario Vargas Llosa, The Way to Paradise, FSG 2003
Rodrigo Fresán, Kensington Gardens, Faber/FSG 2006
Laura Restrepo, Delirium, Doubleday/Talese 2007
Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives, FSG 2007
Gabriel Zaid, The Secret of Fame, Paul Dry Books (forthcoming)
Roberto Bolaño, 2666, FSG (forthcoming)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm a translator who is intrigued by translation criticisms/reviews.I would really be interested in knowing the reasons these translations are considered to be good or bad. Exactly what assumptions and criteria are used to evaluate them?

Cynthia M