Book Review: The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Literature in Translation

Book Review: The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Literature in Translation edited by Don Ball

This thick pamphlet is a collection of essays by literary translators on the art of translation.  It’s a product of the National Endowment for the Arts, and is available from them as a free download (or in paper form at NEA exhibits.)

The Art of Empathy

There are 19 essays by 20 translators (one is by a husband/wife team), and each also recommends three translated works that readers may enjoy.  That married couple concentrates on collaborative translation.  Also of particular interest to me was Philip Boehm’s comparison of his work as a theatrical director to translation; both involve moving words on a page to a new form .

Chad W. Post writes about “The Myth of the Three Percent Problem, ” the idea that too small a percentage of books published in the United States each year are works in translation.  He points out that even that tiny percentage are more books than any reasonable person could read in a lifetime; the real issue is getting the worthy translations to the people who could enjoy them.

In addition to the initial recommendations by the essayists, there’s a list of other recommended reading for those who are serious about learning more.

I’d recommend this pamphlet to those interested in just what it is a literary translator does and how they approach the job.  Everyone, though, can benefit from reading translated works.  There’s an entire world of books out there just waiting to expand your horizons.

And it doesn’t have to be world classics or serious poetry if you aren’t interested in that.  There’s Norwegian crime thrillers (one coming soon), Japanese comic books, French lowbrow comedy, Chinese kung fu epics, Brazilian romance novels…something for every taste!

Tell me in the comments about a translated book you enjoyed, or that you’re planning to read because you’ve heard good things about it.

Book Review: The Cryptic Case of the Coded Fair

Book Review: The Cryptic Case of the Coded Fair by Barbara & Robert Tinker with Pendred Noyce, illustrated by Yu-Yu Chin

Disclaimer:  I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.

The Cryptic Case of the Coded Fair

Once again the Galactic Academy of Science must reach out to kids from the 21st Century to preserve the timeline.  This time Dr. G is sabotaging the International Science Fair to crush the spirits of budding scientists and create a public impression that junk science is just as valid as real science.  Future teen  Quarkum reaches out to two new field agents, Ella and Shomari.

Shomari and Ella must travel through time to learn about cryptography and cryptoanalysis, codes and ciphers, so they can crack the coded messages Dr. G is sending his minions while protecting their own communications.  From Julius Caesar’s shift cipher to Whitfield Diffie and the public key, the experts of the past inform the children of the present to save the future.

This is the latest in a series of children’s books about science, with the framework of ethnically diverse youngsters traveling through time to learn about subjects firsthand.  The language is suitable for fourth graders on up, with more difficult words defined in the text.  It helps that Ella and Shomari are very literate for their age and bright enough to bring up examples when they’re appropriate.

Important or notable words are emphasized with colored text, and the illustrations are good.  There’s information on how to find more codes and ciphers on the publisher’s website if the reader wants to play along.

There is some mild peril–Dr. G’s minions aren’t very threatening.  And the story acknowledges that there are difficult topics that come up in the past, such as slavery, religious discrimination and sexism, which hinder or offend the children from time to time.    However, they are treated as problems of the past, with no mention of such topics in the present.

Like many kids, I went through a codes and ciphers phase, and this book would have been fascinating to me then.   Check out your school or public library.

Book Review: Insurrections of the Mind

Book Review: Insurrections of the Mind edited by Franklin Foer

Disclaimer:  I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.  The copy I read was an uncorrected proof, and changes will be made in the final edition.  (Specifically, a second introduction by Leon Wieseltier–an index may also be forthcoming.)

Insurrections of the Mind

The New Republic magazine has its centenary anniversary this year, so a collected volume of some of the many interesting articles that ran in the magazine is an expected celebration.  For many years, the New Republic (so named because there was already a Republic magazine at the time) has been the home of many of the leading voices of liberal political philosophy.  But in addition to politics, it covers art and cultural events as well.

After an introduction which explains the history of the magazine, its ups and downs (Stephen Glass is cited as a mistake, and his writing is not represented), the remainder of the book is essays grouped by decade.  From “The Duty of Harsh Criticism” by Rebecca West to “The Idea of Ideas” by Leon Wieseltier, this book is jam-packed with thought-provoking work.

I especially liked the afore-mentioned Rebecca West piece (I am a reviewer, after all), “Progress and Poverty” by Edmund Wilson, which contrasts the opening of the Empire State Building with a ruined man’s suicide,”Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell, in which you can see some of the ideas that went into 1984, and”Here Comes the Groom: A (Conservative) Case for Gay Marriage” by Andrew Sullivan, which is what it sounds like.

Not every writer represented here saw the future clearly–some of them guessed very wrong about the issues and people they wrote about.  But all of them are worth at least checking out.

“But Scott,” you say, “I am not a liberal.  What is there for me in such a book?”  I recommend the essays “The Corruption of Liberalism” by Lewis Mumford, “The Liberal’s Dilemma” by Daniel P. Moynihan and “The Great Carter Mystery” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.  Liberals are not above raking each other over the coals, after all.

The book is due on shelves by the end of September 2014.  i recommend it to former readers of the New Republic (current readers should already be aware of it), 20th Century history students, the politically-minded, and those who enjoy a good essay.

Interview: Arijan Clark

Interview: Arijan Clark

Welcome to a new feature here at SKJAM! Reviews, interviews with the people behind the media.

Today, we’re talking to Arijan Clark, the translator of Volume Three of “Anesthesiologist Hana“, previously reviewed on this blog.

Hana3

S. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

A. My name is Arijan Clark, and I’m a full-time freelance translator living and working in the Seattle area. I was raised in the Camano Island area (in other words, knee-deep in mud, seawater, snow geese, Viking helmets, and tulips), along with two younger brothers who taught me to love cheesy kung-fu flicks and early-Nineties video games.

I jot down scraps of sci-fi and fantasy when time permits, although I can’t really call myself a “writer” until something gets published, and I read omnivorously and vociferously. My husband David and I tied the knot last August after three years together, spent a lovely honeymoon in Yosemite National Park, and are now happily settled in an apartment near his job at Microsoft.

S. Where did you study Japanese?

A. Japanese was one of four languages offered at my high school, and my interest in the country had been piqued by a Japanese exchange student who stayed with my family when I was in middle school. The arrival of the Pokemon franchise on American shores fanned the flames of attraction, and I was madly in love with the language within a month of starting classes. It was so wildly different from English, and my teenaged fascination with those differences sparked a lifelong interest in grammar and linguistics. It also eventually led me to the JET Programme, where I met several of my closest friends and the love of my life. Go figure, right?

S. How did you get the job of translating Anesthesiologist Hana?

A. In the summer of 2011, between semesters of graduate school, I interned with a game translation company in Osaka to build up my professional experience. We mainly worked with iPhone apps and arcade games, but the occasional manga job came down the pike as well. They’ve continued to send me freelance work, and Anesthesiologist Hana was among those jobs.

S. Anesthesiologist Hana uses quite a few specialized medical terms. Tell us about the research process you used to deal with this.

A. Although I studied medical translation in graduate school and did quite a bit of online research, my main resource was my parents, who are both M Ds. I was working on Anesthesiologist Hana during the interim weeks between my graduation from grad school (and move-out from my California apartment) and my marriage (and move-in with my husband in Washington). My parents not only reopened their home to me for those weeks, but patiently let me borrow their resources and pick their brains for as much casual hospital-staff slang as I could possibly need. Their help was invaluable, and I can’t thank them enough for putting up with my (often apparently random) questions.

S. Which character from the manga do you like best? Why?

A. Honestly, my favorite character was Hana herself. A lot of the supporting characters in Anesthesiologist Hana are self-absorbed, grouchy, hostile, flaky, or outright perverted. (Good god, someone needs to punch that Minami guy in the throat.) And Hana in her narrative role as The Watson / Ms. Exposition does suffer from a bit of Naive Newcomer behavior that doesn’t make sense for a trained doctor, even in the third volume. But with basic writing fumbles like that, I prefer to fault the author and try to appreciate the character on their own merits, and Hana measures up very well. Regardless of her thankless job and gormless coworkers, she manages to maintain a sweet and optimistic outlook on life, genuinely wants to give her patients the best possible treatment, and finds real meaning in her daily work. I think that’s really admirable, and inspiring to anyone slogging through a not-so-hot job.

S. Did anything particularly interesting happen during your translation of this volume?

A. In the middle of working on the Hana translation, I had to fly back to California to attend my then-fiance’s graduation from Stanford. We packed his things into our hatchback and road-tripped back up the coast to Washington, but I still had to get the job done. Consequently, I spent the drive busily translating away on my laptop and phone-texting occasional medical-slang questions to my mother when my memory and dictionary failed me, then emailing my deliverables to Osaka over the wi-fi at whatever hotel we found for the night. It was an adventure, but I definitely prefer working from my own desk.

S. I am aware that the standard non-disclosure agreement prevents you from revealing the titles of projects that haven’t been published yet, but are you working on any further translations for Jmanga?

A. I haven’t received any further translation work from Jmanga at this time, but my experience with them was a good one and I’d be delighted to work with them again. Unfortunately, since the job was assigned through a translation agency, they almost certainly have neither my name, nor my contact information. C’est la vie.

S. Thanks for your cooperation!

 

Let’s have a round of applause for our special guest, and be sure to leave comments if you’d like to see more interviews!
SKJAM!

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