Friday Links: Why Translations Suffer, PalFest Closes to Blast of Tear Gas, The Marginalization of Libyan Fiction, More

This is what came up in Google images when I typed in "Dutch literature."

Tim Parks on the Paradoxes of ‘International Literature’

Apparently, Arabic novels are not the only ones that suffer from translators’ poor pay, rushed jobs, and editors looking to fill a niche.

Writing in the TLS, Tim Parks echoes what Anthony Calderbank says in a soon-to-be-released Literature Across Frontiers report.  Calderbank, however, says it more entertainingly: “No one is willing to pay a translator a fair whack for their work.”

Parks also writes:

An editor at a Dutch publishing house remarks that if she wishes to sell the foreign rights of a Dutch novel, it must fit in with the image of Holland worldwide. An Italian editor comments that an Italian novelist abroad must be condemning the country’s corruption or presenting the genial intellectuality that we recognize in different ways in Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco or Roberto Calasso.

I’m really not sure what the image of Holland is worldwide. Wooden shoes and red-light districts?

Parks also writes:

Rather than liberating us, the process of internationalizing literature reinforces stereotypes as, faced with the need to be aware of so many countries, we use a rapid system of labelling. And the faster the translator has to work, the more, you can be sure, the final product will be flattened and standardized.

The Guardian also has a piece on translation this week: Translators must read with their ears

And via Words Without Borders: New MLA Guidelines on Evaluating Translations

PalFest 2011 Closes to Blast of Tear Gas

According to the PalFest site, the literature festival closed Wednesday night with a blast:

The 2011 Palestine Festival of Literature closed in Silwan last night. It was schedule to start at 7.30pm, but from around 5.30pm the Israeli Army were in the area, roads had been blocked off and street battles had flared up. Nevertheless, some artists and audience members were managing to get the night’s venue – the Silwan Solidarity Tent.

At 7.30pm the Israeli Army fired tear gas at the tent, and everyone inside fled.

But by 8.30pm all the different groups found each other – some had been in the tent, some had been stuck in road blocks – and walked back up to the tent, and held the event with tear gas hanging in the air and soldiers watching from the hill. The night closed with DAM performing to a packed tent.

Video from the closing night:

The Marginalization of Libyan Fiction (and Critics, Too)

Shakir Noori writes, in Gulf News, that if you want to read Libyan writers, you need to look for them in English. Notably, Noori mentions the most recent issue of Banipal,* which featured Libyan authors.

Noori mentions, but doesn’t go into detail about, the systems of patronage vs. torture that have suffocated Libyan authors living in Libya, and further writes: “I feel that the absence of critics, apart from the dictatorship and scarcity of books contributes to the isolation of Libyan literature.”

Noori also hopes for a new, post-Ghaddafi dawn for Libyan lit.

Oil Field by Mohammed Hasan Alwan, translated by Peter Clark

The Guardian this week published a new short story by Beirut39 laureate Mohammed Hasan Alwan. The Saudi author’s short story, “Oil Field,” was translated by Peter Clark. It opens:

When Ja’far’s father went to work for SakOil, I asked my Dad about these oil fields everyone was talking about. He told me they weren’t that far from our village. That evening I kept on asking and asking him about them, and eventually he took me up to the roof of our house. He pointed with his slender hand to the eastern horizon, where five spots of light flickered uncertainly.

Arabic Literature at the London Book Festival

Susannah Tarbush writes about Arabic literature at the LBF in the Saudi Gazette, and Ghazi Gheblawi posts audio of the talk “The Hidden Face of Libyan Fiction.”

Censor-free Egyptian Theatre Festival

Al Arabiya reports that this year’s Arab Theater Festival, hosted by the Egyptian Society for Amateur Theater, was free of past censorship rules. Al Arabiya interviewed Egyptian artist Sabry Abdel Mun’em, who said, “Some of the scripts have become bolder in their content and there is no longer the fear or paranoia of censorship.”


*I have not yet gotten mine. I think perhaps the mail system has gone funny.