Literary Translation

The Elephant in the Room

Last week, the National Capital Area Translators Association (NCATA) hosted a movie night at the Goethe Institut with a screening of the Vadim Jendreyko’s documentary,The Woman with 5 Elephants (Original Title: Die Frau mit den 5 Elefanten), an award-winning 2009 Swiss film about Russian-to-German translator Svetlana Grier.

In case you were wondering, this is not a film tracking pachyderms across the savannas of East Africa—the five elephants are Ms. Grier's masterpieces—translations of Dostoyevsky's major works into German, completed in between relocating from occupied Kiev to Freiburg during Soviet rule.

The film brings to light interesting parallels between the preeminent translator's work and her life, also focusing on the fundamental incompatibility of the Russian and German languages.

One of the most eloquent quotes from the film is when Ms. Grier explains the internalization of the text during the translation process:

[...] one doesn’t translate from left to right, following the text, but only after one has made the sentence one’s own. It first has to be internalized, taken to heart. I read a book so often that my eyes ’gouge holes’ in pages. I basically know it by heart. Then the day comes when I suddenly hear the melody of the text."


I have also posted a two-part interview at San Francisco's 15th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival with the film's director, Vadim Jendreyko, and some interesting production anectodtes.

The Woman with 5 Elephants is available for online viewing via Netflix. In German and Russian, with subtitles. 93 minutes run-time. Check out the trailer in German, French, or English here.

There's a chill in the air...

With an impeding blizzard about to strike the DC area, there definitely seems to be a bit of chill in the air, or that could be just some Nordic Cool, the massive festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with artists and designers displaying art and culture from the very tiptop of the globe (which I mentioned last week).  

I had the opportunity to attend Monday's panel, "From Classics to Crime-Translating Nordic Fiction for American Readers," moderated by Katherine A. Powers. It was a very insightful panel discussion, but for those of you who missed it, the Washington City Paper ran a superb interview with Ms. Allan yesterday.

The festival is winding down, but there still are several more panels, plays, and tastings to be discovered.

Tomorrow, I will be sure to update the DC-based tribe on the Francophonie 2013 Cultural Festival, taking place now through April 13th in the nation's capital. A demain!

Nordic cool hits DC

Some Scandinavian cool will be making its way to DC over the next two weeks--with some phenomenal culinary, literary, theatrical, and musical events taking place at The Kennedy Center and around the city. Click here for the full program.

A special highlight for local translators is definitely going to be next week's Literature Panel: From Classics to Crime-Translating Nordic Fiction for American Readers

This free event will include a lively conversation with award-winning translators Steven T. Murray, the renowned translator of Stieg Larsson's best-selling "Millennium" series, and Tiina Nunnally, who has translated Pippi Longstocking and fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen. Literary columnist Katherine A. Powers will moderate as these two literary translators delve into the joys, frustrations, and controversies surrounding translating popular fiction.

So, if you are in the DC area, grab some ice wine and check out one of these events. Also, don't miss the Nordic Boutique on Level A and the LEGO Exhibit and Play Space in the Nations Gallery.

Event info:
Terrace Gallery - Monday, March 4, 2013, 7:00 PM
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F Street, NW
20566 Washington, DC

I don't know why, but the Pippi theme reminds me a lot of АНТОШКА :-)