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Remembering Humphrey Davies

We are very sad to share the news that Humphrey Davies has passed away. Renowned for his translations from Arabic by writers including Naguib Mahfouz, Alaa al-Aswany, and Mohamed Mustagab, and for his inspired translation of Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg Over Leg, Davies was a spirited advocate for the work of his writers, and an intelligent, playful, and judicious translator. His translations of Elias Khoury’s books, including Gate of the Sun, Yalo, Broken Mirrors, and Children of the Ghetto, introduced English speakers to one of the great literary minds of the last several decades. Davies was also a source of encouragement and solidarity for fellow translators, especially those who were learning the ropes.

As Marcia Lynx Qualey writes in Arab Lit Daily, “In tributes that have begun to appear from grieving friends and colleagues online, there are some who mention his important role in experimental translation, in bringing fun and excitement to Arabic literature — whether classical or contemporary — but also many who remember he was a warm person, a loving friend, companionable, unassuming, welcoming, kind.”

We have tremendous gratitude for the work Humphrey Davies contributed to Archipelago Books in recent years. His love of literature and his dedication to translation will continue to shine through his books.

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Review of The Dog of Tithwal in The Wall Street Journal

We are delighted to share that Boyd Tonkin’s wonderful review of Saadat Hasan Manto’s The Dog of Tithwal, translated from the Urdu by Khalid Hasan and Muhammad Umar Memon, was published today in The Wall Street Journal. Tonkin takes care to situate Manto within his cultural moment and examines many inimitable threads of Manto’s profound contribution to literature. You can find the review here, and read an excerpt below:

Despite his renown, it has proved hard for English-language readers to measure Manto’s achievement. Translations have been patchy, although Vintage issued the excellent selection “Bombay Stories” in 2014. This scarcity makes Archipelago’s new collection of 32 stories all the more welcome. Mostly translated by Khalid Hasan and Muhammad Umar Memon, but with four contributions from Aatish Taseer, the volume comes with a preface by Vijay Seshadri that sketches the qualities of Manto’s “firm, precise, and limpid Urdu prose.” His empathy, obliquity and narrative economy invite comparisons with Chekhov. These readable, idiomatic translations have all the agile swiftness and understated poignancy that parallel suggests. But the world they bring to life can be brutal indeed.

Manto’s style encompasses droll fable, mordant satire and grainy realism. “Mummy” itself shows him at his bittersweet best. Set in the Indian city of Pune during World War II, it depicts Manto himself—or, at least, a fictional avatar of the author—as he spends a debauched holiday with movie-business pals: bit-part actors, wannabe directors, screen- struck parasites and fantasists. Through their alcoholic haze drifts the legendary “Mummy”: an Anglo-Indian (mixed-race) woman called Stella Jackson who runs a genteel bordello. Like the movies themselves, Mummy conjures a “simple and beautiful and reassuring” world of pain-free pleasure where her rum- and Scotch-guzzling clients “felt no emotional unease.” Instead, Manto shifts that unease onto the reader. We glimpse the despairing inertia of the men and the peril and confusion of Mummy’s teenage charges. During this story about self-deluding sentimentalism and the harm it spreads, his friend Chadda tipsily toasts “this man called Manto,” who “claims that he can fathom the depths of the human soul.” For Chadda, that’s “a lot of rubbish.” Readers may disagree.

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Paulina Chiziane wins the 2021 Camões Prize

 

We’re delighted to share that groundbreaking Mozambican writer, Paulina Chiziane, has won this year’s Camões Prize. The Portuguese Culture Minister, Graça Fonseca, announced that “the jury unanimously decided to award the prize to Mozambican writer Paulina Chiziane, highlighting her vast production and critical reception, as well as the academic and institutional recognition of her work.”

The Camões Prize for literature in Portuguese was established by Portugal and Brazil with the purpose of distinguishing an author “whose work contributes to the projection and recognition of the literary and cultural heritage of the common language.” Chiziane is the first African woman to win the Camões prize.

Paulina Chiziane was born in 1955 in an area of Mozambique in which communication with the white colonizers was forbidden. In her mid-twenties she devoted herself to writing and became the first Mozambican woman with a published novel. When handed this title, however, she says she is not a novelist; “I am a storyteller . . . take my inspiration from tales around the campfire, my first art school.” Her works explore themes of race, polygamy, colonization, and cultural change in her country.

In 2016, Archipelago published Chiziane’s The First Wife, translated into English by . For the London Review of Books, Sheila Heti wrote, ” . . . the people who will change Chiziane’s country (or any country) need love stories like The First Wife, which admit that no new freedoms are gained without seemingly pointless suffering . . . Chiziane’s prose alternates between a dramatic, high-octave style . . . and a terse and humorous frankness. She cites the Portuguese poet Florbela Espanca as her most important influence, and there is something similar in the way both writers are able to express the peaks of emotion, while never forgetting the part of the self which evaluates oneself.”

Read more about Paulina Chiziane and the Camões Prize here.

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Allegria wins the 2021 National Translation Award in Poetry

 

We’re thrilled to share that Geoffrey Brock has won the 2021 National Translation Award in Poetry for his translation of Giuseppe Ungaretti‘s Allegria! The National Translation Award, which is administered by the American Literary Translators Association, is the only national award for translated fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction that includes a rigorous examination of both the source text and its relation to the finished English work. This year’s judges for poetry are Sinan Antoon, Layla Benitez-James, and Sibelan Forrester.

“I will buy any book of poetry that Brock has translated,” the poet Ilya Kaminsky wrote of Allegria. “It is especially clear here, in the pages of Allegria, where the shortish lines test the translator’s ability to deliver nuance with light touch, precision, and almost Mozartian grace . . . This book will give you ‘a momentary stay against confusion.’ It is a beautiful gift.”

The jury wrote, “Ungaretti’s first book-length collection of poems appeared almost a century ago. It transformed modern Italian poetry and announced the arrival of a unique voice in world poetry . . . The slender poems celebrate life, inflecting its light, memory, and mystery, and seizing the eternal from the seemingly ephemeral in vivid and striking imagery. This elegant translation preserves Ungaretti’s economy and his pursuit of poetic purity.”

Famed for his brevity, Giuseppe Ungaretti’s early poems swing nimbly from the coarse matter of tram wires, alleyways, quails in bushes, and hotel landladies to the mystic shiver of pure abstraction. These are the kinds of poems that, through their numinous clarity and shifting intimations, can make a poetry-lover of the most stone-faced non-believer. Ungaretti won multiple prizes for his poetry, including the 1970 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He was a major proponent of the Hermetic style, which proposed a poetry in which the sounds of words were of equal import to their meanings. This auditory awareness echoes through Brock’s hair-raising translations, where a man holding vigil with his dead, open-mouthed comrade, says, “I have never felt / so fastened / to life.”

Geoffrey Brock is the author of three books of poems, the editor of The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry, and the translator of numerous books of prose, poetry, and comics, most recently Last Dream by Giovanni Pascoli (World Poetry Books, 2019) and Allegria by Giuseppe Ungaretti (Archipelago, 2020). His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Academy of American Poets, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Translation at the University of Arkansas, where he founded The Arkansas International.

You can find more information about the ALTA and Brock’s award here.

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Maja Haderlap wins the 2021 Christine Lavant Prize

 

We’re thrilled to share that Maja Haderlap — writer, poet, and translator from German and Slovenian — has won the 2021 Christine Lavant Prize for her extensive body of work! The prize honors a writer “who, like Christine Lavant, combines high aesthetic standards with a humane attitude and a socially critical view in their literary work.”

The jury wrote that Haderlap’s selection was “a tribute to one of the most important Austrian writers . . . In the centre is her novel Engel des Vergessens, 2011, (Angel of Oblivion), a story about a Slovenian-Carinthian family which presents the battle of Carinthian Slovenians against National Socialism and the humiliation that Slovenians in Austria were and are partly still exposed to.”

Tess Lewis’ translation of Angel of Oblivion, Haderlap’s autobiographical novel, was published by Archipelago in 2016. Malcolm Forbes of The National wrote that Angel of Oblivion is “a hymn to remembrance – one urging us to salvage and safeguard the shards of our past from the tide of history.”

distant transit, Haderlap’s collection of poems newly translated by Tess Lewis, is forthcoming with Archipelago in 2022. As Haderlap writes about a Slovenia transformed through linguistic assimilation and border violence, language comes to her as a confidant, but it takes many other shapes as well, even flying at her face like a flock of birds. In these poems, the material tendencies of language play out at the fraught border between Austria and Slovenia, and in Tess Lewis’ quicksilver translation, where “sentences must disrobe / begin to roam, learn to swim / not lose the memory that nests in / their bodies, a secret nucleus.”

In 2018, Haderlap was awarded the Max Frisch Prize of the City of Zurich. The jury wrote that her “poetry and prose combine poetic brilliance with explosive political power.”

Born into the Slovenian-speaking minority of Carinthia, Maja Haderlap’s writing brings alive the specter of linguistic assimilation and ethnic cleansing at the border between Austria and Slovenia. She studied German language and literature at the University of Vienna and has a PhD in Theatre Studies. Haderlap has published volumes of poetry and essays in Slovenian and German. She was awarded the Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis and the Rauriser Literaturpreis for Engel des Vergessens (Angel of Oblivion).

More information about the Christine Lavant Prize can be found here, and in German here.

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Review of Allegria in the Journal of Italian Translation

We are delighted to share that Marco Sonzogni’s review of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s Allegria, translated by Geoffrey Brock, was published in the Journal of Italian Translation.

From the review, as translated by Geoffrey Brock:
The skill of Geoffrey Brock, without a shadow of a doubt one of the most important literary translators from Italian into English, has long been known to me: years ago I had the honor and delight of reviewing his Pavese for The Irish Times… Brock’s hand…has grown even surer and more effective, and I continue to follow his career (which include works by Umberto Eco: Herculean labors for any translator) with attention and admiration. I therefore read with great interest and care his translation of one of our poetic canon’s landmark collections: Allegria by Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888–1970), in its 1931 version, published on the fiftieth anniversary of Ungà’s” death by Archipelago Books, a New York publishing house with the highest of reputations for editorial vision and catalog quality. I would venture to say, giving two “nocturnal” examples, that in many cases the translations by Brock—who is also a fine poet—are not only successful translations but also successful new poems. The first example is “Noia”:
Anche questa notte passerà
Questa solitudine in giro
titubante ombra dei fili tramviari
sullumido asfalto
Guardo i testoni dei brunisti
nel mezzo sonno
tentennare
translated thusly by Brock:

This night too will pass

This roving solitude
tentative shadows of tram wires
on damp asphalt

I watch the big heads of the coachmen
half sleeping
totter

Were I to read this text without knowing it was a translation I would consider it in every way a successful original work in English and would immediately want to try translating it into Italian.

The second example is “Sempre Notte”:

La mia squallida
vita
si estende
più spaventata
di sè

in un
infinito
che mi calca e mi spreme
col suo

fievole
tatto
fluente

which becomes “Night Again” in Brock’s English:

My wretched
life
stretches on
ever more fearful
of itself

into an
endlessness
that tramples and crushes me
with its
faint
flowing
touch

Though it’s true that word-for-word translations rarely yield satisfying results, and true that word-level equivalence may be sacrificed on the altar of a more “comprehensive” equivalence, it is nonetheless worth noting how these two small ‘mirrors’—“ever more fearful / of itself” for “più spaventata / di sè” and “into an / endlessness” for in un / infinito”—reflect the translator’s great sensitivity. Again, should I fail to recognize in the English text the translation of a poem by one of our most important poets, I would consider “Night Again” an absolutely successful poem in English and would like to try to reproduce it in Italian.
“Noia” and “Sempre notte,” though not among Ungaretti’s most “classic” poems, are nevertheless, for their emotional intensity and expressive precision, equally definitive standard-bearers of his voice and his poetics. Likewise, “Boredom” and “Night Again” attest to Brock’s talent: a quality and integrity of reading, interpretation, and rendering that are rooted in a natural flair for the forms and functions of poetry and thus at this point go beyond the mastery of language and culture.

*

Jose Saramago said something as beautiful as it is true: writers create national literatures while translators create universal literature. Thanks to these translations, exemplary in their empathy and effectiveness, by Geoffrey Brock and Alberto Bertoni, and thanks to the dedication and investment of Archipelago Books and corsiero editore, the universality of Italian and Irish poetry and have been revealed and renewed.

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David Colmer wins the 2021 James Brockway Prize

We are thrilled to share that David Colmer—translator of Dutch literature across the genres of  literary fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, and poetry—has been awarded the James Brockway Prize for 2021! The prize, which is run by the Dutch Foundation for Literature, recognizes a translator’s body of Dutch-language poetry, and honors the pivotal James Brockway, the late poet and translator.

The judges David McKay, Judith Wilkinson, and Claire Lowdon wrote:
“Colmer’s work displays great sensitivity to the specific demands of each poem. He is a very versatile translator, able to work with both free verse and traditional forms. He is particularly at ease with the colloquial, contemporary voice and can even produce slang when the Dutch requires this. (…) He is a bold translator; he never automatically chooses the obvious but tries to tease out the maximum from every line. He instinctively knows when to opt for restraint and simplicity and when to take creative risks. His translations are never prosaic and work as poems in their own right, with their own rhythmic flow.”

Award presentation info is available here.

David Colmer’s poetry translations include books by Hugo Claus, Paul van Ostaijen, Menno Wigman, Annie M.G. Schmidt and Cees Nooteboom. His translations published with Archipelago Books include The Twin, Even NowAn Untouched House, and I Wish

You can pre-order Colmer’s new translation, Willem Frederik Hermans’s A Guardian Angel Recalls, here. It will be out on October 12, 2021.

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Andrea Bajani and Nick Flynn at Prairie Lights

 

On Friday, April 16 at 8:00PM EST, Prairie Lights hosted a virtual conversation with Andrea Bajani and Nick Flynn. They discussed Bajani’s novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris. You can watch a recording of the event here!

Andrea Bajani is the author of four novels and two collections of poems. His novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, has brought him a great deal of attention. In just a few months, the book won the Super Mondello Prize, the Brancati Prize, the Recanati Prize and the Lo Straniero Prize. He lives in Houston and teaches at Rice University.

Nick Flynn is a formidable contemporary American poet, playwright, and memoirist. His work is often praised for its swift, lyrical expression and fractured narrative structures. Flynn has been published in fifteen languages, and has won two PEN prizes for his memoir and poetry writing. He has also received fellowships from The Guggenheim Foundation; The Fine Arts Works Center; and the Library of Congress, among others. He now lives in Brooklyn with his wife and his daughter, Maeve.

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Andrea Bajani, Elizabeth Harris, and Stuart Dybek at Pilsen Community Books

On Thursday, April 8th at 7PM CST / 8 PM EST, Andrea BajaniElizabeth Harris, and Stuart Dybek celebrated If You Kept a Record of Sins, hosted by Pilsen Community Books!

A recording of the event is available here.

A sly, prismatic novel that Jhumpa Lahiri says “accumulates with the quiet urgency of a snowstorm,” Bajani’s If You Kept a Record of Sins, translated by Elizabeth Harris, records the indelible marks a mother leaves on her son after she abandons their home in Italy for a business she’s building in Romania.

Andrea Bajani is one of the most respected and award-winning novelists and poets of contemporary Italian literature. He is the author of four novels and two collections of poems. His novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, has brought him a great deal of attention. In just a few months, the book won the Super Mondello Prize, the Brancati Prize, the Recanati Prize and the Lo Straniero Prize. His works have been translated into many languages. He now lives in Houston and teaches at Rice University.

Elizabeth Harris translates contemporary Italian fiction, including novels and story collections by Mario Rigoni Stern, Giulio Mozzi, Antonio Tabucchi, and Claudia Durastanti. For her  translations of Antonio Tabucchi’s For Isabel: A Mandala and Tristano Dies: A Life, she has received the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, an NEA Translation Fellowship, The Italian Prose in Translation Award, and the National Translation Award for Prose.

Stuart Dybek was born and raised in Pilsen and Little Village. Dybek is a writer of place and those neighborhoods are central to his fiction and poetry. He is the author of 6 books of fiction including Childhood and Other NeighborhoodsThe Coast of Chicago, and I Sailed With Magellan, all set in Pilsen, as well as the poetry collections, Brass Knuckles and Streets in the Own Ink. His work has received many awards including a Macarthur “genius award.” He is currently the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University.

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Andrea Bajani and Jhumpa Lahiri at Point Reyes Books

 

On Tuesday, April 1 at 9:00PM EST, Andrea Bajani joined Jhumpa Lahiri to celebrate and discuss his novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, which was translated to English by Elizabeth Harris. Point Reyes Books hosted the conversation in a virtual stream on Crowdcast. Watch a recording of the event here!

Andrea Bajani is the author of four novels and two collections of poems. His novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, has brought him a great deal of attention. In just a few months, the book won the Super Mondello Prize, the Brancati Prize, the Recanati Prize and the Lo Straniero Prize. He lives in Houston and teaches at Rice University.

Jhumpa Lahiri is the author of four works of fiction: Interpreter of MaladiesThe NamesakeUnaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland; and a work of nonfiction, In Other Words. She has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize; the PEN/Hemingway Award; the PEN/Malamud Award; the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award; the Premio Gregor von Rezzori; the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature; a 2014 National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama; and the Premio Internazionale Viareggio-Versilia, for In altre parole. Lahiri’s new novel, Whereabouts, will be published on April 27th.