Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Sahara Testaments/ Sahara Testamenten by Tade Ipadeola: The proofreading

Proofreading the translation of the Sahara Testaments by Tade Ipadeola is as big an adventure as the translation itself. Frank De Vos was the first to make time for me and to date we have gone through the 17 first poems. Four more hours of hard work will be added this afternoon. Frank questions a lot of things in the text: for instance, in the original are quite a lot scientific terms. In English that is no problem because it stems directly from the Latin root. In Dutch one could keep the Latin word, but since the text of Sahara Testaments has a lot of names of city's, rulers, landscape elements which are typical African, and all the terms derived from Latin would make it hard for a dutch lover of poetry to read the text. So I have been checking on the right Dutch scientific terminology for these words. What do I mean? 'Onomastic totems' is a word or word combination most Dutch speaking readers would have to look up and seen the richness of Tade's language, they probably wouldn't bother to go and look it up, so I looked these kinds of words up for them and then it becomes 'naamkundige totems' and within the context it becomes clear that it is the place where all the names have been brought together so they wouldn't get lost...
An other example is 'constellation'. We have 'constellatie' but also a real dutch word 'gesternte' which would sound more familiar and to boot is a beautiful word. Here you see two different handwritings in and around the text... while proofreading.




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hanging Loose Press and Robert Hershon.

I got to know of and know Robert Hershon because I had fallen for a poetry book by Sherman Alexie published by Robert Hershon’s Hanging Loose Press and doing what I do I had started translating some of the poems of  ‘First Indian On the Moon’ while in Chloride, Arizona. A coincidence was that I visited two friends living on Staten Island on my way from Chloride, Arizona back to Antwerp Belgium. They gave me a tour of New York. So I had made an appointment to go to Varickstreet, Manhattan to meet with the publisher of the book. I showed up and we went out for a cup of coffee. The conversation flowed easily, I saw a sharp and funny, intelligent and kind man, taking care of Hanging Loose Press, and a great poet in his own right. They published not only now famous poets like Sherman Alexie, Harvey Shapiro, Paul Violi and more… (It is not always easy to follow the contemporary poetry scene from Europe.) Hanging Loose also produced a magazine with the same title. Robert Hershon, doesn’t do this all by himself, originally there were four editors, none taking a salary for their work. I have six issues of the magazine in Europe. The first thing is the visual impact through the care given to the cover, happy, colorful, strikingly beautiful artwork: some names dropping starting with issue 93: George Green, Dick Lourie, Robert Hershon, Hal Sirowitz (former poet laureate of Queens, N.Y.) Marc Staman, Joan Larkin, Stephen Lewandowski, Anne Waldman, Breyten Breytenbach, Sherman Alexie, Donna Brook, Kimiko Hahn and in each issue also a section with ‘writers of high school age’ a really interesting feature encouraging young authors.

Robert Hershon, with 13 poetry books out now, was kind enough to mail me his two latest books of his own:
The German Lunatic (2000) and
Calls from the outside world (2006)

Both books contain wonderful, often funny musings stemming from a wry profoundness. A few e-mails and once in a while a telephone call have let me stay in touch. So I learned from “The German Lunatic” (2000) of his love for baseball, a love shared by Sherman Alexie. Luckily I have two baseball fanatic friends who come and stay the winters in Chloride. Coop and Irene have done their utmost best to initiate into the rules of baseball. I now understand the terminology and begin to appreciate the belly cramps at the ninth inning. I took it upon me to translate this section from ‘The German Lunatic”…

The presentation date for the Sherman Alexie translation “On the Backs of Salmon’ is October 2nd,, , 2015 in the beautiful “Black Panter Gallery”, in Antwerp. This book isn’t the only one being presented: also a translation by Lucienne Stassaert of a book of poetry by Libanese Andrée Chédid. We will introduce each other. No learned professors, just the work we did. Her book is called (in Dutch) Existing is a blessing for me. Of course there will be a party afterwards.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Translation of poetry and of texts from a different culture

Having worked as an interpreter for the European Parliament I have wondered how a Romanian colleague would deal with a Finnish speaker or how a Portuguese interpreter would get the intention of the Hungarian speaker.
It is not about the words flipping them into the target language so that the words would be understandable. Rather in immersing oneself in a language one can grasp the strangeness of the other's circumstances and maybe understand the different cultural contexts, religious concepts and also every thing pertaining to daily and ceremonial life, to the daily hardships and joys. I have translated quite a lot of poetry by Modern Native Americans: Sherman Alexie's translation will be presented October 2nd in Antwerp. Sherman Alexie is Spokane/Coeur D'Alene Indian. His work is modern and deep, funny and ruthlessly honest. He uses irony and old cultural elements. He is a trickster who will confuse you and make you wonder and fill your heart with joy. He writes about pain in his unique way. He is a poet who challenges the translator, using among other techniques Fibonacci series in his rhymes, in another poem he has always the same end rhyme... Impossible in the target language. His world view, his translation of himself in his unique way is quite a gift. I hope the reader will enjoy his work 'On the backs of salmon' the metaphor I use for this translation. I hope you will be deeply touched by Sherman Alixie's poems I have chosen from his four first poetry books, published by Robert Hershon soul and body of Hanging Loose Press. A click on the image will enlarge it, so you can see the beauty of the books.

Sherman Alexie's books in Chronological order:
The Business of Fancydancing, Hanging Loose Press, 1992
First Indian On the Moon, Hanging Loose Press, 1993
The Summer of Black Widows, Hanging Loose Press, 1996
One Stick Song, Hanging Loose Press, 2000

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sounds of Harbor goes German

On August 27 Zwanenzang/Swansong by Rose Vandewalle with my English translation will be presented in  literary Café Den Hopsack. Jean De Mey will take care of the music in his unique and wonderful way.

On August 28 however there will be a poetry event near the Ruhr estuary in Duisburg where Ruhr and Rhine mix their waters. The reading will start at 8 PM in 'ruhr art gallery' on the 'leinpfad'. I love that area with the boats, the wind over the water and the mix of people like one encounters in any harbor town...

A few people will read, organizer Fred Schywek, myself and hopefully also Annie Reniers will be able to make it. She then would read from 'Buitenholten' (Outer cavities) and Fred Schywek would read his excellent translation of this highly philosophical work by Annie. He will perform a critical reading of a poem by Thomas Kling, a young poet who died 10 years ago.

I'll be reading some of my own poems and poetry by Native American authors, for sure there will be read a few poems written by Sherman Alexie. The presentation of the bilingual book 'Over the backs of salmon/ Over ruggen van zalmen' will be on October 2nd,  2015, 8 PM in the Black Panter Gallery in Antwerp, Lucienne Stassaert will introduce the book and I'll comment on her translation from French by Andrée Chedid. So a lot of fun and beauty awaits us all in the next few months.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Weaving between two worlds...

Years ago I was asked about the Navajo Hopi land dispute. Since I had worked years before (I think in 1979) for free in a conference about returning the indigenous lands to the native people, I had very good documentation about several issues. It was a wonderful experience, and I thought it was high time to finally share the English text with you all. A few days ago fine combed the text, hopefully having left no mistakes or extra empty spaces behind.
Today's work was to get bibliography right. I am quite pleased with myself to have finished the job. Rereading  the long list with wonderful books a joy by itself. 

By the way I added a short list of some of my favorite Native American authors....


Alexie, Sherman, all his novels and poetry (He won the PEN-Faulkner award)
Bird, Gloria, prose and poetry
Boyne, Grace, poetry
Erdrich, Louise, her novels
Harjo, Joy her poetry and other work
Kingsolver, Barbara, her novels and High Tide in Tucson
Least Heat-Moon: Blue Highways and Prairy Erth
Marmon Silko, Leslie, Ceremony, her novels and poetry
Maurice, Kenny, his poetry
Momaday, Scott, everything
Moore, MariJo, her poetry
Rose, Wendy, her poetry: Lost Copper, Academic Squaw, Bone dance
Simon, J. Ortiz his poetry
Tapahonso, Lucy, her poetry
Tohe, Laura her poetry (No Parole today)
Welch, James, his novels
Of course my thoughts go out to Leonard Peltier, poet and political prisoner

Monday, June 15, 2015

David Foster Wallace

He died, no he committed suicide when he was 46. I am now 68 and stumbled upon his writing. I am an avid reader, read all kinds of things and thinner books usually find a place in my purse to read in any forlorn moment. Now I just bough two of his books (the bookshop in Antwerp only had two of his books) on offer and I went home with Infinite Jest, 1000 pages plus and 93 pages of annotations and the Pale King. No way to carry the book in a regular purse. When I started I was wondering about whether I could read it all without getting bored, uninterested or disgruntled... I soon discovered that this was writing like I had never read:rich, long winded, interesting all about the young peoples at a sports college. The language sings, the fumes of pot almost waft off  the page. The words will run away from you, will crowd you, will make you smile... Of course this is a book to be read as a young adult struggling with all that goes on in life. Yet the beauty will floor you at times:

That cockroaches can, up to a certain point, be lived with.
That "acceptance" is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else.
That different people have radically different ideas of basic personal hygiene.
That it is permissible to want. That everybody is identical in their
secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else. That this isn't necessary perverse.
That there might not, but there are people who might as well be angels.

David Foster Wallace grew up in Illinois. He studied at Amherst, he suffered severe depressions. He wrote a short story about the 1983 episode. The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing." which was published in the Amherst review. Trillaphon is an anti-pychotic medication...

If it looks difficult, think of the education you'll get reading his work: the taste  and smell of a time of growing up as Generation X in the USA.

Monday, June 1, 2015

PEN-International's congres in Amsterdam.


Openingsspeech Job Degenaar WiPC/ICORN-conferentie, De Duif, Amsterdam, 25.05.2015
 

 In a rich and democratic country as The Netherlands there is still freedom of speech and expression. There are no writers in prison. As a writer at the sunny side of the world you can do two things. Enjoy your luxury free life and write as a free human being about your free life.
Or enjoy this luxury and write, but also try to support your colleagues at the shade side of the world that can't defend themselves: the path less traveled by, as Robert Frost should say.

 Many of you, here gathered, do the same. You try to do something for writers who are in big trouble, writers, not criminals, who are in prison, or under threat, or who have killed with impunity, writers who are unable to help themselves: you can't open a prisoner's door from inside. Most of them live in countries with dictatorial governments as China and Vietnam or with powerless governments, like Mexico and Honduras:

There is no distance between writers, only between the circumstances writers have to live.



In my capacity of the national WiPC Chair, for nearly 10 years now, I became a member of the international PEN-community – and I'm proud to be so. Most of our work is in silence, in the lee, because of diplomatic reasons. It needs carefulness and hidden actions, which is not the same as chicken-heart: when lights are spotted on a writer who is in danger, he could become in more danger. You always have to keep in mind what you want to reach: not your so called bravery, but the life of a colleague who is unable to fight for himself. The Dutch WiPC is at this moment especially focused on actions for East-Asiatic countries where most of the writers in the world are imprisoned.



What we do, is seeking contact with governments and diplomats, and of course with other PEN-centres for consultation about the way how to take action, supporting imprisoned writers by sending cards to them, telling their stories in our own country, translate their work and give them a name and a face. The basic principle for our work is the dialogue, not the confrontation. You can't win anything by offending regimes if  you want to change their minds.



To mention three small, recent successes from our centre: we received from the Vietnamese Nguyn Hũu Caũ, who was freed after 40 years imprisonment, and his family, personal thanks for the work we have done. And together with a French sinologist we nominated two years ago the Chinese Li Bifeng for the American Hellman-Hammett Grant and we translated some texts of him into Dutch. He received the award. Unfortunately he is still in jail. Our work continues.

We also supported the foundation of the North Korean Writers in Exile Centre and the South-Korean president Lee Gil-won did a lot for them. And now some work of them also has been published in important Dutch papers and in a literary magazine.



David van Reybrouck, from PEN Flanders, once said: 'WiPC is the core business of PEN' and Larry Siems, from PEN America, summarized in Kyrgyzstan what should be the main subject in conferences like these: 'The key core issue is dynamic engagement on every case'.


Well, let's be engaged. I wish you a very pleasant and inspiring time here in Amsterdam.