WAAT #46: WAAT Links: On translated text and context


Here’s a set of links to translation-related essays, interviews, podcasts, virtual events, submission calls, and more to start the working week. And a reading recommendation.

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You may have noticed that there was no newsletter on October 10th or 14th. That’s because I needed to take a week’s break to deal with some other deadlines. Also, I needed to rethink this brief experiment of two newsletters per week. In September, I began separating the links roundup from the topical deep dives and sending them out on Mondays and Fridays, respectively. While it makes sense to keep these separate, it will be best to stay with one newsletter per week so that you get a chance to read, reflect, and respond as well. So I’ll be doing alternating weeks for the links roundup and the topical deep dives. I hope that will work for everyone. And we’ll close today’s links roundup with a reading recommendation and a quote. This week, we consider some fine words from the renowned and fiercely brilliant historian Romila Thapar. Please read on.

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[Note: This switch from one-a-week to two-a-week and then back to one-a-week has messed up my newsletter numbering just a bit. So we’re actually on #46 now though some of the links roundup newsletters had no numbers at all.]

WAAT Links

READ: The National Book Award Interviews. (Words Without Borders.)

READ: A New Translation Prize: The Armory Square Prize for South Asian Literature in Translation. Jury chair Jason Grunebaum and Armory Square partner and co-founder Pia Sawhney talk about the new Armory Square Prize for South Asian Literature in Translation. (Words Without Borders.)

New to my work? Check out my books and publications.

READ: Meet Arunava Sinha, likely India’s most prolific translator by Priya Ramani (The Hindu.)

READ: How Do You Publish a Book In Translation? A roundtable discussion with Brenda Lozano, Kendall Storey, and Heather Cleary on why translation is essential to the literary landscape. (Catapult.)

READ: Strange beasts of translation: Yan Ge and Jeremy Tiang in conversation. (Public Books.)

READ: Inside the Process of Translating Korean Literature. Anton Hur, Sandy Joosun Lee, and Sung Ryu on their path as literary translators, creative process, and book recommendations. (Electric Literature.)

READ: The Art of Translation is Akin to “Dancing on Ropes”; a review of Dancing on Ropes: Translators and the Balance of History, by Anna Aslanyan (The Markaz Review.)

READ: ‘Dancing backwards and in heels’: The delicate art of translating children’s literature by Mini Shrinivasan (Scroll.)

READ: Why I Love Translating by Patricia Dubrava (essay at Talking Writing.)

READ: If an American Cannot Speak Arabic by Raaza Jamshed (essay at Guernica.)

LISTEN: Season 4: Transition and Translation. (Novel Dialogues Podcast.)

LISTEN: Women in Translation: Showcasing the richness of European women authors and translators (Trafika Europe Radio)

WATCH: Exophonic Literary L2 Translators and their Relationship to Language by Lúcia Collischonn, University of Warwick. (Trinity Center for Literary and Cultural Translation.)

Looking for help? Check out my writing workshops and book consultation services.

ATTEND: South Asian Literature and Art Festival 2022. October 28 to October 30, 2022. In-person. Saratoga, CA. (Art Forum SF.)
(I’m on a panel about translation and diaspora literature on the 30th. Come say hi.)

ATTEND: A Panel on the Politics of Translation with YZ Chin, Madhu Kaza, Emma Ramadan, and David Unger on Thursday, November 3rd, at 7 PM Eastern (The Center for Fiction.)

APPLY: University of Iowa MFA in Translation. Deadline: January 15, 2023.

APPLY: A list of translation grants from Eurodram.

Looking for book recommendations? Check out my ongoing book lists.

APPLY: Grant for the Publication of Taiwanese Works in Translation (GPT) from Books by Taiwan

APPLY: German into English: Translation in Practice. Course Dates: October 13, 2022 – December 08, 2022. Time: 18:30 – 20:30. Location: Online. Tutors: Sarah Williams. (CityLit.)

SUBMIT: Asymptote’s Winter 2023 Korean Literature Feature. Deadline: November 15, 2022.

SUBMIT: Best Literary Translations anthology 2022 submissions. Ends on January 2, 2023. (Deep Vellum.)


This week’s quote is from an excellent book by the historian, Romila Thapar. In Śakuntalã: Texts, Readings, Histories, she examines a classical Indian text that has been adapted and translated many times into other Indian languages as well as several European ones. Carefully exploring and parsing these adaptations and translations into different languages and cultures at different moments in history, Thapar shows us how deeply social and political contexts shape how a text is translated, received, and canonized. She also reveals how the character of the eponymous Shakuntala was transformed through many retellings and what that tells us about how ideas of female identity evolved within South Asian culture (and the cultures that influenced South Asian literature through translations.) As she writes in her introduction, “In effect, therefore, tracing the history of this narrative itself becomes an even more complex interface between literature, history, gender, and culture. It is not my intention here to explore it in depth, rather to demonstrate that it is a viable activity which will direct us to many unexplored dimensions of both our past and our present.”

As translators, most of us know that context—in terms of cultural symbols, idioms, and icons—is multi-faceted and can significantly alter how we understand a text. This is why, as we’ve discussed before, translators’ notes and introductions matter greatly. We’ve also discussed how a translator can bring more context to their translation. Thapar’s book—where I’ve underlined multiple passages on almost every page—has given me new, more enlightened approaches to reading translations and approaching my own translations. If you do read it, I’d love to know your thoughts below.

Please feel free to share these links (I’d appreciate it if you could credit this newsletter as the source.) And if you’ve got an upcoming essay, interview, or event you’d like me to include, you can send it via my contact page. I’ll try to include as many as I can.

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Jenny Bhatt is an author, a literary translator, and a book critic. Currently, she is a Ph.D. student of literature at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has taught creative writing at Writing Workshops Dallas and the PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship Program. Sign up for her free newsletters, We Are All Translators and/or Historical Fiction Craft Notes. Jenny lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Texas.

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