04. What We Talk About When We Talk About Translation

When people ask what really draws me to literary translation, I often joke, “Well, it’s definitely not the money.” What we get paid, especially in the non-Western publishing world, is not at all commensurate with the effort, art, and craft involved. So I was happy to read a good essay this week on the latter points by Paul Fond at Columbia Magazine. Plenty to agree with.

03. “. . . The Peace of the Dancing Mind–Is Our Work . . .” (Morrison)

A few years ago, I spent an entire year reading or rereading Toni Morrison’s works because I felt I'd missed a lot from them as a younger reader. We all have such favorite writers or works we revisit and learn something new each time, right? One of the works I revisited was her acceptance speech for the 1996 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. That’s where today's subject line comes from.

02. Long Words and Sentences (e.g. “Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung”)

In 1993, I’d moved to Berlin, Germany to work at Siemens for a few months as an engineering apprentice. My job in the quality department involved doing all kinds of destructive and non-destructive testing procedures for defects, from hairline cracks to incorrect dimensions, in gas turbine components. And I had to do it all in a language that I had barely studied in the two years prior. So, while I was making my way around Berlin, getting hopelessly lost in eastern and western German dialects and all the immigrant slang that had made its way into them, I was also trying to decipher convoluted compound words from technical German manuals and reports.

01. First Words: Welcome and Thank You

Thank you for joining this translating and writing journey. For me, literary translation is an act of love, of scholarship, and of activism. I'm hoping to use this weekly space to a) share some of the aha moments that literary translation work has afforded me and fellow translators; b) spotlight works of other translators, both established and emerging; c) encourage community dialogue around specific questions or topics (see my example at the end); d) share on any translation-related opportunities I might come across.