Tag: translation

Short story or rather, novelette: “The Burrow”

“The Burrow” (“Der Bau”), by Franz Kafka

First published posthumously in 1931, with the first English translation coming out in 1933; the Muirs’ translation is online here

15,133 words

Maybe it’s because I was in a bad mood, but earlier today, reading Michael Hofmann’s translation, I felt as though the narrator of “The Burrow” were my only friend.



“Who doesn’t desire his father’s death?”

—Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov

On loving one’s neighbors

“‘I must make you one confession,’ Ivan began. ‘I could never understand how one can love one’s neighbors. It’s just one’s neighbors, to my mind, that one can’t love, though one might love those at a distance.'”

—The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by Constance Garnett

Short story: “Telling Stories about One’s Life”

“Telling Stories about One’s Life,” by Peter Bichsel, translated by Lydia Davis

Appeared in Ploughshares Volume 42, Number 2, Summer 2016; available on Project MUSE

Maybe a thousand words?

This story—fable? essay?—gets at a universal but hard-to-articulate subject.

Another story in which an adult narrates from his childhood self’s point of view.

Short story: “Sarandí Street”

“Sarandí Street,” by Silvina Ocampo, translated from the Spanish by Katie Jan and Suzanne Jill Levine

Appeared online August 18th, 2016 in Granta 136: Legacies of Love

1083 words

A subtle piece that I’m not sure I understand. I read it as being about someone living her whole life under a looming threat—the threat of male violence?—which, at the end, continues to haunt her in the form of her adopted son.

The word “trunks” threw me off a bit. I would have written something like “trunks of clothes” or “steamer trunks,” but I imagine it was unambiguous in Spanish and the translators didn’t want to risk destroying the elegant simplicity of the sentence.

On reviewing translations

Some thoughts on reviewing translations (found via Language Hat). I might want to keep these principles in mind for my brief blog entries. I’m happy to say there’s at least one—“Always include the translator’s name in your initial mention of the book”—that I already follow religiously.

Short story: “The Tragic Tale of the Baron and His Wife”

“The Tragic Tale of the Baron and His Wife,” by Witold Gombrowicz, translated by Tul’si Bhambry

Appeared in the Paris Review, Spring 2016, No. 216, at one time published online but now only excerpted; recommended by Longform; recommended by Biblioklept

1,628 words

Darkly funny.

The same Witold Gombrowicz who wrote “Lawyer Kraykowksi’s Dancer.”

On bothness

“The Idiot is, as I said, from time to time near that borderland where every thought and its opposite are equally true. That is, he has an intuitive perception that no thought, no law, no mould, no form exist which are true and right except as regarded from one pole—and every pole has its opposite. The situation of a pole, the taking up, that is to say, of a position from which to view and order the world, is the first stage in the foundation of every cultural form, of every society and morality. Whosoever considers Spirit and Nature, Spirit and Freedom, Good and Evil as interchangeable, if only for a moment, is the deadliest foe of every order of civilization. For there begins the contrary of Order; there begins Chaos.

“A line of thought which turns back to the Unconscious, to Chaos, disturbs every human system of order.”

—Herman Hesse in “Thoughts on Dostoevsky’s The Idiot,” translated by Stephen Hudson (another translation in PDF here)


On how opinions are made

“This new concept of ‘the finest, highest achievement in the realm of art’ had no sooner entered my mind than it located the imperfect enjoyment I had had at the theater, and added to it a little of what it lacked; this made such a heady mixture that I exclaimed, ‘What a great artiste she is!’ It may be thought I was not altogether sincere. Think, however, of so many writers who, in a moment of dissatisfaction with a piece they have just written, may read a eulogy of the genius of Chateaubriand, or who may think of some other great artist whom they have dreamed of equaling, who hum to themselves a phrase of Beethoven for instance, comparing the sadness of it to the mood they have tried to capture in their prose, and are then so carried away by that perception of genius that they let it affect the way they read their own piece, no longer seeing it as they first saw it, but going so far as to hazard an act of faith in the value of it, by telling themselves, ‘It’s not bad, you know!’ without realizing that the sum total which determines their ultimate satisfaction includes the memory of Chateaubriand’s brilliant pages, which they have assimilated to their own, but which, of course, they did not write.”

In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, Marcel Proust, translated by James Grieve

On interestingness as a driving force in fiction

“Proust succeeds, in my opinion, by being interesting on every single page. [In Search of Lost Time/Remembrance of Things Past] is one of the few philosophical novels, for instance, that actually has something to say. Proust’s ideas on art, on society, on love, on politics, are fascinating. It’s like going to dinner with the most interesting person you’ve ever met.

“And there’s also a certain moment to moment ingenuity. Unexpected things happen. People change in odd and striking ways. And, of course, the sentences are amazing. I hesitate to call them good or beautiful (because no one except Proust should ever attempt to write like this), but they are an experience. The nearest thing I can compare him to, in English, is Samuel Johnson: a writer who says, in page-long sentences, the kind of thoughts that can only really be expressed in page-long sentences.

“But none of this is any good to the aspiring writer of fiction, of course. And by giving writers the notion that they don’t need story—they just need to be interesting!—I’m pretty sure Proust has harmed many more writers than he’s helped.”

—Rahul Kanakia (x)