Tag: translation

Short story: “Beauty, a Terrible Story”

“Beauty, a Terrible Story,” by Caio Fernando Abreu, translated by Bruna Dantas Lobato

First appeared in 1989 in the collection The Dragons Haven’t Been to Paradise; appeared in English in Words without Borders: The Online Magazine of International Literature, July 2016

3,086 words, counting the epigraph but not counting the dedication

I admire the way this story avoids making any explicit (or even nearly explicit) statement about the main character’s situation. He keeps trying to tell her and failing. You can feel the weight of his silence.

Found via the Ploughshares blog.

“I remember translating the last scene of the story, when the protagonist “ran his fingertips along his neck, […] groping for a seed in the dark.’ Afterward, I realized that I’d placed my own hand on the right side of my neck like the protagonist. The experience wasn’t romantic or magical, but it served as a reminder that I was inhabiting someone else’s world, and that I could trust the reader to feel the story as intensely as I’d felt it, no further explanation needed.”

—the translator (x)


Short story: “Sonning a Father”

“Sonning a Father,” by Georgi Gospodinov, as translated by Angela Rodel

Appeared in Ploughshares, Summer 2016

Maybe 5000 words?

I want to call this charming, but that seems like too light a word for subject matter so grim. And yet the story maintains a light touch throughout. The ending is surprisingly hopeful.

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)