Literary Translation

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

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Cloudburst

An Anthology of Hispanic Canadian Short Stories

Julio Torres-Recinos

Cloudburst is a milestone in Canadian literature. For over a half-century, beginning with the Spanish Civil War and continuing through the coups d’état and military repression in South and Central America in the 1970s and 80s, Spanish-speaking writers have been arriving in Canada as exiles and immigrants and have been creating new works in their native language. Cloudburst is the first anthology of short stories by Hispanic Canadian writers from across Latin America and Spain to appear in English. Edited by Luis Molina Lora and Julio Torres-Recinos and first published in Spanish as Retrato de una nube in 2008, Cloudburst is a prodigious collective work, containing forty-two stories by twenty-two authors from nine different countries—Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Spain—and rendered into English by seven translators.

The stories in Cloudburst reflect the enormous variety of Hispanic writing in Canada today. Each of the authors’ native countries has its own artistic and literary tradition, yet all are bound together by the Spanish linguistic and cultural sphere. Moreover, the women and men in the anthology have settled in cities and towns across Canada, some of them entering into contact with the English-speaking literary world, others with the French. A number of them began writing before they left their homelands, while many of the younger contributors started their careers in Canada. Some of them prefer a traditional literary style, others a more surrealist, experimental, or colloquial approach. All of them are passionate about their writing, and all have gone through the common experience of leaving or being uprooted from the land of their birth and settling in Canada, where they face the challenges and difficulties involved in reestablishing their lives in a largely unknown environment. In Cloudburst, through the prism of translation, they share their latest fiction with English-speaking readers.

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Death Sentences

Suzanne Myre

Death may seem a grim and morbid subject matter, but in the capable hands of Suzanne Myre, nothing about death is beyond humour (and death isn’t always what it seems).

Numbering 13 in total, the stories are populated with eccentric characters, follow unexpected plotlines, and, though thematically united, are completely unique and distinct from one another. From a murderous croissant to a woman seeking salvation in a most unconventional way and a couple of precocious children whose fates are intertwined with a Rottweiler’s, the tales in Death Sentences never fail to intrigue, surprise, and entertain. Myre’s style ranges from the concrete to the abstract; her tone runs the gamut from touching, sincere, and uplifting to sarcastic, cynical, and bittersweet. What is unwavering, however, is that the writing is witty, mischievous, sharp, and vivacious—always invigorating, never dull or predictable.

We come to realize that death comes in all forms (physical, spiritual, metaphorical), people cope in the most curious ways, and in the end, there’s no reason we can’t have a sense of humour about it all.

This is the first translation of Mises à mort. Though Myre has been a prolific and acclaimed writer in Quebec for a decade, this is the first time her work has been translated into English.

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The Fate of Bonté III

Alain Poissant

Bonté III was five years old. A cow at that age is at her prime. Prime is an accounting term. A dairy farm is a business and must be managed as such. From this perspective, Bonté III’s days were numbered. Numbered is not an empty word. She had been a good representative of her breed. A cow, after all, has no need to try to be a cow. Her life is that of a cow: a predetermined cycle that is easily reflected on a balance sheet. She eats. She drinks. She ruminates. She urinates. She defecates. All this has a cost. She ovulates. She bears a calf. She gives birth. She produces milk. All this brings money. [...] Tit for tat. The only thing left to do for Bonté III was to call the butcher.

The Fate of Bonté III is a story of love and loneliness with colourful characters, a reflection on life and the vital need to be useful to someone or to something.

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They Divided the Sky

A Novel by Christa Wolf

Christa Wolf

First published in 1963, in East Germany, They Divided the Sky tells the story of a young couple, living in the new, socialist, East Germany, whose relationship is tested to the extreme not only because of the political positions they gradually develop but, very concretely, by the Berlin Wall, which went up on August 13, 1961.

The story is set in 1960 and 1961, a moment of high political cold war tension between the East Bloc and the West, a time when many thousands of people were leaving the young German Democratic Republic (the GDR) every day in order to seek better lives in West Germany, or escape the political ideology of the new country that promoted the "farmer and peasant" state over a state run by intellectuals or capitalists. The construction of the Wall put an end to this hemorrhaging of human capital, but separated families, friends, and lovers, for thirty years.

The conflicts of the time permeate the relations between characters in the book at every level, and strongly affect the relationships that Rita, the protagonist, has not only with colleagues at work and at the teacher's college she attends, but also with her partner Manfred (an intellectual and academic) and his family. They also lead to an accident/attempted suicide that send her to hospital in a coma, and that provide the backdrop for the flashbacks that make up the narrative.

Wolf's first full-length novel, published when she was thirty-five years old, was both a great literary success and a political scandal. Accused of having a 'decadent' attitude with regard to the new socialist Germany and deliberately misrepresenting the workers who are the foundation of this new state, Wolf survived a wave of political and other attacks after its publication. She went on to create a screenplay from the novel and participate in making the film version. More importantly, she went on to become the best-known East German writer of her generation, a writer who established an international reputation and never stopped working toward improving the socialist reality of the GDR.

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Yoko Tawada's Portrait of a Tongue

An Experimental Translation by Chantal Wright

Yoko Tawada

Yoko Tawada's Portrait of a Tongue: An Experimental Translation by Chantal Wright is a hybrid text, innovatively combining literary criticism, experimental translation, and scholarly commentary. This work centres on a German-language prose text by Yoko Tawada entitled ‘Portrait of a Tongue’ [‘Porträt einer Zunge’, 2002]. Yoko Tawada is a native speaker of Japanese who learned German as an adult.

Portrait of a Tongue is a portrait of a German woman—referred to only as P—who has lived in the United States for many years and whose German has become inflected by English. The text is the first-person narrator’s declaration of love for P and for her language, a ‘thinking-out-loud’ about language(s), and a self-reflexive commentary.

Chantal Wright offers a critical response and a new approach to the translation process by interweaving Tawada’s text and the translator’s dialogue, creating a side-by-side reading experience that encourages the reader to move seamlessly between the two parts. Chantal Wright’s technique models what happens when translators read and responds to calls within Translation Studies for translators to claim visibility, to practice “thick translation”, and to develop their own creative voices. This experimental translation addresses a readership within the academic disciplines of Translation Studies, Germanic Studies, and related fields.

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