on translation in texas

it wasn’t until I discovered world literature that I have so voraciously read contemporary literature

So my blog posts have decreased as the stories I’ve been writing for Arts + Culture Texas have increased. I’ll try to fix that but life has been bonkers.

In lieu of any additional hours in the day, I thought I’d start cross-posting and/or expanding here on some pieces I’ve published recently in A+C.

So. Without further ado.

I’ve always been a voracious reader BUT it wasn’t until I discovered world literature (so in the last several years) that I have so voraciously read contemporary literature.

I use the word discovered rather carelessly. I obviously knew people were writing in other countries, and I’d obviously read some international work inadvertently. I say discovered more as in I intentionally began seeking out work from around the world in an effort to find contemporary writing with which I could engage.

It’s not a stretch, I don’t think, to put forward the idea that there is A LOT of contemporary American writing that is, for lack of a better word, shit. Of course, that being the case, it’s also probably pretty much a guarantee, that a lot of contemporary literature from the far reaches of the globe is also shit. But, and this is totally a guess and not based on reality whatsoever, the barrier to entry (aka that the work has to find a publisher, translator and a distributor to even have the possibility of being read by English-language audiences) is high enough to keep a lot of the shit out. Right?

There’s so little world literature in English and it’s occasionally so different, that it’s a welcome respite for life-long readers like myself who, inevitably I think, get tired of the same stories, the same styles. International writing is, at its best, capable of introducing western readers who are incessantly bombarded with an inordinate number of American books, to new writing styles, new characters, new conflicts.

It’s akin to my rather late in life discovery of an entirely new class of literature, the stuff we (I) didn’t read in high school; Borges, Sebald, Gaddis and so many others.

I had no idea for much of my life that people wrote like that. So experimental, superficially meaningless but formally, and linguistically, beautiful.

So, because I enjoy complication (apparently), and because a publisher who works exclusively in translation set up shop in Dallas last year, I discovered the wide world of translation studies and decided I’d at least take a cursory dive into the philosophical waters.

Nothing has really come of my brief intensive (apart from an intimate acquaintance with the writings of Nabokov and the more contemporary Tim Parks on the subject) other than some burgeoning opinions and a rather unfortunately reductive examination of translation’s importance at its most basic for Arts+Culture Texas. I hope to write in some greater detail about the philosophical implications of translation in the future; thinking more about things such as Martin Heidegger’s assertion that it is “the height of superficiality to suppose translation is even possible,” and whether or not a global literature community has had adverse effects on writers outside of the West who might seek global acceptance to the detriment of their writing; creating a superficial sense of exoticism or detaching from debates internal to their country as examples

Round-about way of saying, I’m reading a lot of critical translation studies and a LOT of work in translation and expect to hear more about both.

Here’s a link to my piece in A+C if you’re interested in reading more about Deep Vellum Publishing (the new spot in Dallas) and my incredibly inane commentary on the importance of translation.

More to come.