Ben Lerner has a story [subscription required] in this week’s New Yorker that, like his debut novel Leaving the Atocha Station, features a protagonist named The Author. The magazine interviewed Lerner about the invitation to blur his fiction with his autobiography. He says that his work in an exercise in “activating those questions in peculiar ways—but the questions, not the answers, are what strike me as interesting.”
“As energy loss is an unavoidable fact of mechanics — no mechanism can be 100% efficient, and the best a designer can do is manage the loss as productively as possible — so translation loss is similarly unavoidable,” explains Mark Davie, who recently translated Galileo’s Selected Writings. But what if the “energy loss” isn’t a failure of the work’s translator so much as a failure of the organization commissioning (or failing to commission) the translation? What if, as is the case for much Arabic literature, “the process [of selecting works for translation] is based on a political consideration” that deprives Western readers of the best Arabic literary work?