“Writers teach, not writing per se, but how to engage in writing as a process and a means of perception. The actual work of writing is seldom sublime. It’s a struggle that grows more difficult if we avoid it. Writing is often excruciatingly slow and repetitive. Time, in slipping and sliding, makes itself felt and immediate. Words are the way in, but nothing is guaranteed. What writers or readers can do with language, or understand inside it, depends on what they know—on refining their sensibilities, on writing, revising, waiting, reading, writing, as though living in language were life and death.” Year in Reading alumna Jayne Anne Phillips writes for the Literary Hub about the importance of writing programs. For more on the debate, check out Hannah Gersen’s Millions essay.
When did Twitter turn into a place of public shame, outrage, and apology? Alexander Chee examines the changing culture in an essay for Dame Magazine. “Oh, Internet, place of the ultimate writerly paradox, where things you write quickly for little or no money last forever.” Our own Mark O’Connell explored something similar in his New Yorker essay on the public humiliation of regrettable tweets.
The premier English-language translator of modern Chinese fiction, Howard Goldblatt, says flatly that Western audiences don’t read Chinese books. However, with last year’s Nobel Prize win for Mo Yan (and the rave review his novel Pow! received in the Times), Goldblatt and other scholars are hoping that could change.
It is a truth universally acknowledged (and recently addressed in Barclay Bram Shoekmaker‘s Millions review of Mo Yan‘s Frog) that literary translation is an imperfect art, and this list of mistranslated “literary moments” only offers more evidence for the claim. But for every serious blunder there’s also a truly ridiculous one (or more). For example, the French translated the title of Animal Farm as Animals Everywhere!, which sounds a lot like a charming children’s book and not at all like Orwell.
“The Google Translate results feel less and less lucky as the sentence progresses, and with each new roll of the search engine dice.” Over the six years that Esther Allen was translating Argentine novelist Antonio Di Benedetto‘s classic, Zama, she would occasionally run lines through Google translate as an experiment in the ersatz. Pair with translator Alison Anderson on “Ferrante Fever” and what a great translation adds to the original work.