LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

This edition of the Gotham takes a bit of a literary turn with “594 Ways of Reading Jane Eyre,” an article by Bonnie Chau reprinted with the permission of Poet’s and Writers, Inc. The article discusses a University of Oxford project that is studying the relationship of this literary classic to its many translated versions. In addition, I hope you will enjoy my write-up of the Circle’s Fifth Annual Open Mike Literary Translation night. This enjoyable online event included works by our members in various languages. The genres of fiction, non-fiction and poetry were all represented.

I’m also very pleased to share my interview with our Treasurer Sepideh Moussavi which highlights not only her distinguished career but also her untiring work with the ATA to establish a certification exam for the Farsi/English language pairing.

I wish all our readers a safe and happy summer. Please remember that the Gotham is always looking for original content for publication. Perhaps this would be a good time to put your translation and interpretation experiences down on paper and share them with all our members!

With best regards,

Patricia Stumpp, Editor

594 WAYS OF READING JANE EYRE

By: Bonnie Chau

Last summer, University of Oxford professor Matthew Reynolds, in collaboration with an international team of more than two dozen scholars, launched Prismatic Jane Eyre, a research project that explores the relationship between Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 novel and its many translated versions. In comparing the hundreds of translations that have been made across the globe in the more than 150 years since the book’s publication, Reynolds and his team hope to better understand the way a source text is read, absorbed, and transformed by translators, and the ways these translations reflect the culture in which they were created.

The project grew out of Reynolds’s wish to do a “collaborative, comparative close reading of several translations in different languages,” he says. This idea soon led to questions about the larger context of those translations and what other translations existed in the world. Reynolds says he decided to focus on Jane Eyre “because its internal conflicts seemed likely to play out differently in different cultures, because it is a popular as well as a literary text, and also because translation has a role within the book.”

In the project’s first phase, a team led by Oxford postdoctoral researcher Eleni Philippou spent the past two years tracking down every single translation of Jane Eyre since its initial publication. They unearthed a total of 594 different translations into fifty-seven languages, including Irinarkh Vvedenskiĭ’s colloquial Russian translation from 1849, Amır Mas‘ūd Barzīn’s 1950 Persian translation that he abridged by omitting subjects “not interesting to the Persian reader,” Yu Jonghos 유 종호’s 2004 revision of his 1970 Korean translation that substituted the former’s ornate Chinese vocabulary for more modern Korean language, and Amal Omar Baseem al-Rifayii’s translation from 2014, the only known Arabic version by a female translator.

A series of interactive world maps on the project’s website (prismaticjaneeyre.org) illustrate the scope and range of these many iterations, pinpointing each translation’s city of publication and noting its language, date, and translator. In this and other ways, the project emphasizes the individuality of translators, although, Reynolds says, “Usually all that is known of a translator is a name and often not even that—about 15 percent of the translators are anonymous, and an unknown number are pseudonymous.” The map’s color-coded display helps to illustrate where translations have proliferated. The website also features a time map through which users can trace the chronology of the translations, noting patterns or waves of popularity. For example, Jane Eyre was translated into Persian thirty times after 1950. “It was a surprise to discover how much those visualizations change one’s sense of where the book belongs,” Reynolds says.

During the project’s second phase, to be rolled out this spring or early summer, the team will compare the language used in about twenty-five of the translation languages. For instance, different translations of the title—originally Jane Eyre: An Autobiography in English—highlight different interpretations of the book’s themes. Titles such as 简爱 Jianai [Jane Eyre/Simple Love] in Chinese, and Jane Eyre: Yıllar Sonra Gelen Mutluluk [Jane Eyre: Happiness Coming After Many Years] in Turkish emphasize the book as a love story, while titles such as Kapag bigo na ang lahat: hango sa Jane Eyre [When Everything Fails: A Novel of Jane Eyre] in Tagalog, and Yatim  یتیم; subtitled ژن ئر [Orphan: Jane Eyre] in Farsi might point more toward social issues. The team will also explore patterns in the translation of the book’s key words and phrases. The words plain and passion, for example, are repeated throughout the original novel to describe the protagonist; both have been translated in endless ways, in accordance with the translator’s readings of Jane’s temperament, and exemplify the ways narrative style can reveal a culture’s values. In the third phase of the project, scholars will use digital tools, including one that measures the uniqueness of words in a passage of text, to analyze how style shifts and stretches across different languages—a glimpse of how technology may contribute to the future study of literary translation.

Reynolds and his collaborators hope the public will add to their understanding of the diversity of Jane Eyre’s translations. The team invites the public to alert them to missing translations, contribute personal translations of passages, and submit reflections, discoveries, observations, and theories. As the project proceeds, the Prismatic Jane Eyre website will be updated with findings, blog reports, and interactive features. In its fourth phase, in 2021, the project will publish a comprehensive volume of research, analysis, and essays, which will include a complete list of all the translations.

Prismatic Jane Eyre is part of a larger Prismatic Translation project, hosted by the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation Research Centre, whose scholarship revolves around a set of theoretical stances on translation: “Translation is creative, not mechanical; it is a matter of growth as much as, or more than, loss. Translators are writers. Languages are not separate boxes but are rather intermingled areas on the ever-shifting continuum of language variation.” This attitude departs from historically conventional perspectives of translators as secondary or unoriginal. It also rejects the notion that translation takes place between discretely bounded languages and suggests instead that those boundaries are fluid and permeable. Reynolds hopes Prismatic Jane Eyre will further advance these ideas. “One of the main ideas driving the project is that everyone reads differently, and uses language differently, and that those differences are interesting,” he says. “The key thing in thinking about translation is not to reify standardized national languages but rather to recognize the great variety of textures and structures that language is made up of and the variability of the terrain that translation works across.”

Bonnie Chau is the associate web editor of Poets & Writers, Inc.

5TH ANNUAL NYCT LITERARY TRANSLATION OPEN MIKE NIGHT

On May 13, 2020 the Circle celebrated its Fifth Annual Open Mike Literary Translation night. Kate Deimling, VP of the Circle, introduced and moderated the on-line event which highlighted the translated works of eight Circle members.

The evening began with Miriam Kaplan’s translation from the Polish of Po Marcu, Wieden, Rzym, Nowy Jork. Miriam has lived and worked on three continents as a translator and interpreter in English, Polish and Hebrew. The book she translated is a collection of letters that the Anna Fraljick, the Polish poet and professor, and  her husband and sister wrote to their parents in Poland when they emigrated to the US after the 1968 Polish uprising, which unleashed a virulent wave of anti-Semitism.  The mother of the family kept the letters which were discovered some 30 years later after her death. The letters were especially interesting for the writers’ impressions of life in the free world with its corresponding culture shocks, such as walking into a Western department store for the first time.

Miriam’s reading was followed by Jeffrey Tao’s eloquent translations of poems from the Tang Dynasty which flourished during the 8th to the 10th century in China. Jeffrey was born in Shanghai and grew up in Hong Kong. A former senior Chinese Interpreter at the UN, he continues to work with the organization on a free lance basis.  The poems he read evoked many emotions such as friendship, loyalty, nostalgia and the love of nature and were full of lyrical images. Particularly touching were the ruminations of soldiers about to go to war such as those in “Moon over Mountain Pass” by Li Bai.

Alta Price, former VP of the Circle who has now relocated to Chicago, translates from German and Italian and also runs a publishing consultancy specializing in literature and non-fiction texts.  Alta’s reading was from Viennese-born journalist  Anna Goldenberg’s  I Belong to Vienna, which will be published by New Vessel Press this June. The author writes of her great grandparents who lived in Vienna during the Nazi regime. They were deported to a concentration camp together with one of their sons. The older son, Hans, however, survived by hiding in an apartment in the middle of the city and remarkably still used the municipal library and bought standing room tickets to the Vienna State Opera. Anna Goldenberg’s grandparents emigrated to the US but ultimately decided to return to Vienna. The author, who moved to New York in 2012, ultimately followed the same path, moving back to her native Vienna. The book is a reflection on the pull that one’s homeland can exert even on families who suffered incalculable tragedy and grief there.

Steven Capsuto is an ATA certified translator in Spanish/English, English/Spanish and Portuguese/English who also translates from French, Catalan and Ladino. He read from his translation of “Scenes of Jewish Life in Alsace” by Daniel Stauben (pen name C. August Widal) which was originally published in 1860 as Scènes de la vie juive en Alsace. The text was notable for its elements of magic and the supernatural as seen by a Parisian visitor who encounters the vivid myths and legends of rural French village culture.

Tatyana Lotarevich then read a poem she wrote in English entitled “What For?” Tatyana’s native language is Russian. She joined the Circle in 2017 while working for a women’s health research organization where she translated research and education materials. She currently works as a data manager for a social service nonprofit and writes poetry in her spare time. Her poem was a sensitive expression of the feelings one encounters when moving from one country to another.

Patricia Stumpp, your editor, is an Italian/English translator and a certified court interpreter. I read from my translation of actress and singer Gianna Coletti’s memoir Mamma a Carico which is subtitled Mia figlia ha novant’anni.  I translated the title into English as “My Ninety Year Old Daughter.” The book documents three years in Gianna’s life as a professional actress, caregiver to her aging mother and one-half of a long-standing romantic partnership. I read from the first chapter, which introduces the characters, from one of the last chapters in which Gianna’s mother passes away and from the epilogue. The book is filled with both pathos and humor and I greatly enjoyed translating it.

Kate Deimling, VP of the Circle, is an experienced French translator in the fields of fiction and non-fiction, art and culture, marketing and transcreation, public policy and international relations. Kate also heads the Circle’s mentoring effort. She read from her translation of French author Marc Levy’s book A Woman Like Her which will be published this month by Amazon Crossing. The book is a comedy of manners that describes the lives of the residents of a Fifth Avenue apartment building. The excerpt that Kate read describes the relationship of some of the residents with their elevator operator Deepak. As the book states, Deepak has two religions: Hinduism and Discretion. The end of Kate’s reading left us in suspense as we are told that Deepak’s orderly life, established during his 39-year tenure in the building, is about to undergo a big change.

Kate then mentioned that it has become a Circle tradition to end Open Mike Night with poetry. Consequently, the last reader was Maria Teresa Acosta who read two poems that she wrote in English entitled “Pouring it All Out” and “Soulless Smell.” A Venezuelan by birth, she worked with an NGO in the Amazon for 15 years and also in the Environmental Impact Assessment Industry, places in which English to Spanish bridging was needed. After arriving in the US in 2016, she began a full time career in translation and interpretation in which immigrant issues have played a central role.   The poems were the outgrowth of her experiences as an interpreter and vividly evoked the different environments she has experienced and the desire for justice and human connection.  Maria Teresa has also translated the two poems into Spanish as “Sin que me quede nada por dentro” and “Olor desalmado.”

Many thanks to Kate and Serene Su for organizing this event as well as to the participants and the Circle members who dialed into this on-line presentation.

 

 

 

SEPIDEH MOUSSAVI: TRANSLATOR AND TRAILBLAZER

Sepideh is a native of Iran. She began her career translating and interpreting Farsi to and from French and English in her native country where Iranian companies were engaging in substantial trade with the US and Europe. She subsequently moved to France to continue studying French where her long-time interest in medical sciences also led her to enroll in a French pharmacy school for three years.

In 1992, she moved to California where, in addition to working as a translator and interpreter, she obtained a degree in Accounting and a Master’s Degree in Health Administration. Ten years ago, she relocated to NYC and started her own Farsi translation practice. Sepideh is a member of the Circle and participated in last year’s Languages of Lesser Diffusion meeting. She considers the Circle to be a valuable part of the development of her business, particularly as regards networking opportunities.

After arriving in NYC, Sepideh applied to become a Farsi/English interpreter in the New York State court system. It was there that she first identified the absence of a language certification process for Farsi. After she passed the court’s written exam, she was surprised to learn that the State did not have an oral exam to test for Farsi language proficiency. In order to become certified to work in the courts, one had to submit letters of reference to the Court which the Court also had to approve, a process which could take as long as two years.

As her business developed, Sepideh continued to see evidence of how the lack of a formal Farsi certification vehicle could limit the ability of qualified Farsi translators to serve their clients effectively. She recalls a situation in which she was helping a family member to obtain a payment from an insurance company by acting as the family member’s interpreter. The insurance company’s policy was not to accept family members as interpreters and brought their own interpreter into the conversation. That interpreter spoke a slightly different dialect and it became an even bigger challenge for the family member to get her questions/points across to the insurance company.  This process delayed and complicated an already sensitive transaction for the family member.

In 2015 Sepideh attended the ATA annual conference in Miami and took part in a ATA Certification workshop. David Stephenson, the chairman of the committee, mentioned that the committee was seeking volunteers. Sepideh volunteered and was able to speak to Mr. Stephenson about the need for a Farsi certification exam. She was immediately thrust into the complex and time-consuming world of ATA certification as the chairperson of the ATA’s Farsi Workgroup.

The ATA sent her a document on how to establish certification for a new language pairing. One of the main requirements was to prove that there was a demand for the certification. Sepideh was required to build a team of four or five qualified Farsi translators who would then be charged with obtaining the signatures of fifty other qualified translators to advocate for the new certification. The team members and the fifty qualified translators all had to be approved by the ATA.

The team building exercise took more than two years and involved sending out massive numbers of emails, tapping her contacts in the community and using platforms such as Word Reference. Many emails were never responded to and some responses were received from translators who lacked the skills and qualifications necessary to be effective advocates for the exam. In 2018 a team was put in place but was eventually dissolved. In 2019 a new team formed, consisting of a PhD in translation, a highly qualified linguist and Farsi Translator and two other highly qualified Farsi/English translators. The qualifications of the new team members were submitted to the ATA and approved.

The next hurdle was to obtain the signatures of the fifty additional qualified translators, twenty-five of whom had to be ATA members. A call to action went out from the team who also reached out to their contacts in the language community, to ATA members and to online language forums. By the beginning of 2020, the necessary signatures had been obtained and were subsequently approved by the ATA.

The team is now working on establishing the certification test and developing materials on how to prepare for it. Eventually the date and locations of the test will be announced by the ATA. It is hoped that this will take place in the next six months to a year.

Sepideh’s story reflects her lifelong commitment to the Farsi community and to  the professionalization of the role of the translator/interpreter in our society. She is a true trailblazer. Thank you, Sepideh, for sharing your inspiring and multi-faceted journey with our readers.