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.