Letter From the Editor

Welcome to the first edition of the 2020 Gotham!

I started off the new year by attending an interesting translation reading sponsored by Pen+Brush, a not-for profit organization currently celebrating its 125 anniversary. Three very diverse translations of literary works written in three different languages were read.

I’d like to thank Elias David Jacob for his enjoyable look back at famous translation mistakes throughout history. As you know, the Gotham is always looking for original content. I’d like to encourage members to submit any original work on translation or interpretation for eventual publication. My email address is: gotham_editor@nyctranslators.org.

.As part of our Meet the Translator series, I am also including an interview with long-time Circle member and former officer Meg Shore, who shared details of her distinguished career with us.

Finishing up this edition are some photos from our very enjoyable Holiday Party which took place at Salaam Cafe’ in December 2019.

Wishing all our members and happy and healthy 2020!


Patricia Stumpp








The January 2020 JILL! Reading of Translated Works


On January 16, 2020, Pen + Brush hosted the second reading in the new bimonthly Women+ in Translation series entitled JILL!  The series is dedicated to showcasing the works of women or nonbinary translators as well as translations of the work of women and nonbinary authors. As the series founder, translator Larissa Kyzer, explains, the title Jill! was chosen to suggest the absence of “Jacks” in the series and also serves as an homage to the American writer, poet and literary translator Suzanne Jill Levine who translated numerous seminal works by prominent Latin American authors such as Julio Cortázar and Manuel Puig. 

The event was held at the Pen + Brush gallery on East 22nd Street, a marvelous venue which is currently housing  the organization’s first art exhibition of 2020 entitled “The Now.” The exhibition features the works of Hannah Layden, Felicita “Felli” Maynard, Rowan Renee and Beatrice Scaccia. Their work shares a common theme, that of the search for identity, and explores other issues as well such as what it means to be “Other” in the world and whether it is possible for human beings to come together in a community of shared empathy and commonality.

For those of our members not already familiar with Pen + Brush, it is a publically supported not for profit currently celebrating its 125th anniversary. The organization is dedicated to showcasing the work of women artists and writers who so often are the victims of gender bias and exclusion in the marketplace of art and literature. It seeks to bring the work of emerging and mid-career artists and writers to the attention of the general public.

The three translators whose works were showcased at the event were Nora Carr, Mike Fu and Sharon Rhodes. Ms. Carr  began the event reading her sparkling translation of Luis Humberto Crosthwaites’s Estrella de la calle sexta, published in 1992, a collection of three novellas which take place in the Mexican city of Tijuana.  The voice of the narrator is that of a Mexican man who has returned to Mexico after years of residence in the U.S. The question of identity is prominent in this work; the author questions whether he is or isn’t “a gringo” as he describes the vibrant street life of the city unfolding around him. While the description of the “calle” is filled with humor, the work also touches on poignant themes such as memory and loneliness and addresses other issues as well such as how one comes to terms with one’s place in the particular world in which one finds oneself.

Mike Fu’s translation of the late Taiwanese writer Sanmao’s Stories of the Sahara has just been published by the Bloomsbury Press. This is a semi-biographical account of the author and her husband’s life during the 1970’s while they were living in the contested territory of the Spanish Sahara, the last vestige of the Spanish empire, which is still administered by Morocco. Filled with charm and humor, the work describes life in the territory against the background of the impending marriage of the author and her soon to be husband.  Again the sense of “otherness” is present in the work as the couple navigates their own personal path to marriage against the backdrop of the customs and regulations of the territory in which they find themselves living.

Sharon Rhodes then read from her translation of Danish write Hanne Højgaard Viernose’s HHV, Frshwin: The Deathknell in the Amazon.   The protagonist of this work is a woman anthropologist who journeys from the Amazon jungle of Peru to her husband’s native Iceland.  The excerpt that Ms. Rhodes read was filled with  dramatic events as the author grapples with her transition to Iceland, the  strains of her husband’s madness and the need to care for her two small sons.

The reading was notable for the diversity and vibrancy of the three translated works. Members may want to access Pen + Brush’s website http://www.penandbrush.org to check out the next installment of Jill!’s bi-monthly readings of translated works. Please also note the Facebook link for the Jill! readings: https://www.facebook.com/JillReadingNYC


Translation Mistakes Throughout History


By: Elias David Jacob

The art of translation has been around for centuries, but unfortunately so have translation mistakes. In this article I’d like to describe three such errors which led to surprising and humorous results.

The origin of the theory that there is life on Mars actually stems from a mistranslation of an Italian word by Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli. In 1877, he used the word “canali” to refer to a dense network of linear structures he observed on the planet’s surface. The most common translation of this word in English is “channels”, but it was translated into English as “canals” instead, suggesting some kind of artificial construction. If the word “channels” had been used, the essence of the Italian word would have been preserved and there may not have been any thought given as to who could have possibly built canals on Mars. The theory about intelligent life on Mars survived for decades and inspired numerous stories, folklore and science fiction.

While Valentine’s Day is generally celebrated on February 14th, in some Asian countries like China, South Korea and in particular Japan, it is celebrated with a twist: women are the ones that give chocolates to men. In the 50s, a Japanese chocolate company started encouraging people to celebrate Valentine’s Day. However, there was a translation mistake in one of the advertisements of one of the Japanese chocolate companies which led people to think that women were the ones supposed to give chocolate to men. So that’s what they started doing and the tradition is still going on to this day. Japanese chocolate companies then started encouraging the celebration of another day exactly a month later, every 14th of March, when “White Day” is celebrated. On that day men are supposed to gift women something white like marshmallows, white cake or jewels. The Japanese word okaeshi is usually used on this day to express the idea of a gift given as thanks for receiving another gift. 

American author Mark Twain had the habit of reading those of his works that had been translated into other languages. One of his earliest popular works was “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Twain himself had translated this story into French. Some years later, he read an article in Revue des Deux Mondes in which the author said that since he didn’t see what was funny in Twain’s text he translated it himself into French. Twain thought that translation so bad that he translated it back into English, word for word, thus making fun of back translation and illustrating its limitations. He maintained the French word order and grammatical structure so the result didn’t make much sense and looked like something a machine translation tool would produce. Twain ended up publishing his back translation in a later edition of his short story which he named “The Jumping Frog: in English, then in French, and then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil.”

To summarize, even if they started as simple errors, translation errors can still impact us today. For example, a simple Google search shows that many newspaper articles about life on Mars were published this very week. Moral: translators should be very careful about their work and be aware that even little translation errors can have a big impact on the future. Who knows, maybe in a few years life on a previously undiscovered planet might be traced back to a translator’s mistake?

Elias Jacob is finishing his bachelor’s degree in Translation at Instituto Nueva Formación in Córdoba, Argentina. Some of his interests are academic research in linguistics and translation and software and tools for translators. �֕<@�

Meet the Translator: Marguerite (Meg) Shore


I recently met with long time Circle member Marguerite (Meg) Shore to discuss her distinguished career as a translator. Meg translates Italian and French texts into English, her specialty being art, art criticism, architecture and literature.

Meg’s interest in art was nurtured by her education and her years of living and teaching in Europe. As an undergraduate at Vassar with a major in art history, Meg studied with Linda Nochlin, a prominent art historian and an important feminist voice of that time. She recalls that Professor Nochlin questioned why there have been no great women artists. She put forth the theory that this was largely due to the lack of apprenticeship opportunities for talented women artists. After receiving her B.A. in art history from Vassar, Meg moved to Europe, eventually living in Rome for a number of years.

In 1993 translator Marta Schmidt introduced Meg to the Circle. She remembers how gratifying it was to find a community of translators which greatly helped to alleviate the solitary nature of the translator’s work.  She remembers the collegiality of the group in those days, particularly the monthly dinner meetings and members such as Marion Greenfield, Tom Snow and Alex Gross.  She served as Program Director and President of the Circle.

In 2003 Meg was introduced to the publisher George Braziller whose firm George Braziller, Inc. was known for publishing literary and artistic works as well as the work of foreign authors. Mr. Braziller chose Meg to translate the 15-year old author Randa Ghazy’s controversial book Sognando Palestina (Dreaming of Palestine). This is the story of the lives of Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation which the author based on news reports and her own research.  The book was a sensation in Italy, coming under fierce criticism from Jewish critics who believed it contributed to acts of hatred against Jews.

Palestinian affairs continued to intersect with Meg’s life when in 2005 the American radical attorney Lynn Stewart was convicted of smuggling messages to imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheikh,” who was accused of inciting terrorist acts in New York City.    Lynn Stewart’s interpreter, Mohammed Yousry, was also sent to prison at that time simply as a consequence of doing his job as an interpreter. Meg protested this action and pressed the ATA and the Circle to publically condemn his imprisonment. Her efforts in this regard included organizing an evening at the Circle about Yousry’s imprisonment which featured former Attorney General Ramsey Clark as a speaker. When the condemnation of this action was not forthcoming, Meg resigned from both organizations. In hindsight, she believes that it would have been better to stay in those organizations and fight for the causes that she believed it. She eventually re-joined both groups. Meg was also a grader for the ATA’s certification exam.

Meg has worked for many prominent art publishers, art galleries and museums such as the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, the Frick Collection, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Denver Art Museum.  One of her favorite projects is the book of photographs by Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri entitled It’s beautiful here, isn’t it. She is currently finishing up a translation of Giorgio Verzotti’s book on Mario Merz, a prominent artist of the Italian Arte Polvera movement, which will be published by the Magazzino Italian Art Foundation.

Meg’s advice to fledgling translators is to read the newspapers of one’s target language every day to become better acquainted with the idioms of the country. She noted the excellent opportunity that the Circle provides to new translators for personal interaction with older and more experienced translators. In the future, Meg believes that organizing meetings around cultural topics such as art and travel could also benefit Circle members.

Thank you , Meg, for sharing your inspiring career with the Circle membership.  

Holiday Party 2019


The Circle celebrated the holiday season on December 7, 2019 at Salam Cafe’ and Restaurant in the Village. We were able to sample a wide variety of delicious Middle Eastern delicacies at this charming restaurant while enjoying the company of our fellow Circle members and friends.

Our new officers Matt Goldstein, Secretary, Serene Su, Program Director, and Sepideh Moussavi, Treasurer were introduced at this enjoyable event. The outgoing slate of officers was also thanked as well for their dedicated service to our organization.

I hope you enjoy the attached photos of the event.



Welcome to the Fall Edition of the Gotham.

I hope you enjoy my write-up of our gala 40th anniversary celebration which was held on September 28, 2019. Many thanks to all the Circle members who attended, to our sponsors and panelists and to our outstanding keynote speaker Renato Beninatto. A special thank you to Laurie Treuhaft for her contribution to this article.

Please make sure to review the biographies of our candidates for Program Director, Treasurer and Secretary who will fill those positions during the 2020 to 2021 term. They bring wide experience and great enthusiasm to these positions and we are indeed grateful for their willingness to serve. Please remember to vote.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Holiday Gathering and Happy Holidays to all!

Patricia Stumpp, Editor







The Circle celebrated its fortieth anniversary on September 28, 2019 with a gala event held at the beautiful Grand Street Settlement building on Delancey Street.  The President of the Circle, Milena Savova, introduced the meeting with a brief history of the Circle and its founding by translators Eva Berry, Charles Stern and Alex Gross.  She thanked the co-sponsors of the event: The Mencius Society for the Arts, EriksenTranslations Inc., Certified Interpreters United and Craney Interpreting Services.

The audience was then treated to a captivating performance of solo and ensemble music by the Youth Orchestra of the Mencius Society for the Arts. Julie Tay, Executive Director, gave a brief overview of the Society, a not-for-profit 501c3 which serves the Chinese community of Chinatown and the Lower East Side.   The performance, which was entitled “Translating Silk and Bamboo: A New York Heritage in the Making,” was rooted in the traditional music of the city of Shanghai. One of the goals of the Society is to pass on the social and historical context of this music to the second generation of Chinese immigrants from Shanghai now living in NYC.  The term “silk” is a reference to the string instruments in the orchestra while ”bamboo” refers to wind instruments.

Alexia Klein, Secretary of the Circle, then introduced our keynote speaker, Renato Beninatto. A former executive in some of the leading companies in the industry, he is the CEO of Nimdzi Insights, a think tank and consulting company. He is also the author of the book “Selling in America” and co-author of “The General Theory of the Translation Company.” Renato is also the co-host of the Globally Speaking podcast.

Renato’s topic at our event was “The Future-Ready Professional.” He discussed how machine translation is already a “done deal” which does not mean that translators should be negative about the future of the profession. There are certain markets in which translation prices have actually increased and where demand is continuing to grow, among which are subtitling, patents, engineering, software and videos. Translation has been growing 7% annually on a worldwide basis.

According to Renato, the most important question for individual translators is how to get themselves “on the map” so that they can be easily found by potential employers. He had three key recommendations:

1. Be Discoverable: build your personal brand and market yourself. This includes having a high quality LinkedIn profile and knowing your SSI score.

2. Networking: use referrals and social media to market your brand.  Renato pointed out the absence of young people in the audience; by not participating in events like this, they are losing valuable potential contacts.

3. Be Relevant: be a lifelong learner; stress your ability to project manage and provide high quality customer service to your clients as a way to build repeat business.      

Following Renato’s dynamic presentation, we enjoyed a panel discussion by long-time members of the Circle Laurie Treuhaft, Marguerite (Meg) Shore, Eileen Brockbank, Vigdis Eriksen, Elizabeth Scott Andrews, and Leonard Morin. Current Circle President Milena Savova was moderator.

Several of the panelists were former board members. Liz, a retired United Nations editor, was the panel’s longest-standing Circle member, having joined in the early 1980s.  Laurie, a retired United Nations translator, became a member in 1982, served as newsletter editor in 1983 and 1984, and was President during the 1985-1986 term.  Vigdis, founder and CEO of Eriksen Translations Inc., joined in 1984 and served as Treasurer for two years in the mid-90s. In 1994, she worked with a friend to develop the Circle’s logo, which is still used today. Eriksen has been a corporate member since its establishment in 1986. Meg, a freelance translator of art catalogs and publications, joined in 1993 and served as both Program Director and President. Eileen, a freelance translator specializing in finance and law, joined the Circle in1995 and was secretary for two years in 1997 and 1998. Leonard, a court interpreter, joined in the 1990s, rejoined in 2004 and was President for three years beginning in 2012.      

Laurie described the conviviality of the Circle’s early days, when monthly meetings were held in restaurants offering various ethnic cuisines around NYC. After several years of Circle members “eating their way through New York”, monthly meetings started to be organized around presentations by prominent speakers in the field. During Laurie’s term as President, “glamorous” guest speakers like “Queen of Subtitlers” Helen Eisenman and NY Times literary critic Herbert Mitgang, who often wrote about translated works, were balanced by speakers on industry and practical issues and the Circle’s efforts to build relationships with the business community, including by joining the NY Chamber of Commerce. However, the Circle’s restaurant meetings continued to play an important social role in the lives of the members. Laurie mentioned in particular a wonderful Christmas party in 1986 and a Chinese New Year celebration in Chinatown. In 1985 an important milestone was reached when the Circle became a permanent chapter of the ATA.

In the pre-internet, pre-computer era of the Circle’s infancy, the newsletter was strictly paper-based; it was typewritten, photocopied and mailed to the Circle members, which to today’s ears certainly sounds like a time-consuming labor of love.  Laurie was kind enough to bring copies of some early newsletters with her for the perusal of the attendees. Eileen also mentioned that in earlier years the Circle published a hard copy membership directory once a year, another time-consuming project. She held up a directory which had been designed under her watch after much discussion over the Circle logo and how many language pairs could be attributed to each member.

The name of our newsletter, The Gotham Translator, was the brainchild of member Leon Jacolev, responding to a 1986 call for suggestions.  He was inspired by the nickname “Gotham” that Washington Irving had bestowed upon the city of New York in the 1807 edition of his periodical Salmagundi. Other “star” members of the Circle’s early days who were fondly remembered during the discussion were Circle founder Eva Berry, Charles Stern, Bill Bertsche, Joanne Engelbert, Susana Greiss, Henry Fischbach – (Liz told a charming story about his insistence on replacing “in light of” by the more British “in the light of” in a job she did for him), Bernie Bierman, Tom Snow and Alex Gross. We were fortunate enough to have Alex Gross in the audience for the anniversary celebration.

Over and over, panelists talked about the Circle’s importance to their lives and careers.  Liz was grateful to be with fellow translators at a time when translation companies filled only one page of the NYC telephone book.  Laurie recalled the closeness of Circle members, who knew each other’s special strengths and talents (a real boon for meeting planning) and felt like family.  Vigdis said she might not have made it had it not been for the Circle and the American Translators Association (ATA).  Vigdis had come to NYC in the ‘70s from Norway and launched her career as a translator on an IBM Selectric typewriter she purchased on layaway. 

Meg said that when she joined the Circle, she realized for the first time that she was part of a community.  She later withdrew from that community when the Circle and the ATA failed to speak out against the imprisonment of Mohamed Yousry, translator and interpreter for the attorney of convicted terrorist Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.  She rejoined after deciding that it was better to stay in and fight.  A meeting she had organized around that issue had drawn record attendance.

Eileen said that upon joining the Circle, she saw that her fellow members were not so much competitors as friends who referred extra work to each other and bonded over language-based issues. Leonard became President at a moment when the  Circle was struggling with communication problems, declining membership and low meeting attendance.  By improving the Circle’s communication strategy and website, and pitching its economic relevance, he brought it back to life.

The panelists then opined on how the Circle could stay relevant in today’s translation environment and offered some parting words of wisdom to newer translators. Laurie said she hoped the very human need to be with peers at meetings could prevail over the convenience of doing everything at home online. Her advice to the younger generation:  in embracing new technology, it is important not to lose sight of the love of languages and thirst for knowledge that are at the core of translation and drew them to the profession in the first place.  Leonard mentioned the possibility of the creation of a union for translators and the need to continue to educate the public on the work we do. He cautioned that it took time to master translation and interpretation skills, and that those starting out in the profession would need to be in it for the long haul.

Meg pointed out that the translation world has now evolved significantly beyond its original core of European languages to include many other languages such as Arabic and Swahili. Vigdis emphasized the importance of adapting to change and the need to be open to technology.  Eriksen Translations Inc. had had a decade-long partnership with Skype, and had recently changed with the changing times yet again by deciding to specialize in the arts.  Liz emphasized the importance of extensive reading in order to maintain good writing skills – something  for which artificial intelligence could probably never be relied upon.

The panel discussion was followed by a wonderful buffet of Chinese specialties which was certainly a gala ending to this anniversary celebration.

Our Panelists

Renato Beninatto

Mencius Society Youth Orchestra