ANNUAL NYCT BUSINESS MEETING – JANUARY 26, 2022

The Circle’s annual business meeting occurred virtually on January 26, 2022. Twenty-five members were in attendance. This was an opportunity to look back at the achievements of the prior year, discuss the Board’s plans for 2022 and to take questions and suggestions from our members.

Milena Savova, in her final year as Circle President, opened the meeting with an introduction of the current Board: Marcel Votlucka, Vice President; Matt Goldstein, Secretary; Alexia Klein, the incoming Program Director; and Sepideh Moussavi, Treasurer. Natalia Postrigan, our administrator, was also acknowledged for her pivotal role in the running of the organization, particularly as regards membership.

Looking back on 2021, Milena mentioned the Circle’s success in maintaining regular monthly meetings with extraordinary speakers in the midst of the pandemic. Two in-person meetings were also held at our new meeting venue at Hunter College. While in 2020 the annual central park summer picnic did not occur, in 2021 it took place with the Circle covering the expenses of the event. The December in person holiday event also was held successfully in December 2021 with over 30 people in attendance. Other important events included the redevelopment of the website and the increase in corporate memberships during the year.

Serene Su, the outgoing Program Director, reported on her two-year tenure in the position. Some of her outstanding achievements include her ability to attract prominent speakers from around the globe for our monthly meetings. The on-line nature of most of the meetings also helped to attract attendees from outside the tri-state area, many of whom then became members. The fact that Serene was able to achieve all this in the face of some serious personal challenges that she faced during the year was indeed remarkable. Milena acknowledged how Serene’s significant contributions to the Circle during her tenure had gone far beyond the call of duty.

Matt reported on his work to redevelop the website which now has much improved functionality for meeting announcements and payment of membership dues. He also reminded both new and old members to update their profiles on the site so as to increase their searchability. Matt also assisted Serene in the planning of the summer picnic which made use of his background in event planning.

Sepideh Moussavi then reported on the Circle’s financial condition. During 2021 progress was made on cutting expenses, including the cancellation of QuickBooks which had not been used for some time. The Circle has a substantial balance in its checking and savings accounts as well as a healthy amount in the CD that represents the proceeds of the Charles Stern bequest. Under the terms of the bequest, those funds are  earmarked to help to fund the professional development expenses of emerging translators. Due to the lack of onsite translation conferences during the pandemic, the funds have not been recently utilized but as Covid recedes it is expected that appropriate expenditures will be made from the fund.

Marcel spoke of the Circle’s initiative in January and February 2021 to contact U.S. senators about proposed legislation that would impact the status of language professionals as employees rather than sole proprietors and individual providers. The ATA has been active in that effort as well. He also reminded members that there is a social media page on the website. The Circle would like to find a member willing to take responsibility for increasing the organization’s visibility on social media outlets such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

Alexia Klein-Goldberg, the incoming Program Director and former Secretary of the Circle, spoke of her ideas for monthly meetings in 2022 which included tax planning, marketing, localization, technology and preparation for ATA certification exams. Member Jeffrey Tao also suggested copyright rules as a potential topic for a meeting. Happy hour events outside of the monthly meeting schedule could be reinstituted once the pandemic subsides. The possibility of combined online/in person meetings was also discussed but it appears that there are technology challenges at our Hunter venue that need to be addressed in order to proceed in that direction.

Members who belong both to the Circle and to the ATA were encouraged to check the box pertaining to rebates to local chapters when renewing their ATA memberships as that increases the flow of funds into the Circle’s coffers.

I, your Gotham editor, would like to remind members that I am always looking for original articles on translation and interpretation written by you for eventual publication in the Gotham. Even rough drafts of some special experience that you might have had in the course of your professional life would be welcome. I am happy to work with authors on the editing of rough drafts to get them ready for publication. Aside from providing interesting reading for our membership, such  articles increase the author’s visibility within the profession, potentially leading to increased business opportunities.

Members are always encouraged to submit any suggestions they might have to any member of the Board for their consideration.

 

Patricia Stumpp

 

 

 

The ABC’S of BOOK TRANSLATION – AN ATA SEMINAR

On January 22, 2022, I attended an online seminar organized by the literary division of the ATA. Two seasoned literary translators, Shelley Fairweather-Vega and Mercedes Guhl, offered the attendees a primer on how to find material for translation, how to get it published and how to get hired as a literary translator. The discussion addressed the following topics:

Public domain texts: The definition of what texts are in the public domain varies from country to country, although a commonly used benchmark is 100 years after the death of the author. These texts present attractive possibilities for translation since the translator doesn’t have to deal with copyright issues or translation rights. However, over the years language and points of view change, which may present a challenge to today’s  translators. Lesser-known works by well-known authors could also be attractive targets for new translations. Digital libraries such as Project Gutenberg may help the translator to unearth hidden gems not yet translated.

New works by contemporary authors: Translators should read extensively in both source and target languages and follow online journals and book reviews which can help identify hot trends in source language literature. Social media platforms like Facebook can be used to contact authors, many of whom are flattered and happy to be contacted by translators for an eventual translation of their works.

Invitation by the author to translate a non-published work: While an offer from the author to translate a non-published work can be a good experience, there is always the possibility that the author will not like the translation. A good course of action may be to translate a sample chapter to see if your styles are compatible. You can ask the author to pay for your sample chapter.

Working with publishing houses: it is not easy to pitch to publishers with a translation project because they generally work only with vetted translators. However, there are possibilities for other kinds of work within publishing houses, such as proofreading, copyediting and writing reports for books. Since these opportunities generally come through agents or personal connections, the best way to uncover them is to make contact with publishers and agents at translation or publishing conferences.  It was also suggested to consider joining a freelance editor’s group in one’s local area.

Self-publishing: in this arena the translator will have to deal with securing the translation rights which are usually held by the author or the publisher. The point was made that book publishing is a team exercise with first drafts subject to corrections by editors and copyeditors. Many translators view editors antagonistically but editing can also improve a translation before it is published. The self-publishing translator could hire an editor or copywriter to review the work before publication.

Other possible venues for publication:

  • Calls for submissions by journals: some will pay, some will not.
  • Non-literary magazines which publish articles by distinguished scholars. The site submittable.com was mentioned in this context.
  • Small independent publishers are sometimes open to hearing pitches from translators. The best way to have your pitch looked at is if you have developed a personal connection with the press.
  • University presses: could be a good opportunity if the targeted university has a center for cultural studies in the source language. However,  university presses often do not pay.
  • University professors who may have large translation projects and may be looking for translators
  • State-sponsored cultural institutes and embassies in the source language, if they exist in your locale.

The seminar was useful in spotlighting some overlooked areas of potential business but it was obvious from the discussion that the best road to translation publication is by fostering personal relationships with authors, agents and publishers.

Patricia Stumpp

 

2021 Election Ballot

2021 ELECTION BALLOT
December 16, 2021

Please familiarize yourself with the candidate statements and select one candidate per position. Print ballot and mail to the Circle at the address shown below. You may also print the ballot, fill it out, scan it and send it as an email to nycirclemanager14@gmail.com.

All ballots must be postmarked or received via e-mail by December 23, 2021. Ballot received after that date will not be valid. Only one vote per member.

NYCT ELECTION BALLOT 2021

SECRETARY (Select One):

_____   Matt Goldstein, Secretary

PROGRAM DIRECTOR (Select One)

_____   Catherine Lewi, Program Director

_____   Alexia Klein, Program Director

TREASURER (Select One):

_____   Sepideh Moussavi, Treasurer

 

Mail completed ballot by December 23, 2021 to:

New York Circle of Translators

PO Box 4051

Grand Central Station

New York, NY 10163-4051

 

2021 CANDIDATE BIOS

It’s that time of year again when we vote for our new leadership. Please read over the candidate statements for the Board positions mentioned below and make your voice heard by mailing in your ballot. The New York Circle thrives because of the efforts of you, our members, and our dedicated Board of directors.

CANDIDATE FOR SECRETARY: MATT GOLDSTEIN
Matt is currently serving as the Secretary on the NYCT Board. During his term he took on a leading role in redesigning the new website, helping to make it a more user-friendly experience for our membership. He has been a freelance French to English translator and editor for the past ten years, and prior to working in translation, worked as a writer and editor in the non-profit and pharmaceutical sectors. Matt loves the arts, particularly the theater, exploring NYC, travel, and learning languages. He is a 14 year resident of Washington Heights. Matt is running for re-election to continue his work to expand the Circle’s relationships and communications with the greater language services community in order to further support and develop our members’ careers in our constantly changing field.

CANDIDATES FOR PROGRAM DIRECTOR (VOTE FOR ONE):

ALEXIA KLEIN:

When I joined the New York Circle of Translators years ago, I had just finished my formal training as a translator, and the NYCT took on a crucial role in my professional development – it allowed me to form relationships, understand the intricacies of the profession, and learn a path to become the professional I wanted to be.
A few years ago, I was invited to run for the role of Secretary for the 2018-2019 term, a period when I had the privilege to contribute with the other dedicated board members on many activities that span beyond the attributions of the Secretary role. I can say that this experience has made me more appreciative of the organization and has given me a good grasp of the challenges the Circle faces.
I also understand that given the current and unprecedented events that have swept the world recently, the challenges we face at the Circle will be more significant than they were before. Still, I believe this is another reason to keep this organization afloat and strong, serving its vital role as a place of support and encouragement. That is why as Project Director, I will do my best to keep the NYCT tradition of providing consistently good lectures and opportunities for New York-based translators to come together, form meaningful relations, feel inspired and uplifted, and feel that they belong to a community.

CATHERINE LEWI:

I would be honored to be named NYCT’s Program Director and follow in Serene Su’s footsteps to organize and promote virtual and onsite monthly events, in collaboration with fellow members of the NYCT board. I will welcome any opportunities proposed by our members.
After this pandemic period where most encounters could happen mostly online, we all need to reconnect even more in-person, whenever possible, and to deepen our connections with other language professionals and organizations. We all thrive to learn from each other and from experts in their field, to broaden our views and to constantly keep the collaboration and the creativity alive.

I was born and raised in France where I worked as an export manager in international trade before starting my expatriate life. I have lived and worked in Germany, Geneva and Israel and since 1996 in the USA. After 20 years in California, I have been enjoying my life in New York City for the last five years.

I completed my Masters in Translation (English, German, French) in France and became an ATA-certified English into French translator in 1997. Upon completion of an intensive course at UCSD Extension, I became an ABA-Approved Paralegal though I did not have the opportunity to work in a law office. As a freelance translator, I specialize in legal, technical, business, software localization and tourism. I have worked in-house at LSPs and on the client side for many years as project manager, software localizer, CAT-tool trainer and now fully employed as senior account manager in New York. I have enjoyed several ATA conferences and attended some NYCT events.
In my free time, I enjoy movies, performing arts, museums, dancing, music of all kinds, singing in a choir, and traveling.

I would like to thank the board for considering my application and assure you of my commitment to serve the NYCT members and get more involved and proactive in our language community.

CANDIDATE FOR TREASURER: SEPIDEH MOUSSAVI

My name is Sepideh Moussavi and I am a Farsi translator and interpreter. I began my linguistic
career 33 years ago with translation and interpretation of Farsi to and from French and English
for companies in Iran, my native country. I moved to the US in 1992, to continue my studies. At
the same time I worked as a translator and interpreter at schools, healthcare facilities and
Universities. I moved to New York City about 12 years ago and founded my own translation
practice where I interpreted for TV news channels such as MSNBC, the Asia Society, and the
Federal and New York State courts systems, among others. I have translated memoirs, articles,
and publishing materials for individuals, museums, and universities. In 2016, in addition to my
translation and interpretation work, I began providing language coaching, subject matter
expertise and consulting services.

I am a member of the American Translators Association (ATA) and the former Chairperson and
founder of the ATA’s Farsi Workgroup that continues working to create the Association’s very
first Farsi certification program by establishing the Farsi to English language pair. I joined the
New York Circle of Translators because I appreciate everything the Circle has to offer and in
particular its support for the translators in the City. I am currently serving as the treasurer on
the Board of Directors of the Circle. I am honored to be able to run for the Treasurer’s second
term.

My finance and accounting experience began while I was studying at California State
University, Northridge (CSUN) to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. After graduation I
continued studies and obtained a Master’s degree in Health Administration. In the early 2000’s,
I worked in financial management at Mission Community Hospital in Los Angles County and
one of UCLA’s free clinics, Venice Family Clinic. Hence I have extensive experience in not-for profit
financial management and accounting. If elected, I hope to collaborate with the President and the Board
of NYCT to make sure the organization’s financial management and oversight are done properly,
its financial records are maintained and that the Circle’s financial goals are reached

 

VOTING PROCEDURE:

To vote for your candidates, please print out and mail the NYCT 2021 Election Ballot contained in this edition of the Gotham. You may also print the ballot, fill it out, scan it and send it as an email to nycirclemanager14@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Greetings, fellow Circle members,

This issue of the Gotham focuses on translation prizes and prize winners.

In June 2021, I attended a ceremony at Goethe-Institut New York at which Jackie Smith and Jennifer Jenson were honored for their translations from the German. Ms. Smith translated Judith Schalansky’s An Inventory of Losses and Ms. Jenson Elsa Koester’s novel Couscous mit Zimt (Couscous with  Cinnamon). Jennifer Jenson and the publisher Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt GmbH have graciously allowed us to print an excerpt of her prize-winning translation which speaks so eloquently of a life touched by multi-culturalism. At the same ceremony, the noted writer Alexander Wolff shared some illuminating thoughts on the art of translation which he has also given us permission to publish here. Many thanks to Mr. Wolff and to Ms. Jenson for sharing their words with the Gotham.

I am also including a write-up of a recent online event sponsored by Words Without Borders which featured the work of Lauri García Dueñas and Conceição Lima, two prize winning poets writing in Spanish and Portuguese, and their English language translators Olivia Lott and Shook.

If any of our member translators have received any similar honors, please let me know. We would be delighted to acknowledge your achievements in the Gotham.

With best regards,

Patricia Stumpp, Editor

Goethe-Institut New York Hosts Award Ceremony for Two Literary Translators

On June 24, 2021, the Goethe-Institut New York hosted an award ceremony to honor the work of two German to English translators. Two literary translation prizes were awarded at the ceremony. The first was the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize, which was established in 1996 by the Goethe-Institut. Mr. and Mrs. Wolff were the founders of Pantheon Books, a publishing house established in 1942 which specialized in German works translated into English. The second award was the presentation of the Gutekunst Prize of the Friends of Goethe New York, which was established by the Goethe-Institut New York in 2010. It has been supported by the Friends of Goethe New York since 2017

David Gill, German Consul General in New York, welcomed the audience to the event. Also in attendance from the Consulate were Yasemin Pamuk, Head of Cultural Department, and Susanne Krause, Cultural Affairs and Science officer at the Consulate.

This was the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Wolff prize which awards $10,000 annually for a translation of a German work published in English. This year the honored translator was Jackie Smith for her 2020 translation of Judith Schalansky’s work An Inventory of Losses. Ms. Smith accepted her award from London via video. In her acceptance speech, she candidly discussed her struggles with the esoteric nature of Ms. Schalansky’s language which includes minute descriptions of nature, books, buildings and cultures that have been lost through the ages.  The translation required extensive research to find just the right word to describe, for example, the sound of the call of an extinct bird.

Ms. Smith’s outstanding work was acknowledged via video by Ms. Schalansky as well as by the translator Philip Boehm, the winner of the Wolff prize in 2020 for his translation of Christine Wunnicke’s novel The Fox and Dr. Shimamura.

The presentation of the Wolff prize was made particularly memorable by the presence of Alexander Wolff, the grandson of Kurt Wolff. He shared reminiscences of his grandfather and step-mother and provided insights into their work as publishers of translated books. According to Mr. Wolff, Kurt Wolff struggled somewhat with English and Helen Wolff was his primary link to the English language. Their communication during their marriage was almost a form of translation.

Mr. Wolff quoted from a speech that Helen Wolff had delivered in Manhattan thirty-one years earlier as she looked back on her life in translation publishing. The speech was entitled “Elective Affinities,” a phrase that she borrowed from Goethe. In the speech Mrs. Wolff stated that the publishing of translated works was “personal, idiosyncratic, and depends on a web of human relationships, based mainly on affinity. You respond, or don’t respond, according to your sensitivities and preconceptions…” Mr. Wolff went on state that “translators are among those co-conspirators drawn into the vast plot to make public the unknown…isn’t the text of a translation really one lengthy elective affinity?” Mr. Wolff has graciously allowed us to publish his entire speech which can be found in this edition of the Gotham.

The Gutekunst Prize was then presented to translator Jennifer Jenson by David Detjen, Vice Chairman of the Friends of Goethe New York, who also spoke of the mission of the Friends to promote transatlantic relations through cultural and social programs.   The prize was established in 2010 and recognizes the work of translators under the age of 35 who have not as yet been published. Ms. Jenson who was honored for her translation of an excerpt from Elsa Koester’s novel Couscous mit Zimt. The book describes the lives of three generations of women with roots in Tunisia, France and Germany.

In her acceptance speech, Ms. Jenson spoke of how the inability to communicate across different languages and cultures plays a pivotal role in Couscous with Cinnamon. The book raises the question of how one can foster communication without giving up one’s own linguistic and cultural uniqueness. Ms. Jenson sees  translation as one means of reaching across cultural divides. As she stated in her speech, translation “can highlight places of connection while also preserving difference…the space the translated work creates is one in which we as readers learn to approach others without the violence that stems from fear, without the immediate assumption of superiority that homogenous and hegemonic cultures presume and a humble willingness to submit to the Other.” The translator Alta L. Price offered her congratulations to Jennifer Jenson via video.

I would especially like to thank Dean Whiteside of Goethe-Institut New York, Mr. Wolff and Ms. Jenson for their help with this article.  The awards ceremony proved to be not only a celebration of two outstanding translators but of the art of translation itself.

Remarks by Alexander Wolff at the Goethe-Institut New York Award Ceremony

Thank you Doctor Schumacher and the Goethe-Institut for inviting me today, and greetings to members of the jury, and Institut staff, friends, and guests, here and abroad, who are joining us. This is precisely the kind of event Kurt Wolff most kindled to—an intimate gathering dedicated to the reach and touch of books, amidst the fellowship of those who love them, all pulled off despite, in defiance of, tumult and uncertainty in the wider world.

My Opa Wolff would be at the head of the line toasting each of today’s honorees, foremost of course Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize winner Jackie Smith, but each shortlisted translator too. When I realized that the bibliography for my recent book cited the work of no fewer than eight winners of this prize, I shivered at the depth of the connection.

But that’s not the only reason I feel at one with today’s gathering. Goethe-Institut New York is the direct descendant of the Goethe House of 1014 Fifth Avenue, where my uncle Peter Stadelmayer served as director through the late Sixties and into the early Seventies. Peter was the husband of Kurt Wolff’s daughter, my aunt Maria, whom readers of Endpapers come to know well, and the entire Stadelmayer family inhabited the top-floor apartment of that building. I’m told that the perils of its beautiful main staircase can’t be reconciled with modern safety codes, so 1014 Fifth remains largely closed to the public. But I still have childhood memories of visits to my aunt and uncle, and joining cousins after hours to slide down the balustrade of that staircase. That a hellion who haunted the old Goethe House stands before you in coat and tie inside today’s Goethe-Institut is an unlikely transit indeed.

I submit to you this afternoon dialogue from a marriage. The exchange took place on the morning of October 17th, 1962, between Kurt Wolff and my step grandmother Helen Wolff, freshly awake in their room at the Hotel Beau-Rivage in Lausanne, Switzerland:

Kurt, in German: Ich habe einen merkwürdigen Traum gehabt. [I had the most remarkable dream.]

Helen: Ich auch. [Me too.]

Kurt: Ich träumte, ich schreibe einen Roman. [I dreamed that I wrote a novel.]

Helen: Ich auch.

Kurt: Ich weiß auch noch den ersten Satz. [I remember the first sentence.]

Helen: Ich auch.

Kurt: “Es gibt Tage, von denen wir sagen, sie gefallen uns nicht.” [There are days of which we say they don’t please us.]

Helen, in English: “Some days are more dreadful than others.”

This exchange left such an impression on Helen that she shared it often after Kurt’s death a year later. It wasn’t only that she and Kurt could dream synchronously, almost identically. Yes, it was that—“die Gleichheit des Grundgedankens,” as she put it—the way the essence of their respective sentences chimed. But it was also “die absolute Verschiedenheit des Ausdrucks.” The complete contrast in expression.

Kurt’s Grundgedanken comes in German. Helen’s in English.

Helen recounted all this in a 1974 letter to Günter Grass. She had shared the story with him orally during a face-to-face in Frankfurt, and Grass asked her to write it down. She told this story to me once too—but I’m everlastingly grateful to Grass for urging her to put it to paper, and that she did so, and that it’s preserved in the Steidl Verlag collection of their correspondence.

In her letter to Grass, Helen goes on: “Kurt’s opening sentence is, I believe, a quotation from Goethe, or at least in the style of Goethe. Mine, quite notably, is in English. I often dream in English, especially if I wish to formulate something (in my dream) concisely.”

It’s left to me these many years later to postulate that, in their REM sleep on the banks of Lac Léman in 1962, as October 16th edged into October 17th, Kurt and Helen were passing translations back and forth across the pillow. Doing jointly, subconsciously, what those who would someday be recognized with this award do in very conscious solitude: extrapolating a second manuscript from a first, testing out transactions between German and English, measuring and annotating the distance from one port to another.

English was my grandfather’s Great White Whale. He was a compulsively social man, no more at home than in the salon, engaging in the parry and thrust of good conversation. His clunky English was the abiding curse of a turn-of-the-century Gymnasium education, which privileged the learning of classical languages over modern ones. I cannot imagine doing what he did in his New World adventure with Pantheon Books—publishing bestsellers in a language he hadn’t fully mastered. He could do so only because of Helen, sui generis; and one other class of people, the translators in whom they together placed complete trust. Storm and catastrophe would cast Kurt far from Germany, to the outer reaches of the gravitational pull of the language of the books he had so loved and honored—first, beginning as an adolescent in Bonn, by collecting them; and then, in Leipzig and Munich, by publishing them. Until the night the Reichstag burned, Kurt seemed not to suspect that his fate would be that of publisher in exile.

Not so Helen. She had been raised to be a survivor. Scrappy, prudently suspicious, relentlessly practical, she seemed to live life on perpetual alert. She collected modern languages, tossing them into her toolbox; this woman born in a village in Serbia and raised in the Ottoman Empire just before World War I would come to regard each as a kind of protective coloration.

Thirty-one years ago last month, here in Manhattan, Helen delivered a talk to an audience much like ours today. It contained a tour d’horizon of her life in publishing, and for a title she borrowed, felicitously enough, from Goethe. She called her address Wahlverwandtschaften: “Elective Affinities.” As she said that day, quote: “This profession means more than selecting, publishing, and promoting the written word. It is personal, idiosyncratic, and depends on a web of human relationships, based mainly on affinity. You respond, or don’t respond, according to your sensitivities and preconceptions, and the same, vice versa, is true of the writers you deal with, the agents and foreign publishers you connect with, and all your colleagues whom you have to draw into the conspiracy of making public the unknown, and make it known.” Unquote.

Translators are among those co-conspirators drawn into the vast plot to make public the unknown. Indeed, they serve as the deepest of undercover operatives. And isn’t the text of a translation really one lengthy elective affinity? Isn’t the rendering of German into English in fact the business of like finding like, practiced with excruciating care? Even if the German in Kurt’s dream was perhaps a little more elegant, when set alongside the English in Helen’s dream, which was perhaps a little more concise.

To you—all of you, whether holders of this prize or aspiring holders or simply champions of the art and craft we celebrate today—here’s to you and your dedication to the search for such virtues as the golden mean between elegance and concision. And here’s to your commensurate attention to authorial intent and nuance and connotation and the dozens of other contingencies you weigh, and calibrations you make, as you do your work. It is largely unsung work, but we sing of it today—sing the unsung, as Helen and Kurt worked to make public the unknown, and make it known.

Herzlichen Dank, and thank you.