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