When the Biblioasis International Translation Blog was created in 2012, it was with the ambition of becoming an online forum for literary translation in Canada and beyond. Although we got off to a decent start, with feature articles from the likes of Douglas Glover, Alberto Manguel, Scott Esposito and others, a litany of minor priorities—running a press? editing a magazine? launching a brick and mortar bookstore? teaching university courses?—kept getting in the way. Go figure. Finite resources, limited energy, and ambition make for a precarious dance. We're still working out the kinks in our steps.
When I arrived in Windsor a few months ago—idealistic, full of dreams, both shoes likely untied—I confess I immediately gravitated toward the idea of reviving this dormant beast of a translation blog. As a former bookseller in Montreal with a focus on world literature and small press, I believe that works by Biblioasis authors like Horacio Castellanos Moya and Liliana Heker are as exciting and vital as anything coming out with specialty presses in the UK and the States. I also know from experience that there is a subculture of impassioned and intelligent readers of literary translations in Canada, but for whatever combination of reasons (Narrow Aesthetic Mandates? The Myopia of Grant Culture? Jingoism?) the books they love are rarely met with any media attention or sustained pedagogical engagement. Literary translation devotees deserve more forums. And literary translators—all too often nudged off of covers in deference to backward and superstitious so-called marketing wisdom—deserve increased visibility.
It is our hope that by providing a combination of excerpts from new/forthcoming works in translation from publishers in Canada and abroad, as well as a selection of reviews, short-essays, interviews and other assorted notices by way of a weekly feature every Tuesday, we can in some small measure help bring visibility to the translation community here and beyond. It seems only natural to me that as the online face of our translation activities this blog should reflect the unique blend of freshness and surprise that writers of diverse geographic and linguistic cultures can accord readers in English. (On a more selfish note, it also means I get to read more books from my favourite publishers and pester them for excerpts).
At its best, translation creates the potential for continuity where before there was simply a rift or silence. It disseminates truths about other cultures that are sometimes unprecedented, it broadens our aesthetic palate, and so it makes us better readers and writers both, and may even increase our capacity for empathy. Yet, I wouldn't want to make all this sound too wholesome or edifying: disclosures from other cultures—testaments of world views, ways of life and sensibilities foreign to our own—can initially be deeply uncomfortable and even jarring; Translation is where we grapple as squarely as possible with the fact of the Other. It's a conversation that happens against all odds, and it would not occur at all without a mixture of civility, pantomime, admiration, occasional bewilderment, and something approaching alchemy. Its difficulties are proportional to its rewards.
We already have some great excerpts forthcoming from the likes of experimental Canadian poet/translator Erin Mouré, cult Quebecois icon Nelly Arcan, Angolan novelist and 2013 Jose Saramago Prize-winner Ondjaki, as well as essays on the work of Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector and prominent Dutch translator Sam Garrett, and much else besides. If you are a publisher or a translator and would like to contribute a 1500-2000 word excerpt, or if you are a writer and would like to contribute a 750-1000 word review/essay/notice on a literary translation title, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Today, we relaunch with three charming and whimsical poems from contemporary Polish poet Dariusz Sośnicki, as well as a piece by Quebec's Jean-Claude Germain chronicling his mid-century encounter as a bohemian youth with the volatile and soused "Canadian Mozart," Andre Mathieu. I hope you will enjoy what we have to offer and will feel inclined to check back every Tuesday.