Posts tagged 'translation'


28 February 2019

‘Babilfrenzo’ at the Bodleian

Anna Aslanyan

The fantasy of a universal language is at least as old as the story of the Tower of Babel.


23 October 2018

Subliterary Modes of Earning the Odd Pound

Anna Aslanyan

Anthony Burgess went to Leningrad in 1961. Reading his stories about the trip, it's hard to tell how good his Russian was. Sometimes he portrays himself as fluent: ‘In my best Russian I said to various Dostoevsky characters: “Where, comrade, is the nearest aptyeka?” They were all evidently healthy people, well-fed on Soviet food, for they did not know.’ At other times he admits that his ‘tiny bit of Russian had burst at the seams’. He gets names wrong, referring to a friend as ‘Sasha Ivanovich Kornilov’ (an unlikely combination) and later calling him ‘Alexei’. His wife's name, Llewela, is a challenge to transliterate into Cyrillic, unlike their surname, which he spells 'Uilson' (his full name was John Anthony Burgess Wilson). The title page of one of his Russian textbooks, kept in the archive of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF), is inscribed in an outdated orthography, not quite consistently: Иван Вiльсон.


21 December 2015

Finneganın Vahı

Kaya Genç

The Turkish publisher Aylak Adam announced on its Facebook page on 5 December that it would soon be putting out a new book that would ‘make the 76-year wait worthwhile’. In 15 days time, ‘the yearning would come to an end’. Readers began to speculate: was Hermann Broch’s Sleepwalkers finally going to appear in Turkish? Further clues from the publisher followed: the forthcoming work was a ‘crossword’, an ‘illustrated riddle’, a ‘multifaceted, massive obelisk’. Last Friday, three days before publication, the answer was leaked: the first volume of a translation of Finnegans Wake, by Umur Çelikyay of Istanbul’s Koç University.


24 September 2015

‘Who do you write for?’

Selma Dabbagh

Questions of how the Arab world should be depicted, by whom, in what language, and for what purpose, came up in several discussions I took part in over recent months. The debate is fraught, and prone to curtail writers’ freedoms as much as open up new ground. It is best engaged with in what Ahdaf Soueif has described as the ‘mezzaterra’ between East and West which, thankfully, is less of a no man’s land than it used to be.


24 August 2015

Pity the Seagull

Mary Wellesley

Northumbria police have launched an investigation after a photo was posted on Facebook of a man apparently strangling a seagull. Councillors in seaside towns are considering using drones to kill seagull chicks in their nests. Although the numbers of most gull species in the UK are in decline, they have an 'increasing presence in urban areas'. The RSPCA is looking into reports that people in Cornwall are attacking gulls with fishing line. Meanwhile the birds have been accused of attacking people and killing pets, and in Namibia they've been spotted pecking out the eyes of baby seals, as if they weren't already hated enough.


26 February 2015

Turkish versions of ‘The Little Prince’

Kaya Genç

The copyright in The Little Prince expired in most of the world at the end of last year (it has thirty more years to run in France because Antoine de Saint-Exupéry died in the Second World War, 'Mort pour la France'). In the first two weeks of January, more than thirty Turkish publishers released translations of the 1943 novella. Between them they bought 130,000 bandrols, holographic stickers required for every book sold in Turkey.


14 March 2014

Translating Lorem Ipsum

Nick Richardson

Sometimes, when we’re putting together an issue of the LRB, we use Lorem Ipsum, a chunk of phoney Latin dummy text that’s been used by printers and typesetters since the 16th century. We paste it into a layout so we can tell what a page will look like before the copy's ready. The practice is known as ‘greeking’ because the Latin’s so mixed up it’s all Greek. Only it isn't. The text itself has been designed not to communicate, to have the look of text but no meaning – but meaning bubbles up through it nonetheless. The 16th-century printer who came up with it got there by mangling Cicero’s ‘De finibus bonorum et malorum’, an exposition of Stoicism, Epicureanism and the Platonism of Antiochus of Ascalon. Though most of the metaphysical subtlety has been wrung out, sense hasn’t completely: the text is haunted, as Derrida might have put it, by the piece of writing it once was.


1 May 2013

Versions of Omar Khayyám

Kaya Genç

Last year the Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say retweeted some lines attributed to Omar Khayyám: You say rivers of wine flow in heaven,is heaven a tavern to you? You say two huris await each believer there,is heaven a brothel to you? Say was accused of inciting hatred against Islam and taken to court. As a schoolboy fan of Khayyám’s epigrammatic rubais (Persian quatrains) about wine and women, I once wrote an essay entitled ‘From Omar Khayyám to Karl Marx: The Struggle for Freedom’, in which I made some bold claims about the revolutionary role I believed he had played in the middle ages, based on my selective reading of some of the more than thirty Turkish translations of Khayyám that appeared during the 20th century.


28 May 2010

Walaïïï, camarade!

Joanna Biggs · Live Translation

Every week of my language degree, we were set a few paragraphs of a novel to translate into French. Someone in Graham Greene would be having a conversation about the sort of country one doesn’t bother learning the French word for; someone in Iris Murdoch crossed a bridge over a river that bubbled and fizzed untranslatably or, at a particularly low point, Bertrand Russell combed out the concept of liberty in a way that should slide comfortably into French but refused to for me. Perched on the edge of a sofa in a book-lined study, each of us would offer up a sentence to be dismantled by a tutor who had decided on the best version 25 years earlier.

Despite the bad memories, I will be dusting off my dictionary for a live translation event at the British Museum next month (it's part of the London Review Bookshop's World Literature Weekend).


18 January 2010

Stalin’s Delicate Hands

Lorna Scott Fox

Around 1985 I found a badly printed little paperback at Grant & Cutler called De viaje por los países socialistas, by Gabriel García Márquez. It was an eye-opener – the first playful, thoughtful, intimate, non-ideological take on the Eastern bloc I’d read. García Márquez has always called himself a journalist. It turns out that his literary-intellectual formation was nurtured not only by the chatty spirits around his grandmother and the depredations of the United Fruit company, but also by the fabulous variations of Communism he observed on a couple of semi-clandestine trips in the late 1950s.

The book was a trove of weird anecdotes and shrewd assessments. Slightly unpolished, perhaps, but still, why hadn’t it been translated?


31 December 2009

Long, I slept good

Thomas Jones · Google Translate

Doubting my ability to read the words on a box of Russian chocolates the other day – quite unfairly: my Russian may be close to non-existent but you don't need more than a rudimentary grasp of the Cyrillic alphabet to decipher such loanwords as 'coffee', 'chocolate' and 'praline' – the people I was with decided to trust instead to Google's translation service, only to be immediately stumped by the problem of how to type the Russian words. The alphabet question aside, Google Translate is quite a nifty tool. Not only can it work out for itself which language the phrase you'd like to translate is in – I suppose because you may well not know that yourself – but it translates it as you type.


5 August 2009

A Classic Intervention in the Underbelly

Daniel Soar · Translating Negri

Translators are often ignored or overlooked, and that is an injustice. Therefore I call your attention to the work that has gone into this passage, from Antonio Negri and Raf Valvola Scelsi's Goodbye Mr Socialism: Radical Politics in the 21st Century (Serpent's Tail, £8.99): Iraq was the American attempt to get its hands on Empire, an attempt at a coup d'etat by means of permanent war, now a constitutive element of imperial development. It is clear that the problem of who commands the global market was tabled and progressively developed from the end of the Soviet system. Bit by bit, the Americans have elaborated a unilateral and exclusive vision of their command of globalisation.