Welcome, Asymptote

01/02/2011

The debut issue of new literary journal Asymptote is now available (http://asymptotejournal.com/index.php) and it promises to provide some excellent reading.  Asymptote’s purview is wide with a strong focus on translated literature: this first issue features, not counting the poetry and drama and essays, writing translated from Chinese, German, Polish and Hebrew.  Something that sets Asymptote apart from the plethora of other literary journals is its emphasis on not just the translated/written text, but the aesthetic of the language itself.  The shape of the script and the sound of its reading are also explored in some of the pieces, with readings of poetry available in the original language.  This inaugural edition is a thing of beauty that shines with an embarrassment of riches for the lover of fine literature.  Asymptote is one to watch.

“We are lovers of literature who have come together to honor the art of translation.”  Count me in.

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A translator is someone from whom we expect complete fidelity in their work, or as close to it as is possible.  Indeed, their identity qua translator is bound with the degree to which they faithfully reproduce the prose or poetry they translate: the more freely they interpret the text, the more creative they get in their rendition of the poet’s verse, the less they could be said to be translating, and would instead find themselves more on the creative side of things.  But the difficulty with translation is in the semantic differences between the original work and its translation.  Those writings that have a strong national flavour often use language that is charged with strong social and cultural meaning, much of which might be lost – as Robert Frost defined poetry to be – in translation, particularly when heavy with idiom or patois.  Some texts are so laden with such local colour that they are all but destroyed in the attempt to translate them.  Fortunately, this is not the case with Ersan Üldes’ story Professional Behaviour.

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Two to Tango

17/10/2010

UPDATE:  Since posting my review (see below) of The Selected Visions of Jorge Luis Borges: 1958-1986, I have had to defend myself from the attacks of several critics and, though I replied in turn to each of them, I believe it best to air my thoughts publicly.

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