Mircea Cărtărescu's "Why We Love Women" Just Out in Rome

August 11, 2009
Mircea Cărtărescu's

Mircea Cărtărescu pays homage to women—respectable ladies and sex bombs, girls of fifteen or fifteen billion, women who sleep with their eyes open and women who appear in your dreams simply “because they are women, because they are not men.” When the book comes out in English—and ... read more...

Norman Manea Awarded Highest French Honor

July 27, 2009
Norman Manea Awarded Highest French Honor

The French government announced this July that it has granted Norman Manea the title of Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et Letters, the highest rank in the Legion of Honor, in recognition of "his great talent and open, vigilant and humanist body of work written without concession." read more...

Summer Reading: Two Romanian Titles Make the BTB Vacation List

July 16, 2009
Summer Reading: Two Romanian Titles Make the BTB Vacation List

Best Translated Book panelists (Monica Carter, Scott Esposito, Susan Harris, Annie Janusch, Brandon Kennedy, Bill Marx, Michael Orthofer , Chad W. Post, and Jeff Waxman) have been reading like wild in preparation for Best Translated Book awards, to be announced by Three Percent / Open Letter in ... read more...

Gellu Naum Anthology Launched in Venice

June 23, 2009
Gellu Naum Anthology Launched in Venice

On June 11, the Romanian Institute for Cultural and Humanistic Research (which is located in Venice) launched a blockbuster bilingual anthology of writing by Gellu Naum, La quinta essenza / The Fifth Essence (Treviso: Editing Edizioni, 2006). The book includes a broad chronology of the great ... read more...

European Success for Dan Lungu

June 16, 2009
European Success for Dan Lungu

Dan Lungu’s Baba Comunista / Sînt o babă comunistă! / ЧЕРВЕНА БАБИЧКА СЪМ (Sofia: Faber Publishing, 2009; Iaşi: Polirom, 2007) will appear in Bulgaria this month. The Bulgarian edition follows publication in French, German, Italian and Hungarian. A Spanish edition is ... read more...


About this issue: Special

This July, The Observer Translation Project leaves its usual format to present a special CRISIS ISSUE. Things are tough all over. Hard Times suddenly feels like the book of the moment. The global economic crisis impacts life as we know it, and viewed from Bucharest the effects reverberate in domains that include geo-politics and publishing in Romania and abroad, with the crisis at The Observer Translation Project as an instance of a universal phenomenon. read more...
The Wall in Our Head: Eastern Europe, Romania and the Identity Crisis, Twenty Years After

The Wall in Our Head: Eastern Europe, Romania and the Identity Crisis, Twenty Years After

Although Romanians view the last twenty years with a degree of burned out idealism that verges on jaundice (doubtless to the surprise of many Americans), this is the year to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the mockery of human rights for which it stood. In June, the Guardian posted Stories from Easter Europe, a collection that included “Zgaiba” by Romanian novelist, Stelian Tănase.

Translator's Choice

Author: Stelian Tănase
Translated by: Jean Harris

From Maestro: A Melodrama. Episode 7

Emiluţa has an unfortunate thought. She’ll throw herself off the top of the building. Why? What the fuck? Let’s say for the cause of PeaceonEarth, for the slumdogs, Europe, for the lonely. Which is to say she doesn’t have a ghost of a reason. Viva Walachia! The way things stand, if ...

Translator’s Note
Translator’s Note: a synopsis
Author: Ştefan Agopian
Translated by: Ileana Orlich

How I Learned to Read (from Tache de Catifea / The Velvet Man)

The bearded man was the owner of an apothecary shop where he worked with two apprentices. Nobody paid me any mind, so I spent all day in what was supposed to be the shop. I say this because it was a large, dark room full of odors—a mix of smells from everywhere. The room hadn’t been cleaned ...

Translator’s Note
Re: Learning to Read, from Tache de catifea / The Velvet Man
Author: Gabriela Adameşteanu
Translated by: Patrick Camiller

Wasted Morning - Napoleon in Bucharest

“What you’ve got here is heaven on earth,” Vica says as she drops onto the kitchen chair. “But where’s your mother?” “At work,” Gelu lazily replies, leaning sideways against the door. “She’s doing mornings this week, didn’t you know?” He is tall and thin, with unset ...

Author: Petre Ispirescu
Translated by: Jean Harris

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death

It happened once as never before-y, ‘cause if it couldn’t be true, it wouldn’t make a story about the time when the poplar tree made berries and the willow tree broke out in cherries, when bears began to brawl with their tails, and wolf and lamb, unfurling their sails, threw arms around each ...

Translator’s Note
On Petre Ispirescu
Exquisite Corpse

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No. 12, July 2009

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Notes &Comments

October 03, 2014
From eXchanges blog
It took me a while to find time to read the whole thing, but the roundtable discussion that went up a week ago over at the Observer Translation Project is really excellent. Susan Harris (of Words Without Borders), Chad Post (of Open Letter and Three Percent), novelist Norman Manea, and translator Susan Bernofsky offer thoughtful exchanges on topics such as marketing and editing translated literature, team translations, issues of domestication in translation, and the appeal and value of international literature. For example, here’s Susan Bernofsky on editing translations:
The same editing skills that apply to the best editors of English apply to the best editors of literature translated into English as well. Great editors have a sixth sense that tells them exactly what a book’s style wants to be and shows them the spots where it diverges from this ideal. If there’s an outright mistake in the translation, an editor may or may not be able to spot it (depending on whether it breaks the skin of the book’s mood) – but that’s not the editor’s job, that’s the job of the translator.
The whole thing is highly recommended.
August 09, 2009
From Salonica World Lit
The Observer Translation Project is... a great place to get your bearings about Romanian literature, old and new.  I love this site because it's like a lit journal and a history lesson filled with well-thought out lit crit and incisive commentary. Dig it, friends. 
July 07, 2009
From PEN America
The translators’ roundtable over at The Observer Translation Project has been fairly widely noted; also worth reading there is the “Letter from Chişinău,” by Moldovan journalist Leo Butnaru, about the relationship between literature and politics -- and, more specifically, the current political situation in Moldova.
July 05, 2009
From signandsight
What's worse than Western capitalism? Capitalism that hides behind a hammer and a sickle. Moldovan journalist and translator Leo Butnaru sends a caustic letter from Moldova, where the April 7 elections were followed by heavy protests against the Communist election victory. Butnaru explains how the elections were manipulated – a large percent of Moldavians working abroad were prevented from voting – and the perverse nature of the regime: "We're dealing here with a mutant that is hard to describe. This fabulous mongrel, communo-capitalism looks exceptionally repulsive in the fun house mirrors of mysteriously still ongoing, retarded bolshevism, with which European autocracy and diplomacy nevertheless go on flirting. I would very much like to know, for instance, why last March his Excellency, the former British ambassador to Chisinau, John Beyer, allowed himself to be decorated by tovarish Voronin, a dictator, a hypocrite, a show-off, a scoffer at the idea of Europe - an inveterate bolshevik, pure and simple, who benefits from 'multilaterally-developed' capitalism - to borrow a phrase from the old Party manuals."

Beyer is not the only politician whom Butanaru names: his list of foreign dignitaries queuing up to be decorated also includes FIFA president Sepp Blater, Secretary General of the European Council Terry Davis, Austrian EU politician Erhard Busek, Bulgaria's president Gheorghi Pirvanov and the Croatian president Stjepan Mesic.

And the USA-based Romanian writer Norman Manea, Susan Harris from "words without borders" the American translator Susan Bernofsky and the publisher Chad Post discuss the market for literary translations and translation itself.
July 05, 2009
From perlentaucher
Was ist noch schlimmer als westlicher Kapitalismus? Ein Kapitalismus, der sich hinter Hammer und Sichel verbirgt. Der moldawische Journalist und Übersetzer Leo Butnaru schickt einen gepfefferten Brief aus Chisinau, der Hauptstadt Moldawiens, wo es nach den Wahlen am 7. April zu schweren Protesten gegen den Wahlsieg der Kommunisten kam. Butnaru erklärt, wie die Wahlen manipuliert wurden - einem Großteil der im Ausland arbeitenden Moldawier wurde es unmöglich gemacht zu wählen - und um welche Art von Regime es sich in Moldawien handelt: "Wir haben es hier mit einem Mutanten zu tun, der schwer zu beschreiben ist. Dieser märchenhafte Bastard, Kommuno-Kapitalismus, sieht besonders abstoßend aus im Spiegelkabinett eines mysteriöserweise weiterbestehenden, zurückgebliebenen Bolschewismus, mit dem die europäische Autokratie und Diplomatie weiterhin flirtet. Ich wüsste zum Beispiel sehr gern, warum letzten März seine Exzellenz, der frühere britische Botschafter in Chisinau, John Beyer, sich von Towarischtsch Voronin dekorieren ließ, von einem Diktator, Heuchler, Angeber und Verächter der europäischen Idee, einem eingefleischten Bolschewiken durch und durch, der vom 'multilateral entwickelten' Kapitalismus profitiert - um eine Phrase aus den alten Parteiprogrammen zu benutzen."

Beyer ist nicht der einzige, den Butnaru aufzählt: auch der Schweizer Sepp Blatter, Präsident der FIFA, Terry Davis, Generalsekretär des Europarats, der österreichische EU-Politiker Erhard Busek, Bulgariens Präsident Gheorghi Pirvanov und der kroatische Präsident Stjepan Mesic ließen sich Orden an die Brust heften. (Mehr über die Wahlen in der NZZ.)

Außerdem: Der in den USA lebende rumänische Schriftsteller Norman Manea, Susan Harris von "words without borders", die amerikanische Übersetzerin Susan Bernofsky und der Verleger Chad Post unterhalten sich über den Markt für Übersetzungen von Literatur und das Übersetzen an und für sich.
July 01, 2009
From Words Without Borders
The Observer Translation Project just posted a roundtable discussion on our favorite topic, including our very own Susan Harris along with Chad Post of the Three Percent blog and Open Letter publishers, as well as translator Susan Bernofsky whose translation of Yoko Tawada’s The Naked Eye I just read (and will soon comment on).

Here’s an excerpt with Chad honing in on an aspect of reading books in translation that many of us face:
This sounds really bad, but in a roundabout way, I'm motivated by my monolingualism. After college I fell in love with Latin American literature—especially Cortazar—and started trying to revive my Spanish so that I could read the dozens of books I'd heard about, but which had yet to be translated. By the time I got serious about this though, I was off and reading a ton of French Oulipo books. Then titles from Eastern Europe. I'll never be able to speak a dozen languages (like translator Michael Henry Heim does), so I have to rely on English publishers to make available all the great books being written around the world. Probably just an ADD thing, but by not specializing in one language/literature, I feel like I can indulge my roaming interests, and look for books to publish from Asia, then Latin America, then France, then the Nordic Countries, etc., etc.
July 01, 2009
From Three Percent
The Observer Translation Project, which we’ve mentioned here before, posted a really cool translation roundtable/interview that they conducted recently:
World-famous novelist Norman Manea, two premier experts in the realm of literature in translation—Susan Harris of Words Without Borders and Chad Post of Three Percent and Open Letter—and award-winning translator from German Susan Bernofsky address a literary zone in permanent crisis: the world of literature in translation.
They manage to cover a lot of ground pretty quickly—from editing translations, to the market for translations, to why the panelists read translations—and it’s interesting to see how they approach all of the issues from slightly different angles. Definitely worth a read.
June 18, 2009
From three percent
The latest entry in The Guardian‘s series of short stories about the transformations of Eastern Europe post-1989 is Stelian Tanase’s Zgaiba, translated from the Romanian by Jean Harris. (Who runs the Observer Translation Project, which is the best source online for information about Romanian literature.)… this is probably my favorite story in The Guardian series.
June 01, 2009
From signandsight
Al Ahram Weekly | Outlook India| Observator Cultural | London Review of Books | Polityka | Le Nouvel Observateur | The Economist | Clarin | Elet es Irodalom | NZZ Folio | The Guardian 
"The basic question for foreigners in Romania," writes Jean Harris, who runs the Translation Project for the Observator Cultural, " is 'what the hell are you doing here?' That's the existential question, and the sine qua non of successful Romanian-ness involves addressing it to one's self six times a day." The only escape, she suggests, is a healthy sense of the absurd and warm friendships. And with that she introduces Razvan Petrescu, the focus of this month's issue.

Here's an extract from his short story "On a Friday Afternoon":

"Dad went and died. He was a quiet guy, slightly on the mystic side, with two deep furrows on either side of his nose. He was given to occasional bouts of melancholy, and on Sundays he’d do funny stuff over lunch. He'd toss the soup spoon towards the light fixture hanging from the ceiling, then try to catch it. He always failed. Sometimes he'd break the fixture, sometimes – the soup plate. The fat yellow soup would soak progressively into the table cloth first, then into Dad's neatly-pressed trousers, and finally make its way down to the Persian rug, where it became extremely visible and stable. I was in stitches. Not Mom, though. I'm still in stitches now as I look at the Order of Socialist Labor Class III awarded to Dad back in '68 or so. It's a rather nice box, dark cherry in color, soft to the touch, containing a silver medal, a red ribbon and Dad. The medal represents our country's insignia on a bed of sunbeams."

April 21, 2009
From signandsight
Observator Cultural throws a spotlight on Norman Manea, a writer Orhan Pamuk described as "one of the great men of Romania ". The site's Translation Project features a number of synopses of his works, an illustrated bibliography and a translation of Manea's "Sentimental Education", "a charming, sexy, wistful and ferocious take on Flaubert's novel of the same name…”  
April 14, 2009
Weekly News Post
by David Varno
14 April 2009
Romanian author Norman Manea won the third Observator Cultural Opera Omnia Award this month from the Observer Translation Project, an international magazine of Romanian literature in translation. See Totalitarianism Today for an in-depth history of Manea and study of his work. Manea was a guest editor for WWB in 2004, and we also published his “Letter to Ernesto Sábato,” translated from the Romanian by Stephen Kessler and Daniela Hurezanu.
April 14, 2009

Honoring Romanian writer Norman Manea. 

The Observer Translation Project is devoting this month to the work of Romanian writer Norman Manea, who recently won the 2009 Gheorghe Crăciun Lifetime Achievement Award. Critic Carmen Musat describes Manea's work: A witness to the paired totalitarianisms of the 20th century, Norman Manea is a writer of survivals. His medium is Romanian. He belongs to the world. (....) Among other precious stones, Jean Harris translates "Sentimental Education", a short by Manea.
April 07, 2009
From Alina Stefanescu’s Romania Revealed
Forget the fact that I am a globalized mutt who has developed an intense mistrust of any kennel-- American or Romanian-- and prefers to live in cars where the windows are open. Forget my own misgivings about nationalism, patriotism, self-esteem, and resume voyeurism. Forget everything I've ever said or suggeted about politics and conspiracy and other forms of failed literature. For there is hope and excitement on the Romanian horizon. The Observer Translation Projectlanguage barrier by providing translations of previously untranslated fictional gems. For those who long enchanted by the misgivings of the Romanian pen, this project is an oasis. aims to bridge the
A Romanian writer is highlighted in every issue, thus opening the doors of cross-cultural discourse for the discovery of relics and treasures. Apart from translating novels, stories, and essays, the Project includes critical essays and translation notes.
Dip into pathological memory and the nostalgia of the return, the exile's tattoo, the dissident's favorite pair of blue jeans, the stoicism of Soviet toilets, Napoleon in Bucharest, the social stasis facilitated by intellectuals glorifying the ditch as the best abode, token immortalities, the heady drum-beat of a wasted morning, dinners with the devil or the pope, the din inside the artist's head, the cosmic significance of dark bodies, and so much more.
April 06, 2009
Norman Manea focus  
The impressive Romanian The Observer Translation Project is devoted to Norman Manea this month.
(Posted by: M.A. Orthofer)   – permanent link
Posted April 6, 2009
March 12, 2009
From Bacacay, the Polish Literature Weblog
Lo! Just look at this website: http://translations.observatorcultural.ro.It’s enough to make a literary programmer for some other former Eastern Bloc cultural institution green with envy…
March 10, 2009
From three percent
Observer Translation Project
9 March 09 | Chad W. Post |
The Observer Translation Project is a relatively new website featuring news, reviews, and samples from and about Romanian authors…. there’s a healthy amount of information available on this site, including samples from a host of authors, a list of forthcoming translations from the Romanian, synopses of a number of Romanian books, and reviews/essays.
Definitely worth checking out, both for the features… and for the blog, which tracks information about Romanian literature.
March 04, 2009
A Grand Translation Workshop!
Romanian Literature on the March!
Co-ordinated by American novelist Jean Harris, this is a magnificent multi-lingual project of translating contemporary Romanian literature into several languages.
March 02, 2009
Signandsight Reads OTP in its Magazine Roundup  
The novels and short stories of writer Stefan Agopian mark an important point in the emancipation of Romanian literature...
An English excerpt from Agopian's "The Geographer's Tales" can be found here.
February 17, 2009
From Radio France International
A limited team is about to trigger a genuine revolution in the Romanian literary landscape.  Their “weapons” are their translators and the internet. Last September, four journalists on the staff of the Observator Cultural weekly created The Observer Translation Project site to promote contemporary Romanian authors abroad.  With the help of ten translators, fragments from Romanian literary works are published in [multiple]… languages. This ambitious project receives financial support from the weekly Observator Cultural… the credit goes… to the extremely motivated people creating the site. The number of visitors is constantly growing and frequently enough fragments from the translated literary works feature on some of the most important literary sites in Europe and the United States.
December 22, 2008
Now in its fifth issue, this online international magazine features Romanian writing in translation. The site's literary pieces translate into English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish, with some guest languages. The director of the Project, Jean Harris, received a 2007-08 ICWT Translation Grant in support of her work on the selection from “The Boars Were Mild”/ Mistreţii erau blânzi from Iarna Bărbaţilor / Men in Winter by Ştefan Bănulescu, that opened the first issue of The Observer Translation Project.
October 16, 2008
Magazine Roundup from signandsight.com
A while back we linked to an article about the fantastic translation project by the Romanian cultural journal Observator Cultural. But things have developed in leaps and bounds since then, with translations in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, Dutch and Polish. The first edition was dedicated to the writer Stefan Banulescu, the second to Gheorghe Craciun – featuring an excerpt from Craciun's novel "Pupa Russa" and an essay by Caius Dobrescu which presents Craciun as "a Bertrand Russell with a Wagnerian twist"

This, the third edition, is dedicated to the author Stelian Tanase. There are a few things which a "prospective reader of Romanian literature might like to know" writes the translator, writer and head of the translation project, Jean Harris, by way of an introduction. For example, that in Romania, "we're in a world capital of stories because we're in the world capital of regime change". Before moving on to Stelian Tanase, she provides a brief overview of Romanian history and the fundamentals of Romanian literature: "In the long view, what counts is that the Romanian problem has been 'how to survive.' Often it has been, 'how not to die.' And often it has been 'how to die' – finding a spiritual position that makes death a friend. In this context, story telling equals salvation on several planes." In Tanase's case this mindset is fuelled by the Blues.

Further articles include a synopsis of Tanase's novel "Dark Bodies" and an excerpt.
September 20, 2008
From Conversational Reading
The Observer Translation Project [l]ooks like a promising source for reading works-in-translation on the Web.
September 09, 2008
Reading Is Sexier in Bucharest
In related Romanian-literature-in-translation news, the Observer Translation Project is up and running, featuring previously untranslated Romanian fiction (now translated into En/Fr/Ge/It/Sp/Du/Pol) as well as critical essays (En) on the featured writers and on contemporary Romanian lit in general. The first two numbers have been dedicated to Stefan Bănulescu and Gheorghe Crăciun, respectively. I strongly recommend the excerpt from Crăciun’s Pupa Russa for a lovely account of going to school and learning to read in the People’s Republic of Romania. Kudos to the translator!
September 05, 2008
From the Complete Review
       The Observer Translation Project, "an international magazine of Romanian writing in translation" has now well and truly been launched.
       As they explain:
OTP showcases previously untranslated fiction. We highlight a "pilot" author each month. This is the place to learn about Romanian writers, find updates on Romanian writing abroad, read CV’s, take a look at covers published in countries around the globe, check out the bibliographies, dip into author photos, search our steadily growing archive, and discover essays that put Romanian writing in context. Look for single author fiction issues every month, with free-wheeling updates in between.
       Sounds very promising -- and we hope that other nations have a go at their own versions.

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