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Kate Briggs on This Little Art

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On January 26 a joyous crowd applauded writer and former AUP Professor Kate Briggs as she discussed and read from her new work: This Little Art. This homecoming for Briggs was livened by her friends and former colleagues at AUP, roused with curiosity by Briggs’ takes on creating art, feminism and translation. A host of her former students was also in attendance, many of them taught by Briggs in courses such as Literary Translation and Creative Writing and Creative Translation.

This Little Art consists of multiple essays, but resists easy classification. It is very much a work of experimental translation and, in many ways, a thought piece on the challenges of translation and what translation can be. It is also novelistic in its prose, moving deftly from humorous quips to deeper questions of theory, imagination and what it means to create a translation. In parts, it is a memoir and a theoretical exploration, tackling questions of feminism and what it means when a woman translates a male author. In short, it is an extraordinary, intellectually playful accomplishment with its roots twined in Briggs’ time spent at AUP.

Translation makes things happen and we’re not in a position before we start translation to know what these things might be.

Kate Briggs

At our University Briggs developed her Translation as Experimentation course where the concept was to take translation beyond its rote limits and into the unknown. In some ways, this course also proved prescient to the thoughts that Briggs would transform into This Little Art.

“I had these ideas of translation as a creative practice, but I hadn’t really done something like that before,” Briggs said. “It seemed complicated and problematic to me. It was a long process of thinking about translation, doing translation, having some babies and then having something else that I wanted to say.”

Some of Briggs’ thoughts about translation also come from her involvement with the Center for Writers and Translators and its ongoing Cahiers Series. The series proved formative in Briggs’ growth as a translator and writer.

“The Cahiers Series has meant a lot to me in my exploration of the space between writing and translating,” Briggs said in discussing her involvement with the center and her own work.The evening wrapped up with Briggs fielding questions from a curious audience, signing copies of her book and sharing a laugh with friends, colleagues and former students.

Kate Briggs is the translator of two volumes of Roland Barthes’s lecture and seminar notes at the Collège de France: The Preparation of the Novel and How to Live Together, both published by Columbia University Press. She teaches at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam. This Little Art (Fitzcarraldo Editions) is now available wherever you get your books.