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Center for Writers and Translators

CWT Starts the Year with a Successful Spring Semester

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We’re only halfway through 2019 and AUP’s Center for Writers & Translators (the CWT) – a research center dedicated to literary endeavors – already has much to report. The CWT’s mission is to promote literary activity, particularly in relation to the practice of translation (taking the term in its broadest sense). Working with students, alumni and the international writing community, faculty use the CWT to host talks and lectures, engage in literary events and contribute to various sponsored publications.

Professor Dan Gunn is director of the CWT, aided by Professor Daniel Medin as associate director; both are regular speakers at literary events across Europe. Early in 2019, Medin moderated several discussions at the Bergen International Literary Festival, including an event with James Montgomery, author of Loss Sings – the penultimate edition of the CWT’s long-running Cahier Series. The Cahier Series showcases new explorations in writing and translation, as well as the linkages between these two practices. Through their distributor, Chicago University Press, the cahiers are available in a large number of independent bookshops across the world, and help to spread the word about AUP’s commitment to the world of letters. Several new cahiers are currently in preparation, including by the American poet and translator Paul Cole and the acclaimed Indian novelist Neel Mukherjee.

Medin is also a juror for the German literary award HKW Internationaler Literaturpreis 2019, which will announce its winner on June 18. Among those shortlisted is Mexican author Fernanda Melchor, who spoke at a recent CWT event on AUP’s campus. Hailed as one of the most promising Latin American writers of her generation, Melchor’s novel Temporada de huracanes was named on a list of the best fiction of 2017 by the Spanish-language edition of the New York Times. It will be published as Hurricane Season in a translation by Sophie Hughes for Fitzcarraldo (UK) and New Directions (USA). Medin has also spoken at numerous other events, including the Beyond Words French Literature Festival at London’s Institut Français, the Bibliotopia Festival in Switzerland, and a roundtable discussion at the famous anglophone Parisian bookshop Shakespeare and Company regarding the latest print issue of The White Review, for which Medin was contributing editor.

Gunn’s work on the collation and translation of Samuel Beckett’s letters has continued to make waves; in February, a successful event at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste celebrated the release of the German edition of the fourth and final volume of letters. Gunn, as co-editor of the volume, was interviewed by Medin, appearing alongside translator Chris Hirte and author György Dragomán at a paid event attracting over 200 attendees. Several German media outlets subsequently reviewed the release. Gunn has now turned his attention away from Beckett towards the letters of the Scottish novelist (and recipient of an honorary degree from AUP) Muriel Spark. Named as editor of Spark’s letters in 2017, Gunn has been beginning the long process of finding and transcribing her letters; he has been assisted in this during the semester by a creative writing student, Sarah Sturman ’19, who has thereby been learning the basics of how to establish a scholarly edition. He also gave a plenary lecture about both Beckett and the Cahiers Series at an international conference on “Translation and Space” at the University of Modena, Italy, in May, where he met up with AUP alumnus Jan Steyn ’08 and G’10, now an assistant lecturer at the University of Iowa, who was also talking at the conference.

The CWT does indeed keep close tabs on the careers of AUP’s literature and creative writing alumni and works with them as much as possible; Steyn is currently compiling and editing a volume for Cambridge University Press on translation that was initiated by Gunn and to which Gunn will contribute a chapter. Gunn has also written the introduction to a new collection of essays by the French novelist Marguerite Duras that was selected and translated by two AUP alumnae, Olivia Baes G’15 and Emma Ramadan G’15 – both are graduates of the former MA in Cultural Translation. Their book, entitled Me & Other Writing, will be published by the US press Dorothy, a Publishing Project later this year.

The CWT’s first event of the year involved a panel discussion including Thai author Prabda Yoon and his translator into English, AUP alumna Mui Poopoksakul G’15. A rising star in the world of translated Thai literature, Poopoksakul is currently touring the US to publicize two new translations: a novel and a short story collection by Duanwad Pimwana, the first female Thai author to appear in English translation. Both books are mentioned in a New York Times list of international fiction to look out for in 2019.

Poopoksakul was interviewed, alongside Emma Ramadan, in a Words Without Borders article on translating humor. Both alumnae graduated from the MA in Cultural Translation and maintain close ties with the CWT. Ramadan was this year nominated for the Best Translated Book Award, a prestigious American literary prize for translated fiction, for her English translation of Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes. Ramadan is not the only longlist nominee to have a connection to the CWT; both Dubravka Ugrešić (Croatia) and Can Xue (China) have appeared in the arts magazine Music & Literature. The magazine, co-edited by Medin, publishes work by international artists deemed hitherto underrepresented. Another alumna, Madeleine LaRue ’09 and G’12, was recently appointed senior editor of the magazine for her work on one of its portfolios. She curated close to 200 pages of untranslated work by Swiss author Peter Bichsel, and her translations appear in the latest issue. Numerous students and alumni were involved in the production of the recent ninth issue of the magazine, several of whom worked as editorial assistants.

With so much literary activity taking place both on and off campus, the CWT has set itself up to make 2019 another successful year.