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Translated Lit

Penguin Classics Coming to the Arabic Audiences

p2323.jpgPenguin Group (USA) and Egyptian publisher Dar El Shorouk have partnered to bring Penguin Classics to the Arabic world.

Some of the planned titles include Robert Louis Stevenson‘s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Miguel de CervantesDon Quixote, and Jonathan Swift‘s Gulliver’s Travels.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Dar El Shorouk chairman Ibrahim El Moallem. Here’s an excerpt about censorship in the Arab world: “Mr. El Moallem said that presenting the Penguin library as a series of the world’s greatest books may help trump the censorship issue. In addition, while the books will be launched as printed physical copies, planned digital editions will prove difficult to repress.”

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Harvard University Press to Publish Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo

Harvard University Press will translate works by Chinese author Liu Xiaobo, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.  Publication for the untitled anthology is set for 2012.

Xiaobo (pictured) writes poetry, essays, and social commentary about political reform in China. The academic press has enlisted Perry Link (chancellorial chair in teaching across disciplines at the University of California, Riverside) to  supervise a translation team. Link had this statement: “Until he won the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xiaobo was little known in the West. This collection offers to the reader of English the full range of his astute and penetrating analyses of culture, politics, and society in China today.”

So far, Xiaobo has served almost two years of his 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.”  Liu Xia, his wife, has been put under house arrest.

Kama Sutra Repackaged as Lifestyle Guide

What’s the Kama Sutra without erotic illustrations? A new version of the 1,600-year-old Hindu text has been polished to focus more on love and relationships. Penguin UK will publish it as a text-only pocket-sized handbook next February.

The Telegraph explains: “[T]he new version, written by A. N. D Haksar, an Indian scholar and a leading translator of Sanskrit texts, will include updated chapter headings such as ‘Making a Pass,’ ‘Why Women Get Turned Off,’ ‘Girls to Avoid,’ ‘Is he Worthwhile?,’ ‘Getting rid of him,’ ‘Easy Women,’ ‘Moves towards sex,’ and ‘Some Dos and Don’ts.’”

Last year we wrote about the audiobook version of the famous sex manual. Beautiful Books published it last summer. British actress Tanya Franks narrated.

Alaa Al Aswany Rejects Hebrew Translation

Bestselling Arab novelist Alaa Al Aswany has objected to a Hebrew translation of his novel, The Yacoubian Building.

According to the AFP, a volunteer translated the novel despite the author’s disapproval. The Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information (IPCRI) emailed the Hebrew translation to readers with the goal of “expand[ing] cultural awareness and understanding in the region.”

The New York Times offered this quote: “Dr. Al Aswany told Agence France-Presse, ‘What the center and the translator did is piracy and theft, and I will be complaining to the International Publishers’ Association.’ He added: ‘My position has not changed regarding normalization with Israel. I reject it completely.’”

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Chad Post Responds to Melville House Withdrawal from Best Translated Book Awards

In an essay at the Three Percent blog, Open Letter Books director Chad W. Post responded to Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson‘s decision to withdraw his press from future participation in the Best Translated Book Awards.

In the essay, Post confessed that “reading about Dennis’s post on dozens and dozens of blogs and tweets and whatever rocked my mind a little bit.” The director explained that the awards received $25,000 from Amazon–a $5,000 award for two winning translators and two winning authors and $5,000 to help the 14 judges attend the awards ceremony.

Here’s more from Post’s essay: “Point being, unless Melville House stops publishing literature in translation (which I don’t think is going to happen anytime soon), their titles will still be considered for the award. We won’t expect any review copies to be arriving on the doorsteps of our panelists anytime soon (although seeing that the majority are also reviewers, we might end up receiving more books than we expect), and if a Melville House title is chosen, we will offer the money to the winning author and translator. It’s up to them if they want to reject it or not. We’ll still promote the book, try and get people to read it, etc., etc.”

Haruki Murakami Novel 1Q84 Nearly Translated into English

In an interview with the Japanese site Asahi, translator Jay Rubin shared thoughts about working with Haruki Murakami–revealing the impending deadlines for the English translation of Murakami’s three-volume novel, 1Q84.

Rubin (pictured, via) has translated a number of Murakami novels, including Norwegian Wood and  The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The translator turned in his translation of the first book in January and must complete the second book by November 15th.  He thought that translator Philip Gabriel had the same deadline for the third book.

Here’s more from the interview: “I e-mail him or his editor at Shinchosha Publishing Co. He is a good e-mail correspondent. Many passages of “1Q84″ could be translated into either first or third person, and I have asked him which he prefers in certain cases. He usually advises me to do whatever works best in English…Because Murakami’s style is generally simple, the challenge is to write simple sentences in English that still have rhythm and don’t sound flat or boring.” (Via Michael Orthofer)

Haruki Murakami Playlist for 1Q84

q84.jpgBooktunes has published an iTunes playlist collecting 12 songs from the first part of Haruki Murakami‘s new novel, 1Q84.

The book rocketed up the bestseller list in Japan, but English-speaking readers won’t be able to read the novel until September 2011. Luckily, we can listen to the music already. The Booktunes playlist contains a fascinating range of music, from Nat King Cole jazz to Janaceks’ Sinfonietta.

Here’s more from Booktunes: “As soon as Booktunes began Murakami’s long awaited new novel, 1q84, we knew we were in for a good time: the first of the three parts of his magnum opus opens with Janacecks Sinfonietta. Even better, after that the book overflows with references to pop music and jazz. Literature and music, Booktunes’ two favourite things, combine to create the complex worlds of 1984 and 1q84 and tell a typically spellbinding story that addresses the usual Murakami themes and subjects.”

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Playboy Excerpts Lydia Davis’ Translation of Madame Bovary

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The September issue of Playboy magazine will feature an excerpt from the Lydia Davis translation of Madame Bovary. Playboy‘s headline called Gustave Flaubert‘s classic “The Most Scandalous Novel of All Time.”

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner declared the piece to be “a great read” in a tweet. The Book Bench scoffed at the “scandalous” title.

What do you think? An excerpt from the post: “Though Madame Bovary was truly scandalous when it was released, it cannot shock now, in part due to Playboy and its role in, shall we say, defining deviancy downward; and in part due to [Madame] Bovary itself-having been written (and successful), it changed the standards for what was acceptable territory for fiction.”

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PEN American Center Supports Park51 Community Center

5252_appiah_75x72.jpgPEN American Center president Kwame Anthony Appiah defended the Park51 Community Center today, voicing the literary organization’s support for the proposed project many have labeled “Ground Zero Mosque.”

Here is an excerpt from his statement: “We oppose all efforts to circumscribe this freedom; we deplore the rhetoric of suspicion that seeks to deny our common humanity and shared aspirations; and we emphatically reject the tyranny of fear … None of this is to deny the anguish of those who lost family and friends in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, nor is it to diminish the trauma we experienced and still clearly share. Nevertheless, we are sure no lasting comfort or peace can come from abridging the rights of others or yielding to distrust and fear.”

His remarks also singled out the poetry of Sufi leaders Rumi and Ibn Arabi–arguing “writers have a key place in this moment” that has bitterly divided the United States.

Best Translated Book Award Shortlist Announced

377t.jpgLast night GalleyCat prowled the aisles at the Best Translated Book Award shortlist party. Held at Idlewild Books in Manhattan, the short presentation was standing-room only.

We mingled with people from all corners of the translation universe: Archipelago Books, NYRB Classics, and M.A.Orthofer from The Literary Saloon. The finalists were drawn from a 25-book longlist, and the books represented came from 24 different countries. In addition, the poetry finalists were also revealed.

At the announcement, Chad Post from Open Letter Books said that major publishers were decreasing the number of translated books they published, a tremendous boon to small presses. “I may not be able to get the best American author,” he explained, but I can get the absolute best Hungarian writer!”

The ten book shortlist follows after the jump.

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