Monday, June 9, 2014

Absinthe moves to Ann Arbor!

The Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan is pleased to announce it will assume editorial leadership of Absinthe, a literary magazine founded in Farmington Hills (MI) in 2003. Over the past ten years, Absinthe has promoted international literature and art and showcased contemporary work from a variety of European countries. Under the keen eye of its founding editor Dwayne D. Hayes, the magazine has come to be recognized as a leading publication for translated literature and has played a crucial part in introducing important contemporary voices from Europe to American readers.

The relocation of Absinthe to the Department of Comparative Literature will allow the journal to benefit from the expertise of one of the strongest comparative programs in the nation, and provide a sustainable publishing model to continue Absinthe’s commitment to promoting foreign literature in the United States. At the University of Michigan, Absinthe will provide a space of encounter between new voices in foreign literature, experienced translators, as well as translators in training.

Starting in summer 2014, Absinthe will serve as a platform from which to expand the Department of Comparative Literature’s ongoing engagement with translation activities across the Michigan campus and beyond. The magazine will offer graduate students the opportunity to gain professional experience in editing literary translations and identifying important new trends in contemporary world literature. It will also provide opportunities for collaboration with colleagues across departments, both within and beyond the University of Michigan, on topics for special issues.

In the fall of 2014, The Department of Comparative Literature will resume Absinthe’s biannual print publication as well as create an entire new online presence for the magazine. Two doctoral students in Comparative Literature will serve as co-editors for the first two transitional issues. Their task will consist of maintaining the legacy of Absinthe as established by Hayes, while broadening the magazine’s current focus on European literature to include texts that reflect the very wide range of geographical interests, talents and affinities present in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan.

The first issue in Absinthe’s new incarnation (Fall 2014) will focus on the topic, “Precarious Europe: Writing in Uncertain Times.” Edited by Etienne Charriere, this issue will engage the current stage of crisis across the European continent. In order to understand how literature is written in times of acute precariousness, we look forward to publishing contemporary translated texts from a variety of spaces in Europe –with a special focus on the margins of the continent– that all reflect the ongoing climate of economic and political instability, as well as the profound identity crisis that has affected the entire continent in varied ways.

The topic of the next issue (Spring 2015) will be “Pen and Brush: Europe and China in Dialogue.” Edited by Emily Goedde, it will focus on literary and artistic conversations between Europe and Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and other Chinese communities across Asia. In drawing from European writers (be they of Chinese origin or not), as well as from writers from the Sinophone world who live in or write about Europe, this issue will present a rich body of literary and artistic work that negotiates and illuminates contemporary cosmopolitanisms. It will also offer an opportunity to introduce new examples from exilic and migrant literature.

Future issues of Absinthe will be edited by graduate students and faculty in the Department of Comparative Literature and related departments and disciplines. Proposals regarding future issues will be announced in 2015. Please direct all inquiries and submissions to Etienne Charriere and Emily Goedde at

Sunday, May 11, 2014

PEN America #17: Now on Newsstands

Issue #17 of PEN America, devoted to the recent annual World Voices Festival (now in its 10th year!) features several of last year's PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant winners, including my translation of Jean Ferry's "On the Frontiers of Plaster," also available online at the PEN site. The piece was first published (in a slightly different form) in issue #3 of the magazine formerly known as The Coffin Factory, now Tweed's.

Interestingly enough, Paul Bowles also translated the piece, and named his volume of translations after it: She Woke Me Up, So I Killed Her. This retitle is taken from the unattributed epigraph to Ferry's piece, and differs from my own translation in its interpretation of that famous French conundrum, the imperfect tense. Bowles' volume of translations from Spanish and French is interesting for the liberties it takes as well as its eclectic selection, which includes work by Borges, surrealists Giorgio di Chirico and René Magritte, poet Francis Ponge, Ramón Sender, and another personal favorite of mine, baroque fantasist André Pieyre de Mandiargues. Maybe someday a famous translator will be able to publish an equally eclectic and idiosyncratic volume of Selected Translations. 

One can hope.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Translated Comics at the 2014 Eisner Awards

So last week, nominees were announced for this year’s Eisner Awards, the highest comics industry honor in the U.S. It’s nice to see so many international artists and writers in the 30 categories, including:

Best Reality-Based Work
  • A Bag of Marbles, by Joseph Joffo, Kris, and Vincent Bailly (Graphic Universe/Lerner)
  • Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, by Ulli Lust (Fantagraphics)
Best Adaptation from Another Medium
  • The Castle, by Franz Kafka, adapted by David Zane Mairowitz and Jaromír 99 (SelfMadeHero)
  • The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, by Edogawa Rampo, adapted by Suehiro Maruo  (Last Gasp)
Best Humor Publication
  • The (True!) History of Art, by Sylvain Coissard and Alexis Lemoine (SelfMadeHero)
It’s especially heartening to see nominees are sprinkled throughout the categories, instead of being crammed into the two usual categories for translated material, which are nevertheless full of excellent books:

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
  • Adventures of a Japanese Businessman, by Jose Domingo (Nobrow)
  • Goddam This War! by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Pierre Verney (Fantagraphics)
  • Incidents in the Night, Book One, by David B. (Uncivilized Books)
  • Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, by Ulli Lust (Fantagraphics)
  • When David Lost His Voice, by Judith Vanistendael (SelfMadeHero)
Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
  • The Heart of Thomas, by Moto Hagio (Fantagraphics)
  • The Mysterious Underground Men, by Osamu Tezuka (PictureBox)
  • Showa: A History of Japan, 1926–1939, by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Summit of the Gods, vol. 4, by Yemmakura Baku and Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
  • Utsubora: The Story of a Novelist, by Asumiko Nakamura (Vertical)
Asia has long had its own separate category, which this year was dominated by Japan.
As is often the case, the international influence was heavy in children’s books (OK, so Fanny Arsenault’s from Quebec):

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
  • Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas, by Philippe Coudray (TOON Books)
  • The Big Wet Balloon, by Liniers (TOON Books)
Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12)
  • Jane, the Fox, and Me, by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault (Groundwood)
Perhaps most exciting of all was to see international nominees crack the coveted top categories:

Best Writer/Artist
  • Judith Vanistendael, When David Lost His Voice (SelfMadeHero)
Best Graphic Album—New
  • The Property, by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
The sheer number of different publishers now doing international material is to be applauded. Among the countries represented are France, Czechoslovakia, Israel, Japan, Spain. Two relative newcomers to the comics scene did very well with double nominations:
  • Austria, with Ulli Lust’s debut memoir of roadtripping Europe in her punk youth, Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, translated by the late Kim Thompson from Fantagraphics. I got to see Lust when her graphic memoir debuted in France at Angouleme in 2011, and wrote about seeing her speak. It was well-received there, an official selection of the festival.
  • Flanders (Flemish Belgium), with Judith Vanistendael’s When David Lost His Voice from UK indie SelfMadeHero, which did awesome this year overall with 7 nominations in 5 categories.
These nominations reflect the hard work of translators like Jessica Cohen, Nora Mahony, Brian & Sarah Evenson, Zack Davisson, Matt Thorn, Ryan Holmberg, Leigh Stein, yours truly, and a few more whose names I was unable to find out. This should not be the case. Translator’s names should listed, if not on the cover, then at least on the title page. They deserve proper acknowledgment via listings in reviews and metadata at sites like Goodreads and online booksellers.
Readers are encouraged to check out these quality books! Anyone can vote for the Eisners by simply registering, and voting is now open. As always, winners will be announced during a ceremony in July at San Diego Comic-Con.