Translation Notes: A New MFA in Translation; the NEA Announces Translator Fellowships

In News by Porter Anderson

VCFA’s new MFA focuses not only on creative writing but also on translation and holds sessions in international locations, whilc the US National Endowment for the Arts announces recipients of 22 new fellowships for translators.

Xu Xi. Image: Paul Hilton, provided by Vermont College of the Arts

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Residencies in Iceland and Hong Kong

Asserting that this is a first, Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier has announced the creation of a promisingly named International MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Translation to open in the 2018-2019 school year.

The new residency program focuses on “transnational literature in English and world literature in translation,” according to press materials and will offer a concentration in translation as well as in fiction and nonfiction.

In the course of their degree work, students will be required to participate in one brief residence at the Montpelier campus. Three more sessions in international locations including Iceland and Hong Kong in the first year, with Portugal, St. Maarten, Thailand, and Canada under consideration as well.

The full program costs US$38,400, with two full scholarships available each academic year.

Direction of the new program is being led by Hong Kong-born Indonesian-Chinese author Xu Xi, whose recent titles include Dear Hong Kong: An Elegy to a City (Penguin, 2017); That Man in Our Lives (C&R Press, 2016); and Habit of a Foreign Sky (Haven Books, 2010), which was a finalist in the Man Asian competition.

Working with Xu in directing the program is Evan Fallenberg, author of Light Fell (Soho Press, 2008) and When We Danced on Water (HarperCollins, 2011). Fallenberg is artistic director of the Mishkenot Shaananim translation residency program in Jerusalem and is a translator of modern Hebrew literature. He teaches fiction and translation at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv.

In a prepared joint statement, Xu and Fallenberg are quoted, saying, “Our residencies will rotate globally, with a curriculum that focuses on international writing and literature, as well as translation.

“The literary world is global and writers need to broaden their perspective beyond their own borders through immersion in other cultures and languages, and through interactions with writers from other parts of the world.”

Faculty members for the program include:

  • Sybil Baker (fiction/nonfiction)
  • Jason Grunebaum (literary translation)
  • Robin Hemley (nonfiction/fiction)
  • Tabish Khair (fiction/nonfiction)
  • Mark Polizzotti (nonfiction/literary translation)
  • James Scudamore (fiction)
  • Ira Sukrungruang (nonfiction/fiction)
  • Madeleine Thien (fiction)

The program will begin accepting applications in January, and more information is here.

At Vermont College of the Fine Arts

NEA Translation Fellowship Recipients Named

The United States’ National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has announced a total 22 literature translation fellowships for 2018, each for either $12,500 or $25,000. The grants, in total, add up to $300,000.

Details of recipients of the fellowships are here (PDF).

“Among this year’s projects,” the agency says in a prepared statement, “are award-winning novels, short stories, poetry, and a play” which have been translated into English from 15 languages. There are works from Japan, Madagascar, and India, among others, with most of the works appearing for the first time in English and 10 of them by female authors.

Kareem James Abu-Zeid is a $25,000 fellowship recipient for the retranslation from the Arabic of ‘Hanging Poems: The Classic Works of Pre-Islamic Arabic Poetry’

Chosen by the program under the direction of Amy Stolls, projects range from the translation and retranslation of classic works—such as Thiruvalluvar’s book of poetry, Tirukkural, written between 100 B.C.E. and 400 C.E., translated from Tamil by Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma—to contemporary titles, such as the novel Lalana, written in French by Malagasy author Michele Rakotoson, one of the most successful authors in Madagascar, and translated by Allison M. Charette.

Additional projects:

  • Todd Fredson’s translation from French of the poetry collection The future has an appointment with the dawn by Ivory Coast writer Tanella Boni, one of the most prominent poets, novelists, essayists, and philosophers of francophone Africa—only a handful of her poems are available in English.
  • Seth Michelson’s translation from Spanish and Mapuzungun of two poetry collections by Mapuche-Argentine poet Liliana Ancalao. The collection will comprise the first single-author volume of poetry by a female Mapuche poet from Argentina in English-language translation, and only the second ever such single-author collection by a female Mapuche poet.
  • Ri J. Turner’s translation from Yiddish of selected humoresques by Joseph Tunkel (1881-1949). Tunkel—better known by his pen name Der Tunkeler—was one of the most prolific humorists of modern Yiddish literature, yet he has rarely been translated into English.

Terry Ehret receives a $12,500 fellowship in support of translation from the Spanish of Uruguayan-Mexican writer Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon’s poetry collection ‘Plagios’

Since 1981, the NEA has awarded 455 fellowships to 404 translators, with translations representing 69 languages and 82 countries.

The review criteria for these projects consist not only of the translators’ skill, but also the importance of a particular work of international literature to English-speaking audiences, including those authors and languages that are often under-represented.

Information on how to apply for NEA creative writing fellowships and literature fellowships for translation projects is available here.

  • The deadline for creative writing fellowships in poetry is March 7.
  • The deadline for translation projects has been extended and is January 11.

Visit the NEA’s Writers’ Corner to read excerpts by and features on past NEA literature fellows, including both creative writing and translation fellows.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.