InTranslation is pleased to be collaborating for the fifth time with the New Literature from Europe (NLE) Festival, which took place November 6-9 in New York. Our November issues in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 were likewise dedicated to the festival and its participating authors.
Our current issue features translations of fiction and nonfiction prose by this year’s authors from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Romania.
For more information about the festival, its events, and its partners, visit: http://newlitfromeurope.org.
Back in 2003, I was reading Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler… in a Postmodernism class in college. I remember being completely enthralled by the experience of reading prose in a way I hadn’t before, or since, until I came across Ardian Vehbiu’s book, Bolero, published in Albania earlier this year. Vehbiu is not Calvino, nor is his writing like Calvino’s. But this book, as the narrator declares to a friend right from the very first page, is in many ways “a novel about narration… the labor of narrating and the endless possibilities available” to someone telling a story. “My novel,” we hear him disclose enthusiastically, “instead of telling an adventurous story, is itself going to be a narrative adventure.” And it begins with the narrator entering the New York City subway at Seventh Avenue and 40th street, waiting to take the train uptown but completely oblivious to breaking news of an accident in Brooklyn that has suspended all uptown train service. Reminiscent of the premise of Seinfeld, “a show where nothing happens,” the book is a fable about a book in which nothing happens, where the narrator is stuck waiting for a train that never arrives. The reader soon recognizes that the accident is none other than the 9/11 attack, and yet the main focus and theme here is the structuring of a novel told in many different ways as the title, Bolero, suggests.
Translating the extract featured here proved to be a real adventure for me because a fascinating fact about Bolero is that Vehbiu wrote earlier versions of the book years ago in English, a language he’s made his own since settling in the United States in 1996. He then translated it back into Albanian, his mother tongue, revising the final version in this language. The complete version exists in published form in Albanian. So when translating this extract, I worked with the Albanian text, but it was extremely helpful to have access to the English versions at the same time because the narrative itself and the syntax are both complex and inventive. Sentences are sometimes linked endlessly, which reflects the narrative variations of the story itself and the underground railway system where train cars are linked to each other and where tunnels “lead to tunnels that lead to tunnels.” Perhaps the most pleasurable part about working with Vehbiu is that he’s the kind of writer constantly revising and seeking to place the best words in the best order, which is also something I strive for in my own writing. And so translating his work and going back and forth with him on final edits made for a stimulating and rewarding experience.
– Ani Gjika
The Brooklyn Rail welcomes you to our web-exclusive section InTranslation, where we feature unpublished translations of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing. Published since April 2007, InTranslation is a venue for outstanding work in translation and a resource for translators, authors, editors, and publishers seeking to collaborate.
We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry: Manuscripts of no longer than 20 pages (double-spaced).
Plays: Manuscripts of no longer than 30 pages (in left-justified format).