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In the field: collected conversations with translation practitioners
Author: Kaitlin Rees
Published on: 11/23/2017 8:24:30 PM

Perhaps no blank space should separate the words: the “theorypractice” of translation. Or, intertwined at the level of the letter, the tphreaocrtyice, might be more accurate. They are necessarily inseparable, step-in-step, the concept and the action. Through sharing one’s personal experiences, the choices made and paths followed, through talking about what one did, what one does, it is most possible to touch the ethics, politics, and aesthetics of sense wrapped up in one’s moving across languages.


The following is a series of conversations with translators and editors of translation journals, certain thinkers and practitioners whose voices shape the corners of “here” in their engagements with South East Asia, with the Vietnamese language, with Hanoi in particular through their involvement in October’s A-festival 2017, and with a sensibility of the elsewhere that is always just there, beyond reach.


The series begins with Peter Boyle, writer, translator, recent recipient of the Philip Hodgins Medal for a lifetime’s contribution to Australian literature, and special guest to A-festival 2017. Peter Boyle’s Ghostspeaking and Apocrypha are composed of a tangle of disparate voices known as heteronyms. In conversation, he shines light into the source of such voices, drawing parallels between heteronymous poetry and translation.


William Phuan is managing director of the Select Centre, a literary organization in Singapore devoted to building and nurturing translation practices in Southeast Asia. In conversation, William Phuan discusses the importance of collaboration and proximity to otherness in matters of translation and greater cultural/human understanding.


Continuing with another project devoted to keeping translation practices alive and supported, Susan Harris, editorial director of the online international literary magazine, Words Without Borders, considers redefinitions of place and the global education of nuance and perspective offered through literature, highlighting specific issues of the magazine that have challenged presumptions and blindspots.


The conversations then move to poet and translator Dinh Linh, author of several collections of poetry and prose, including most recently A Mere Rica (Chax, 2017), and editor-translator of The Deluge (2013), an anthology of contemporary Vietnamese writing. Dinh Linh offers his perspective on experiences of living inside two languages and his “status as linguistic outsider” with “two writers sharing one brain”.

Concluding the series is Lee Yew Leong, founding editor of Asymptote, the online journal for translation dedicated to publishing a wide and remarkable range of voices, both well-known and freshly found, that contribute to the beating heart of contemporary translation. Lee Yew Leong discusses how the geometric curve of the asymptote reflects the nature of translation as both bounded and free.

May you celebrate the actions of all their mouths.