Conferences: From Toronto… to Las Vegas

Wth its cosmopolitan atmosphere and lively downtown nightlife, Toronto was a great fit for this year’s ATA Annual Conference. If the inaugural session started with the controversial report from an embedded journalist in the Iraq war, the conference went on smoothly with its traditional morning breakfast (1) and plethorra of workshops where you could find familiar people sharing their knowledge: members Andre Moskowitz (2) and Merav Rozenblum (3) & (4—with author Ilan Stavans signing his essay on Spanglish), and our very own Jost Zetzsche (5 & 6). At the NCTA table, Céline Détraz and Martin Hoffman (7) at my side, helped Tuomas and I promote the association. Special thanks also to Nuria Juhera for her collaboration. For more details on this year’s event, do not miss the next General Meeting on December 11, where a panel of attendees will relate their experiences in Toronto.
—Yves Avérous

What’s a nice gal like me doing in Las Vegas? That’s what I asked myself as I drove down “The Strip” to the Alexis Park Resort. Sin city. Tastelessly garish. But though much of Las Vegas is faux (Caesar’s Palace, the Venetian, et al.), there was nothing faux about the ALTA ( Conference, whose theme this year was “Art Both Ways: Translation Restoration Re-Creation.”

I began on Thursday with “Translating Dialect Literature,” in which panelists discussed the seemingly irresolvable issues involved in translating embedded or suggested dialect. Possible solutions included retaining the dialect word and contextualizing it; inserting a phrase stating that the character is speaking “x” dialect; inventing a dialect; and listening to how a speaker of the specific dialect speaks English and trying to reproduce how it sounds.

From there I went on to “The World in Language is Half Someone Else’s: the Translator as the ‘Other’ Author in Russian Literature.” Comments included references to the translator as resurrector, creator, and co-author, and the notion of literary ventriloquism in which the original author is presumably the dummy through whom the translator-ventriloquist speaks.

I resisted the post-lunch offering of “Some Sex Please… Eros in Translation” in favor of “Translating Italian Literature,” which explored the idea of translation—identified by one author as the act of molting, shedding the old skin while trying to retain the inner luminosity—into a translator’s second language (English), referred to as a traduzione inversa.

Thursday night’s Keynote address made reference to Jacques Derrida’s presumed deconstruction of the Tower of Babel myth: God didn’t destroy the tower because it was arrogantly trying to touch heaven, but because it represented an attempt at dominance by one language. The question is how to make the dominant language (English) enable without disabling.

On Saturday I participated in Alexis Levitin’s Bilingual Readings, and attended a program called: “Spreading the Word: The Art and Importance of Reviewing Literature in Translation” with Peter Filkins as moderator. This was of particular interest to me since I have been writing an article on the subject for some months now. The day concluded with an early evening program, “Looking Forward: Publishers on Literary Translation,” featuring editors from well-known presses.

No gamble here in Vegas: just a good bet for translators.

—Anne Milano Appel