Like the narrator of Norman Rush’s Mating, who was “overdetermined” for life in Africa, you could say that I — product of an evangelical Christian upbringing and Korean heritage of stoic endurance — was overdetermined for Lampedusa. His elevation of natural appetite as an ideal, and his vision for unity between body and spirit in their fullest expressions, radiate from the page. When I read Lampedusa the sun bursts up indeed, thawing all of that deeply seeded “puritanical horror,” as Warner puts it, and reconciling life forces that, as Lampedusa attempts to show us, were never meant to be opposed.
Just because Beowulf‘s influence on Tolkien isn’t news doesn’t mean the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s translation of the epic poem this week isn’t exciting. But while Tolkien’s name alone may be enough for the serious fan, Ethan Gilsdorf at the New York Times has given general readers an introduction to the history of the new translation complete with some insight into Tolkien’s love of the epic poem.
It is precisely because she does believe [translation] to be so crucial that she wants it to be taken seriously. Her concerns lie with a notion of world literature that erases difference or sifts out the foreign or the unsettling in the name of easy consumption. In this way world literature mimics a free-market fantasy of the endless, frictionless circulation of goods and information. In this McDonaldisation of the written word there is no room for difficulty or opacity.
The art of book translation becomes even more challenging when you translate a book that hasn’t been updated since the Cold War. At Asymptote, Jacek Dehnel discusses how much changed from Ariadna Demkowska’s 1962 translation of The Great Gatsby to his current work. “Demkowska was working under very different circumstances: behind the Iron Curtain and without access to Google. It was, therefore, more difficult for her to track down various details, such as those concerning well-known financiers or popular culture starlets of the 1920s.”