“As a translator, your initial feeling is, ‘I want to inhabit this text.’ There’s a primary identification, a mirror effect, where you see your own creative possibilities reflected there, and want to realize them through this text.”
The 7th annual Festival Neue Literatur is Feb. 25-28, 2016 in New York, and this podcast is a Media Partner, so let’s talk to the event’s curator! Translator and Guggenheim fellow Ross Benjamin joins the show to talk about putting together “Seriously Funny,” this year’s FNL theme, and coordinating the 6 German language authors and 2 Americans who will be the featured guests. We talk about humor, German stereotypes, and the difference between reading a language and being able to speak it. Along the way, we get into the styles that different translators have, the challenges and joys of translating Kafka’s diaries, the pros and cons of translating living authors and dead ones, and the angst of trying to give meaning to a single word. Give it a listen, and get over to Festival Neue Literatur from February 25-28, 2016 in New York!
“In the early diaries, you can feel Kafka groping for a voice and a style.”
We also get into Ross’ history as a translator, what he’s learned about his mother tongue in the process, what other language he’d love to learn, the deep responsibility that comes from bringing a text into English, and more! Go listen.
“Most authors don’t mind answering ceaseless questions about their own work. It’s not just ego or vanity, I think it’s fascinating for them because authors don’t necessarily think consciously about all these aspects of their work.”
Also, if you want to find out who Ross is reading nowadays and get a list of the books we talked about in this episode, join our Patreon and become a monthly contributor to The Virtual Memories Show! At the end of February, the new episode of our patron-only podcast, Fear of a Square Planet, will go up with a bonus segment about who Ross is reading and why.
About our Guest
Ross Benjamin is a translator of German-language literature and a writer living in Nyack, NY. His translations include Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hyperion, Kevin Vennemann’s Close to Jedenew, Joseph Roth’s Job, and Clemens J. Setz’s Indigo. He is currently at work on a translation of Franz Kafka’s complete Diaries, to be published by Liveright/Norton. He is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow. He was awarded the 2010 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize for his rendering of Michael Maar’s Speak, Nabokov, a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship to translate Clemens J. Setz’s The Frequencies, and a commendation from the judges of the 2012 Schlegel-Tieck Prize for his translation of Thomas Pletzinger’s Funeral for a Dog. His literary criticism has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, Bookforum, The Nation, and other publications. He was a 2003–2004 Fulbright Scholar in Berlin and is a graduate of Vassar College.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded in a conference room in Nyack, NY on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Benjamin by me.
“The samurai believed that to be a complete person, you had to study the sword, but you also had to study the pen. They called it Bun Bu Ryo Do, the way of pen and sword. You were complete if you were a writer and a warrior, and I’ve really embraced that in my life.”
Maria Alexander joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, her intern/protege relationships with Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman, and the art of shinkendo swordplay and what George R.R. Martin gets wrong about swords. Also, we learn what happens when Lovecraftian pastiche goes wrong, how Maria realized that even geniuses have to write drafts, how her parents took syncretism to new heights, how Mr. Wicker made its way from short story to screenplay to first novel, how she deals with severe carpal tunnel syndrome, and what her love of swords has taught her about editing her work! Give it a listen!
“My mother believed everything she saw on ‘In Search Of . . .’, so our household was very imaginative.”
- Theodora Goss, Valya Lupescu, Nancy Hightower
- John Crowley, Scott Edelman
- Michael Dirda
- Daniel Levine
- Lisa Borders
About our Guest
Maria Alexander writes pretty much every damned thing and gets paid to do it. She’s a produced screenwriter and playwright, published games writer, virtual world designer, award-winning copywriter, interactive theatre designer, prolific fiction writer, snarkiologist and poet. Her stories have appeared in publications such as Chiaroscuro Magazine, Gothic.net and Paradox, as well as in acclaimed anthologies alongside legends such as David Morrell and Heather Graham. Her second poetry collection – At Louche Ends: Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned and the Absinthe-Minded – was nominated for the 2011 Bram Stoker Award. And she was a winner of the 2004 AOL Time-Warner “Time to Rhyme” poetry contest. When she’s not wielding a katana at her local shinkendo dojo, she’s being outrageously spooky or writing Doctor Who filk. She lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats, a pervasive sense of doom, and a purse called Trog. Her new novel is Mr. Wicker (Raw Dog Screaming Press).
Credits: This episode’s music is Ironside (Excerpt), Battle Without Honor or Humanity, The Chase, and Woo Hoo from the Kill Bill soundtrack. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Alexander’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Ms. Alexander by me.