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ASU professors recognized for excellence in literary translation

October 31, 2013

Translation, the rendering of text from one language into another, is an art and a science, a skill and a craft, a talent and the result of hard work.

It is through translation that many speakers of English met the hunchback of Notre Dame, the girl with the dragon tattoo, Achilles, or Du Fu. A good translation can open a whole world of literature to readers the world over.

School of International Letters and Cultures faculty members were nationally and internationally recognized this year for bringing important literary works into English with awards from the Academy of American Poets and PEN Center USA.

For their translation of Virginie Lalucq and Jean-Luc Nancy’s "Fortino Samano: The Overflowing of the Poem," professors Cynthia Hogue and Sylvain Gallais are the recipients of this year’s Harold Morton Landon Translation award from the Academy of American Poets, which recognizes a published translation of poetry from any language into English. "Fortino Samano" combines poem and philosophy to discover the intersection of intellect and language. The book features the original French preserved alongside the English translation.

Gallais is a Clinical Professor of French with the School of International Letters and Cultures. He earned a doctorate in political science with an economic policy option from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (IEP) in Paris.

Hogue has published seven collections of poetry. In 2003, she joined the ASU Department of English as the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry.

"We are so honored to have received the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets, and pleased that our translation of such a magnificent work in the original will now help to bring it the recognition it deserves,” Hogue says.

In addition to this prestigious award, School of International Letters and Cultures Regents' Professor David Foster was a finalist in this year’s PEN Center USA’s annual awards program for his translation of Jose Pablo Feinmann’s "Timote," a fictionalization of the 1970 abduction and execution of Argentinean general and former president, Pablo Eugenio Aramburu.

Established in 1982, the PEN Center program is a unique, regional competition that recognizes literary excellence in eleven categories, including fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and translation. 

“I am delighted that Feinmann’s important novel was a finalist for this award,” Foster says. “I enjoyed translating this text very much and I hope readers of 'Timote' in English will find it valuable in understanding contemporary sociohistorical processes in Argentina.”

Foster has written extensively on Argentine narrative and theater, and he has held Fulbright teaching appointments in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. This summer, he will be conducting a seminar in Buenos Aires, examining the national impact of Jewish immigrants in the social, economic, political and cultural life of Argentina.

The School of International Letters and Cultures offers courses in translation and an undergraduate certificate in Spanish/English translation. The traslation certificate curriculum is designed to provide advanced training required for professional translation in public and private sectors, preparing students for the rigorous examinations required by national and international agencies, and training students for professional fields, such as international business, public health, medicine and law, in accordance with guidelines recommended by the American Literary Translators Association.

Students accepted into the certificate program must demonstrate an advanced proficiency in both Spanish and English, and demonstrate extensive work experience using Spanish and English or bilingual writing competence in English and Spanish. The school offers courses in technical and scientific translation, business and financial translation, and medical and legal translation.

"Literary translation bridges the delicate emotional connections between cultures and languages, and furthers the understanding of human beings across national borders," the association explains. "In the act of literary translation, the soul of another culture becomes transparent and the translator recreates the refined sensibilities of foreign countries and their people through the linguistic, musical, rhythmic and visual possibilities of the new language."

In addition to the translation certificate, the School of International Letters and Cultures offers the Judith Radke Award in Translation in honor and memory of Judith Radke, the late ASU professor emerita of French. After Radke’s death, her sister and several friends established the award in 2010 to encourage students to pursue excellence in translation.

“Translation often goes unappreciated,” says Brandon Geist, the 2012 recipient of the award for his translation of a Japanese short story by Hirano Keiichiro, “and this generous award legitimizes it from an academic point.”

"Literary translation demonstrates that human beings everywhere have more in common than their differences, confronting as we do the shared joys and anxieties of existence, identity, mortality and consciousness itself," says George O'Connell, 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellow. 

The School of International Letters and Cultures and the Department of English are academic units in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.