Translation Conference Online!
Every week, I hear of yet another in-person conference cancelled due to Covid-19. Among ones I’d attended in the past or hoped to attend were the PEN World Voices Festival, BEA (BookExpoAmerica) and BookCon, and the American Library Association‘s annual conference. When the PEN World Voices Festival was cancelled (with now scaled-back online events), PEN worked with the Translation Committee to bring some of those panels into the September 2020 “Translating the Future” conference.
Alas, the persistence of the deadly pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of the “Translating the Future” conference that was supposed to be held at the Graduate Center of City College of New York and the Cullman Center of the New York Public library. Those institutions remain closed as of May 2020, with CCNY moving to online instruction through the summer and possibly through the fall. I’ve worked with the organizing committee for more than a year now, and we were reluctant to postpone the event to a later year because it’s supposed to commemorate the 50th year of PEN’s “World in Translation” conference in 1970 — which was convened by Gregory Rabassa and featured Irving Howe, Muriel Rukeyser, and Isaac Bashevis Singer — and to assess how the field of translation has developed and changed since then. In addition, taking the conference online has its own possibilities for connecting with people across the United States and around the world who would not have been able to travel to New York City without the pandemic.
One of the advantages of this new online conference is that we’re not wedded to the dates between September 24-26. In fact, we’ve decided to organize panels beginning…next week!
On Tuesday, May 12 at 1:30 pm Eastern time, the first panel will be livestreamed on the HowlRound panel, co-sponsored by PEN America, the Center for the Humanities at CUNY Graduate Center, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Titled “From 1970 to 2020 Translation Transformation: David Bellos in Conversation with Karen Emmerich,” this one-hour panel will explore how the “Translating the World” conference, billed as “the first international literary translation conference in the United States,” shaped U.S. literary culture. This conversation serves as an introduction to our 2020 “Translating the Future” series that will take place weekly, culminating in September with a symposium among Olga Tokarczuk’s translators into languages including English, Japanese, Hindi, and more.
You can find more information and a link to the Tuesday afternoon event here. The conversations will be archived, and archival materials for the conference will include photographs, news articles, and manifestos of the original conference from Princeton University’s archives. Later in the summer, we’ll have interactive activities for translators and students of translation. Stay tuned to this space for reports on the conference events, announcements of upcoming events — including panels on translating children’s literature — and more. The weekly conversations will be hosted by Esther Allen & Allison Markin Powell. You can send questions for David Bellos & Karen Emmerich to [email protected], anytime between now and during the course of their conversation on Tuesday.