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Revisiting Eastern Europe: The Politics of Translation

  • Skylight Room on the 9th Floor, CUNY Graduate Center 365 5th Avenue New York, NY, 10016 United States (map)

Translators Philip Boehm, Bela Shayevich, and Matvei Yankelevich explore the social and political implications of their craft, and how their latest projects fit into the international literary landscape. Hanna Krall epitomizes Polish reportage in Chasing the King of Hearts, Svetlana Alexievich collects oral histories in Secondhand Time, and Victoria Lomasko utilizes graphic journalism in Other Russias. All three books focus on familiar Eastern European events, but do so from perspectives less considered by American audiences. Although the books still face censorship and often a lack of mainstream attention, English-language translation allows for these works to travel further and wider. In turn, translation changes the global conversation on the 20th and 21st-century histories of this region.  

Moderated by professor of comparative literature Charity Scribner, this panel discussion will examine the process, production, and politics of translating contemporary Eastern European women writers. 

Philip Boehm has translated over thirty novels and plays from German and Polish, by authors such as Herta Müller, Franz Kafka, and Ilija Trojanow. He has received fellowships from the NEA and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation as well as numerous awards including the Found in Translation Award for his rendering of Hanna Krall’s Chasing the King of Hearts. He also works as a playwright and stage director and is the founding Artistic Director of Upstream Theater in St. Louis.

Matvei Yankelevich is an émigré poet and translator. He is a founding editor of Ugly Duckling Presse where he curates the Eastern European Poets Series since 2003. He teaches at Columbia University's School of the Arts and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College. His books include Some Worlds for Dr. Vogt (Black Square), Alpha Donut (United Artists), and Boris by the Sea (Octopus). His translations include Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms (Overlook), and (with Eugene Ostashevsky) Alexander Vvedensky's An Invitation for Me to Think (NYRB Poets), which received a National Translation Award. He received a fellowship for translation from the National Endowment for the Arts for 2016.

Bela Shayevich is a writer, translator, and illustrator. She translated Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time (Random House 2016). Her translations have appeared in Little Star, St. Petersburg Review, Calque, and n+1, among other journals.

Charity Scribner teaches and writes about European culture. Her fields of specialization are British, French, German, and Polish literature from the nineteenth century to the present, critical theory, and contemporary art. Her publications include After the Red Army Faction: Gender, Culture, and Militancy (Columbia 2014), Requiem for Communism (MIT 2003), and articles for the New Left Review, Critical Inquiry, and Grey Room. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Humboldt Foundation, the Fulbright US Student Program, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst.

Chasing the King of Hearts

Hanna Krall
When her husband is arrested in Nazi-occupied Poland, Izolda endures unending brutality to ensure his safety.

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