I was terribly excited to come across Ramsey Scott's interview with a former professor of mine: essayist, editor, translator, poet, and scholar Ammiel Alcalay. He is the author of After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture, the cairo notebooks, from the warring factions, and Memories of Our Future: Selected Essays, 1982-1997. He has edited and translated the anthologies Keys to the Garden: New Israeli Writing and For/Za Sarajevo: A Tribute to Bosnia, in addition to translating The Tenth Circle of Hell, by Rezak Hukanovic; Portraits of Sarajevo and Sarajevo: A War Journal, by Zlatko Dizdarevic; and Nine Alexandrias and Sarajevo Blues, by Semezdin Mehmedinovic. Ammiel Alcalay teaches at Queens College, CUNY and the CUNY Graduate Center.
Here's an interesting excerpt on the limitations of translating literature:
This idea of NOT translating has become increasingly important to me. As I said before, now that we've entered a kind of post-NAFTA world, along with the post 9/11 idea that it might not be a bad thing to be informed about other parts of the world, all kinds of people are ready to step in as speculators, in some sense panning for the gold of some unknown potential Nobel Prize winner by suddenly becoming interested in all kinds of previously obscure literatures. I think of Thoreau's wonderful line that goes something to the effect of, if a man comes to your door trying to help, turn around and run. While there are a lot of good intentions out there now and some very valuable work being done, I remain deeply skeptical and suspicious about how translation continues to be done in this country. We get solitary literary works, removed from any context, and often this only helps to buttress and reconstitute the privileged ideas of art and the literary artifact in our own tradition, removing texts from social, political, economic, historical and spiritual contexts. So we get the one or several great novels of a writer or the book of selected poems without the letters, biographies, literary histories, politics, gossip, and everything else that embeds a text in a particular time and place.