In my novel A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, which was written in English and translated into fourteen languages, I made liberal use of these sayings in creating the voices of four older village women who mutter and opine and worry in idioms. In translating each phrase into English (and watching them be translated into other languages, though my involvement was limited to clarification and approval of slight variations), I had to strip each idiom of its connoted, cultural meaning in my own mind (e.g., it’s difficult for a Persian to think of I want to eat your liver as anything other than I love you, especially since modern speech has shed a few of its syllables so it sounds more like I want your liver). Then I rebuilt the expressions using precise images (e.g., we are talking about eating a liver, not admiring one).
By Dina Nayeri, on the translation of idioms
It’s finally March! And the first of our Spring 2014 literature-in-translation titles is about to come out (The Retrospective by A.B. Yehoshua in paperback on March 25). Click the link to see all of our spring LiT titles.
Imagine a literary genre much like a diary but composed for immediate consumption. A genre part commonplace book, part Blue Octavo Notebooks, part Twitter stream. Imagine something like a blog but written by public intellectuals and printed in major newspapers, or read out on national radio or television. Imagine a column in a newspaper that is too short to make a rigorous political argument, but that isn’t necessarily aiming to either. Imagine its strong social-democratic values, often only implied and somehow still rooted in the country’s liberation from the Nazi occupation in 1945. This kind of writing is observational, street sketching really, and even though it isn’t beholden to any significant journalistic accountability, it still affects through the instant recognizability of the moments it relates.