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"He was quite helpful, but then I trusted him too much."

Lydia Davis on Madame Bovary, Nabokov's Marginalia, and Translation: [YouTube] In this video from the Center for the Art of Translation, author and translator Lydia Davis discusses how she used Nabokov's margin notes from his edition of Madame Bovary to aid her own translation. She also discusses in-depth translation choices that she made. A full audio recording of this event can be hard on the Center's website.
posted by Fizz on Sep 15, 2014 - 9 comments

"This is a book for both the new and experienced reader."

Deep Chords: Haruki Murakami’s ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ [New York Times] Patti Smith reviews Haruki Murakami's latest novel. Book Trailer
posted by Fizz on Aug 12, 2014 - 40 comments

Seven roses later ... each rose opens like an ideogram, like a gate

In an essay reflecting on translation, Yoko Tawada reads the poems of Paul Celan as if he had written in Japanese. The essay's translator, Susan Bernofsky, offers context, and in an earlier piece, Rivka Galchen considers "Yoko Tawada's Magnificent Strangeness." More conventional introductions to Celan are available via the Poetry Foundation page on Celan, 14 poems from Breathturn, and a video of Celan reading "Allerseelen" (English sub.; alt. trans.). Tawada's own poetry includes "The Flight of the Moon" (video in Japanese). [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Jul 13, 2014 - 1 comment

Cultural Cannibal: The journalism of Gabriel García Márquez

“Would I want to read the young García Márquez’s journalism if it didn’t happen to be written by García Márquez?” I asked myself while speedwalking toward Bocars Libros in the Barracas neighborhood of Buenos Aires, and again while shelling out 150 pesos for the three-volume Obra periodística with an introduction by Jacques Gilard. Back home, reading his work, my anxiety was quickly dispelled. Gabriel García Marquez (1927–2014) is known in the English-speaking world for his lyrical, densely descriptive novels, but as a journalist he was acerbically funny, charming, and slightly bizarre. The young García Márquez devoured what surrounded him. Everything was raw material for his newspaper columns—film adaptations of Faulkner, nudism, dancing bears, the letter X, a woman he saw in an ice cream parlor who may have been the “ugliest I’ve ever seen in my life, or, on the contrary, the most disconcertingly beautiful.” [more inside]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Jul 5, 2014 - 7 comments

For them, every valley and desert was home.

Travel was always desirable to them / And they visited every continent … They considered travel and homeland synonymous / For them, every valley and desert was home. [more inside]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Jun 8, 2014 - 7 comments

That is I's gleaning. Now is doing of it.

A-hind of hill, ways off to sun-set-down, is sky come like as fire, and walk I up in way of this, all hard of breath, where is grass colding on I's feet and wetting they. [more inside]
posted by infinitewindow on Jun 7, 2014 - 35 comments

the snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me…

The Egyptian singer Nesma Mahgoub, in the song’s chorus, sings, “Discharge thy secret! I shall not bear the torment!” and “I dread not all that shall be said! Discharge the storm clouds! The snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me…” From one song to the next, there isn’t a declensional ending dropped or an antique expression avoided, whether it is sung by a dancing snowman or a choir of forest trolls. The Arabic of “Frozen” is frozen in time, as “localized” to contemporary Middle Eastern youth culture as Latin quatrains in French rap.
So Disney used to translate its movies into Egyptian Arabic but recently switched to Modern Standard Arabic, which is somewhat more formal.
posted by MartinWisse on Jun 4, 2014 - 19 comments

The Moby Dick Variations

Where does one novel end and another one begin? One day not too long ago, I was thinking about this as I considered what sort of message to send next to my little email list. I decided to do a little research. Gather just a bit of data.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on May 25, 2014 - 22 comments

Dismantling and rebuilding someone else's work

Starting up fan localization projects feels much like amassing the cast of your typical role-playing game: a group of random strangers rally around a common cause before embarking on their journey together. In was in this way that Mandelin and Erbrecht found each other — stumbling to create something beautiful and meaningful, and realizing they could make that beautiful and meaningful thing better by working together. — For Polygon, Alexa Ray Corriea dives into the underground world of fan-translated games.
posted by MartinWisse on May 21, 2014 - 7 comments

Dummy text

Rrow itself, let it be sorrow; let him love it; let him pursue it, ishing for its acquisitiendum. The standard lorem ipsum text has been translated by Jaspreet Singh Boparai. Lorem ipsum is a standard placeholder text which has been used since the 16th Century and is a mangling of a passage from Cicero's De finibus bonorum et malorum, specifically Book 1, passages 32-33, which you can read in translation here.
posted by Kattullus on Mar 17, 2014 - 15 comments

Text Me, Ishmael

Although Moby-Dick is regarded as a pinnacle of American Romanticism, its themes of destiny and defiance transcend national borders. Over the decades, the Library of Congress has procured editions translated into Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Lithuanian. But the latest translation eschews the written word altogether, telling the story through emoji icons—the pictograms seen in text messages and e-mails. It’s the most ambitious (and playful) effort to explore whether emoji itself is becoming a free-standing language.
posted by chavenet on Mar 1, 2014 - 57 comments

81 Cantonese proverbs in one image.

This cartoon by graphic designer and cartoonist 阿塗 (Ah To) contains 81 Cantonese proverbs and idioms in one image. It was originally published on the Hong Kong website Passion Times, and was inspired by a 1559 oil painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder called Netherlandish Proverbs. [more inside]
posted by Corinth on Feb 26, 2014 - 17 comments

Translations of Stefan Grabinski, Poland's Poe, Lovecraft, of sorts

Stefan Grabiński is often called "the Polish Poe" or "the Polish Lovecraft," which are both useful for short-hand, but don't quite capture Grabiński's style. As suggested by China Miéville in the Guardian, "where Poe's horror is agonised, a kind of extended shriek, Grabinski's is cerebral, investigative. His protagonists are tortured and aghast, but not because they suffer at the caprice of Lovecraftian blind idiot gods: Grabinski's universe is strange and its principles are perhaps not those we expect, but they are principles - rules - and it is in their exploration that the mystery lies." If you haven't heard of Grabiński, it is probably because only a few of his works have recently been translated to English. The primary translator is Miroslaw Lipinski, who runs a site dedicated to Grabiński. You can read Lipinksi's translation of Strabismus (PDF linked inside), and The Wandering Train online. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 10, 2014 - 11 comments

"In a way the easiest and laziest way is to write in English."

"I love your work, Jonathan…but in a way you are smeared by English American literature…I think certain American literature is overrated, massively overrated." In the session on the global novel during the first day of this year's Jaipur Literature Festival, Jonathan Franzen served as a giant piñata, as Xiaolu Guo and Jhumpa Lahiri bemoaned American literary culture and lamented "the lack of energy put into translation in the American market."
posted by RogerB on Jan 20, 2014 - 70 comments

Nightmare Before Christmas: known throughout England, France, Italy ...

If you've like Jack, the Pumpkin King, and you've grown so tired of the same old thing, you know all the songs from the The Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack (YT Playlist), and you're done with the covers in the 2006 reissue bonus CD (featuring Fiona Apple, Fall Out Boy, She Wants Revenge and Panic! at the Disco) and the 2008 cover album, Nightmare Revisited (YT Playlist), why not check out the official translated versions? There's L'Étrange Noël de Monsieur Jack, Pesadilla Antes De Navidad, and ナイトメアー·ビフォア·クリスマス, to name a few versions. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Nov 13, 2013 - 12 comments

Seiobo There Below

László Krasznahorkai's most recently translated book, Seiobo There Below, whose first chapter can be read online, is a collection of interconnected stories about art and revelation, stories composed almost entirely of pages-long sentences, "long, sinewy sentences," sentences which might make you think "Krasznahorkai holds the run-on in a suffocating bear hug," as Adam Z. Levy has it, sentences which other critics call "captivating", "vertiginous", "apparently endless [...] like diving deep underwater, with no hope of coming up for air, or like releasing the brakes on a bicycle at the top of a steep hill", but those sentences, which go on for pages as they shift scenes and perspectives, serve as vehicles for a terrifying aesthetic bliss or bewilderment [more inside]
posted by RogerB on Nov 8, 2013 - 6 comments

"As always, they are published without Medvedev’s permission."

america: a prophecy, by Kirill Medvedev [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 30, 2013 - 7 comments

Translator Beware

"Why translators should give Dr Alaa Al Aswany and Knopf Doubleday a wide berth" is a "cautionary tale," which involves literary agent Andrew Wylie, seen in a recent metafilter post, and translator Jonathan Wright who says, "The least I can say is that he [Dr. Aswany] is not an honorable man. But let others be the judge, as I explain the origins of our dispute." Some of Dr. Aswany's objections to Wright's translation can be found in this file.
posted by ChuckRamone on Oct 28, 2013 - 16 comments

Contemporary poetry from around the world in English translation

Poetry International Rotterdam has contemporary poetry in English translation from all over the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, including countries as different as Argentina, China, Finland, Iran and Romania, in languages as unrelated as French, Malayalam and Zulu, as well as many poems originally in the English language. The poets range in age and stature from those barely over thirty to Nobel prize winners. There are also videos and audio recordings of poets reading, as well as articles about poetry.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 13, 2013 - 5 comments

Over the Abyss in Rye

If you truly would like to hear this story, first of all you will probably want to find out where I was born, how I spent my stupid childhood, what my parents did before my birth—in a word, all that David Copperfield rot. But truthfully speaking, I don’t have any urge to delve into that. "If Holden Caulfield Spoke Russian" (SLNYer)
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Sep 16, 2013 - 15 comments

"A mind as curious, subtle, and complex as yours, as mine, as anyone’s."

The book that helped me understand my son. Author David Mitchell's introduction to The Reason I Jump, a newly-translated memoir by thirteen-year-old Naoki Higashida on what it's like to have autism.
posted by Rory Marinich on Sep 8, 2013 - 13 comments

Found in Translation

Though it is common to lament the shortcomings of reading an important work in any language other than the original and of the “impossibility” of translation, I am convinced that works of philosophy (or literature for that matter — are they different?) in fact gain far more than they lose in translation. [more inside]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Sep 5, 2013 - 43 comments

Weilue: The Peoples Of The West

This country (the Roman Empire) has more than four hundred smaller cities and towns. It extends several thousand li in all directions. The king has his capital (that is, the city of Rome) close to the mouth of a river (the Tiber). The outer walls of the city are made of stone. - A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE, Quoted in zhuan 30 of the Sanguozhi. Published in 429 CE. Draft English translation
posted by The Whelk on Sep 1, 2013 - 28 comments

Go home, Duolingo, you are drunk.

Weird Duolingo Phrases (SLTumblr). [more inside]
posted by Elementary Penguin on Aug 29, 2013 - 34 comments

Speaking in foreign tongues

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates has spent the last few months in Paris specifically studying French. His latest dispatch, "Or Perhaps You Are Too Stupid to Learn French," looks at how hard it is to apply the rules of new language in real time, while fighting with one's perceptions and limitations (Other dispatches are here).

Washington Post writer Jay Matthews asks if learning a foreign language is worth it and recounts his own struggles studying Chinese. Another WaPo writer, Elizabeth Chang, recalls her experience in learning Arabic.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Aug 22, 2013 - 200 comments

Achilles sat on the shore and looked out to the wine-dark sea

That Homer used the epithet "wine-dark" to describe the sea in the Iliad and Odyssey so puzzled 19th Century English Prime Minister William Gladstone that he thought the Ancient Greeks must have been colorblind. Since then many other solutions have been proposed. Scientists have argued that Ancient Greek wine was blue and some scholars have put forward the case that Homer was describing the sea at sunset. Radiolab devoted a segment to the exploration of this issue, saying that Gladstone was partly right. Another interpretation is that the Ancient Greeks focused on different aspects of color from us. Classicist William Harris' short essay about purple in Homer and Iliad translator Caroline Alexander's longer essay The Wine-like Sea make the case for this interpretation.
posted by Kattullus on Aug 12, 2013 - 108 comments

Navajo Star Wars

See 11 minutes of Star Wars -- Dubbed into Navajo!
posted by Think_Long on Jul 4, 2013 - 25 comments

Translating the 'Zibaldone' of Giacomo Leopardi

“Fifteen years of diary entries. From 1817 to 1832. Some just a couple of lines. Some maybe a thousand words. At a rhythm ranging from two or three a day to one a month, or even less frequent. Suddenly, translating Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone it occurs to me that if it were written today, it would most likely be a blog.”—Tim Parks writes of the challenges of translating from this “collection of personal impressions, aphorisms, profound philosophical observations, philological analyses, literary criticism and notes” written by “the finest Italian poet after Dante.” Meanwhile, a team based at the University of Birmingham have prepared the first-ever complete translation of the Zibaldone into English, which is due for publication next month. [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Jun 27, 2013 - 7 comments

The original Star Wars film to be dubbed in the Navajo language of Dine

The various Star Wars movies have been translated into at least 39 languages (as also seen here in a set of 16 international logos for Attack of the Clones), but the Navajo Nation is set to be the first Native American tribe to officially dub the original Star Wars film. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Apr 28, 2013 - 18 comments

International Art English

"The internationalized art world relies on a unique language. Its purest articulation is found in the digital press release. This language has everything to do with English, but it is emphatically not English. It is largely an export of the Anglophone world and can thank the global dominance of English for its current reach. But what really matters for this language—what ultimately makes it a language—is the pointed distance from English that it has always cultivated. " - Triple Canopy magazine on why do artists' statments and press releases sound so utterly odd and confusing.
posted by The Whelk on Apr 26, 2013 - 45 comments

Secret Universe

The Hidden Life Of the Cell (57:24) There is a battle playing out inside your body right now. It started billions of years ago and it is still being fought in every one of us every minute of every day. It is the story of a viral infection - the battle for the cell. This film reveals the exquisite machinery of the human cell system from within the inner world of the cell itself - from the frenetic membrane surface that acts as a security system for everything passing in and out of the cell, the dynamic highways that transport cargo across the cell and the remarkable turbines that power the whole cellular world to the amazing nucleus housing DNA and the construction of thousands of different proteins all with unique tasks. The virus intends to commandeer this system to one selfish end: to make more viruses. And they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. Exploring the very latest ideas about the evolution of life on earth and the bio-chemical processes at the heart of every one of us, and revealing a world smaller than it is possible to comprehend, in a story large enough to fill the biggest imaginations.
You may be familiar with molecular movies from my two previous megaposts collecting them, but this extended documentary uses original animation that is collected into a coherent educational narrative and is just so fucking gorgeous. Enjoy.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Mar 24, 2013 - 20 comments

Toren Smith, 1960-2013

I had discovered the Animage comics version of Nausicaa, which provided my entry into the world of Japanese comics--a world which was to cause me to devote my life to bringing it to all English-speaking people.
Toren Smith, a brilliant editor and translator and one of Japanese comics' first and greatest advocates in the English-speaking world, is dead. [more inside]
posted by Sokka shot first on Mar 7, 2013 - 30 comments

The bLogicarian

"The name "bLogicarian" may be one of the the most pretentious conglomerations of philhellenic puns I could concoct." A blog on language, poetry and translation. [more inside]
posted by frimble on Feb 5, 2013 - 1 comment

Beyond untranslatable words

In 1995, an Atlantic story on the first Chinese translation of Ulysses closed with the offhand remark that "no one in China is offering to translate Finnegans Wake." Today on the (day after the) 131st anniversary of his birth, James Joyce's famously difficult work is a bestseller in China.
posted by Lorin on Feb 3, 2013 - 30 comments

Métafiltre, DemanderMéta and ParlerMéta

For non-anglophones, the English names of worldwide brands, music bands and other cultural items are both ubiquitous and slightly mysterious. Here what the English (plus some German, Spanish and Japanese) names of 52 brands/logotypes and 30 musicians/records look like when very loosely and somewhat lazily translated in French. Some extras can be found in the comments (note: annoying pop-up at the start).
posted by elgilito on Jan 22, 2013 - 72 comments

You Can't Say That In English

Approximately 375 million people speak English as their first language, and 470 million to over a billion people speak it as a second language (to varying degrees). Even so, there are some words that do not exist in English, even with new word entries periodically being added to the Oxford Dictionary. 25 words that do not exist in English. [more inside]
posted by anya32 on Jan 10, 2013 - 134 comments

"and even when there's nowhere left, no refuge for their pain, they turn to the illusion of travelling" - Kajal Ahmad, translated by Mimi Khalvati

The Poetry Translation Centre pairs living poets from Asia, Africa and Latin America with English-language translators and then puts the resulting translations online. You can browse the poetry by country, language, translator or poet. Besides the hundreds of individual poems, all presented in the original and both literal and poetic translations, many have been recorded in dual readings by translator and poet, and put online as videos or mp3s (look for the microphone or camera icon). There are also podcasts to download, articles to read, and chapbooks to purchase. It is absurd to single out a few poems as favorites, but nonetheless, here are a few that struck me hard, Birds by Kajal Ahmad, translated by Mimi Khalvati, Cataclysm and Songs by Conceição Lima, translated in a workshop, and Survivors by Choe Young-mi, translated by Kyoo Lee and Sarah Maguire (who is the founder and director of the Poetry Translation Centre). If these poems do not hit you, no need to worry as there are literally hundreds more to read. [via The Guardian]
posted by Kattullus on Jan 2, 2013 - 5 comments

Cities and the Soul

With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else. December 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Invisible Cities -- the sublime metaphysical travelogue by author-journalist Italo Calvino. In a series of pensive dialogues with jaded emperor Kublai Khan, the explorer Marco Polo describes a meandering litany of visionary and impossible places, dozens of surreal, fantastical cities, each poetically reifying ideas vital to language, philosophy, and the human spirit. This gracefully written love letter to urban life has inspired countless tributes, but it's just the most accessible of Calvino's fascinating literary catalogue. Look inside for a closer look at his most remarkable works, links to English translations of his magical prose, and collections of artistic interpretations from around the web -- including this treasure trove of essays, excerpts, articles, and recommended reading. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Dec 30, 2012 - 26 comments

Christmas Can Be Green And Bright

"Mele Kalikimaka" (Ukelele cords) is a Hawaiian-themed Christmas song written in 1949 by Robert Alex Anderson. The phrase is borrowed directly from English but since Hawaiian has a different phonological system - Hawaiian does not have the /r/ or /s/ of English and doesn't have the phonotactic constraints to allow consonants at the end of syllables or consonant clusters - "Merry Christmas" becomes "Mele Kalikimaka". Enjoy the canonical version with Bing Crosby And The Andrew Sisters (lounge remix) or by KT Tunstall or Bette Milder or Jimmy Buffet or Gianni And Sarah or The Puppini Sisters or Reel Big Fish or Country Western style or pared down instrumental or Celtic Rock style or performed on the Metro by Pokey LaFarge or ..whatever the hell this is.
posted by The Whelk on Dec 23, 2012 - 16 comments

Highlighting forgotten, neglected, abandoned, forsaken, unrecognized, unacknowledged, overshadowed, out-of-fashion, under-translated writers.

Writers No One Reads
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 17, 2012 - 34 comments

A.S. Kline's Poetry in Translation

TransLAtions! Get your free lit-e-rary transLAtions here! Ya want Ovid? Ya got Ovid! Ya got all your classic French poets, your Germans, your Italians, your Russians! Ya got a verse rendering of Zorilla's Don Juan Tenorio with parallel Spanish text! Ya got a rare translation of Vazha-Pshavela's Georgian epic Host and Guest! Everything downloadable in every major format! All edited by A.S. Kline!
posted by Iridic on Dec 6, 2012 - 8 comments

Everything has an end, only the sausage has two. And what would a monkey know of the taste of ginger anyway?

Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.
Bandar kya jaane adrak ka swad?
...and other foodie figures of speech. A few more to nibble on. Or jump to 27:25 of this week's World in Words to hear butchered renditions of the podcast crew's favorites (iTunes link)
posted by iamkimiam on Dec 2, 2012 - 17 comments

Steal My Book!

Steal My Book! Why I'm abetting a rogue translation of my novel. This is the story of how author Peter Mountford discovered that his novel A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism was being translated for an unauthorized e-book version, and why he decided to help the struggling Russian-language translator. Audio interview with Mountford on CBC Radio's Q.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl on Nov 19, 2012 - 4 comments

The loss of translators...

Readers of literature from "small" languages treasure their translators, who are rarely recognized and poorly compensated for their months and sometimes years of lonely labor.

Two of the best translators from Czech died in the last month or so. Michael Heim translated not only from Czech but also Russian, Croatian, Serbian, German, French and Dutch. Less well-known and less polyglotish, Peter Kussi translated Milan Kundera as well as Jiri Grusa, Karel Capek, Josef Skvorecky, Bohumil Hrabal and others whose works might otherwise be lost to English readers. [more inside]
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy on Nov 12, 2012 - 21 comments

If-

Michael Caine plays If- straight. Robert Morley hams If- up. Dennis Hopper misses a line or two, Harvey Keitel misses a whole stanza, and Grampa Simpson misses the point entirely. Joni Mitchell sings sublime. KeyKrusher raps ridiculous. Federer and Nadal go head to head, with commentary. International cricket pundits celebrate the Indian Premier League, Des Lynam toasts World Cup 98, and a failing football manager addresses a press conference. A teenager learns from an angel, and seven year old Humza learns If- for himself. [more inside]
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth on Nov 1, 2012 - 18 comments

Shakespeare: Globe to Globe

Shakespeare: Globe to Globe was a series of 37 Shakespeare plays performed in 37 different languages presented at the reconstructed Shakespeare Globe theatre in London this summer. [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Oct 30, 2012 - 20 comments

“politics is full of deceit, treachery, and betrayal.”

Sunt tibi necessaria consilio pro electione? Q. Ciceronem, frater M., habet quaedam verba pro vobis in Commentariolum Petitionis [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 27, 2012 - 14 comments

The mines were frozen so they did not explode, while we walked for several kilometres along the [mine] fields.

The history of the Russian-Chechen conflict spans two centuries. Images of Chechen enemies were mentioned even in a lullaby by Lermontov that put children to sleep in the 19th century. War correspondents Robert Parsons, Sofie Shehab, Petra Prohazkova and Andrey Babitsky tell about the war they saw with their own eyes in Nino Kirtadze’s film “The Chechen Lullaby”. [more inside]
posted by infinite intimation on Oct 6, 2012 - 7 comments

Banjo Underground

I Was Climbin The Stairs At Machu Picchu / Found My Cellphone And Tried To Reach You. Chester, Nova Scotia's Old Man Luedecke does what he does best: strums a banjo and tells some wandering stories, live at Toronto's Great Hall. Also in his backyard. On his davenport. In the bathtub. Sometimes he does covers. Sometimes he makes them more interesting by translating them into a language he doesn't speak.
posted by mannequito on Sep 16, 2012 - 7 comments

"The banners of the King of Hell come forth"

Mary Jo Bang has a new translation of Dante's Inferno in contemporary English. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Sep 11, 2012 - 28 comments

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