Asymptote Journal
November 5, 2011 4:03 PM   Subscribe

"Asymptote is an exciting new international journal dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing. We are interested in encounters between languages and the consequences of these encounters. Though a translation may never fully replicate the original in effect (thus our name, 'asymptote': the dotted line on a graph that a mathematical function may tend towards but never reach), it is in itself an act of creation."
posted by beshtya (12 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
n+1, Asymptote, these bookworms need to stop acting like they didn't fail math.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 4:13 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

That "About" page is full of some pretty hilarious statements.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:52 PM on November 5, 2011

Can someone explain to me why it is (in itself) an act of creation? (Not rhetorical.)
posted by biffa at 4:57 PM on November 5, 2011

Looks really cool and substantial to me. But Cracked has a totally bitchin' "About" page, so best of luck next time Asymptote!
posted by threeants at 4:57 PM on November 5, 2011

Can someone explain to me why it is (in itself) an act of creation? (Not rhetorical.)

When you do literary translation, you're sort of trying to "re-write" the original in a new language. A lot of it is reading and listening closely so you don't miss the nuances. But then you have to find a way to render these nuances in the target languages, using the tools of that language, and that's where the "creative" part comes in.

It may be most easy to illustrate in the translation of verse: how do you translate verse where the rhythm is based on stressed/unstressed syllables, like the iambic pentameter in English, into a language where such stresses isn't used, such as French? The "classic" way is to use the French Alexandrine verse, in which the famous 17th century tragedies were written. But that's a controversial choice, because the "classic" French 17th century writers, such as Racine, tended to write in a very "disciplined" way, and that doesn't really suit Shakespeare.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:35 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

biffa - good question; I'm not sure I'd call it an act of creation in an overall sense, or even that it should be. Of course, new things are made when you take source text, with its web of connections to the culture, ideas and all the other contextual particularities of its native state and re-align it in an often quite different context in combinations of words that have their own burden. One of the big pleasures of translation for me is phrase-making, but I try not to be so seduced by that as to depart from the original because a felicitous set of English words with a fine ring to them is available.
The purpose of the exercise also matters, of course. Sometimes the text is supposed to convey a few ideas in a way that gives a certain impression, and if you manage that it's not so important how free you are; copywriting and so on come into this category to my mind. But high literature will be different; the idea is that the original author have put thought and effort into the writing and you should be trying to replicate that as faithfully as you can, even where ultimately it's not possible in the strictest sense.


The magazine looks interesting and will be book-marking, so thanks for the link. Would have been nice to have the originals as well, for peer learning and nit-picking purposes. Also wondered who's going to give some love to the Unvarying Burmese Poets.
posted by Abiezer at 5:44 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

thus our name, “asymptote”: the dotted line on a graph that a mathematical function may tend towards but never reach

Have just graded a load of calculus midterms, I need to point out that you can cross asymptotes, damn it!

Let's not even get started on the 'dotted line' thing.

People, read the fucking Wikipedia article before you start naming shit.
posted by hoyland at 6:13 PM on November 5, 2011

Abiezer: For some of the pieces (not including the Liao Yiwu, unfortunately), the originals are linked at the top of the side-bar, along with a translator's note.
posted by zhwj at 6:44 PM on November 5, 2011

Thanks, zhwj. It was the Liao piece I read; should have poked around more before moaning without warrant.
posted by Abiezer at 7:13 PM on November 5, 2011

villanelles, hoyland...they've translated the mathematics's an act of creation, literary not literal...
posted by jet_manifesto at 8:50 PM on November 5, 2011

Mod note: a couple of comments about formatting deleted, and quotation marks added
posted by taz (staff) at 1:38 AM on November 6, 2011

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