4.4 “A short, sharp punch to the face”: José Revueltas’ The Hole (El Apando) with Alia Trabucco Zerán and Sophie Hughes (CH)

Alia Trabucco Zerán, award-winning author of The Remainder (La Resta), and Women Who Kill (Las Homicidas),and Sophie Hughes, Alia’s translator and finalist for the International Booker Prize talk with Novel Dialogue host Chris Holmes about a novel that has shaped their lives as writers and thinkers: The Hole by José Revueltas. Sophie and Alia discuss how The Hole, written while Revueltas was held in the infamous Lecumberri prison, purposefully makes readers feel lost in a small, confined space. Reading a section from her co-translation of The Hole, published in 1969 as El Apando, Sophie considers how the novel’s intense feelings of confinement and limitation prompt a contemplation of what exactly defines freedom. The conversation turns on how the novel does not spare you from having “been victim of a violent book yourself,” and that literature which confronts our shared inhumanity toward prisoners should make you feel uncomfortable. In a series of thoughtful exchanges, the novelist and her translator confront the difficulties of preserving the immersiveness of the novel’s affect while being attuned to the precise choices and sacrifices of drawing out the novel in English. The episode ends with our season’s signature question, and a wonderful example of untranslatable Chilean Spanish from Alia.

Mentioned in this episode:

Hurricane SeasonFernanda Melchor, trans. Sophie Hughes (2020)
Paradais, Fernanda Melchor, trans. Sophie Hughes (2022)
The Hole, José Revueltas, trans. Sophie Hughes and Amanda Hopkinson (1969/2018)
El Luto Humano(The Stone Knife), José Revueltas (1990)
Amanda Hopkinson, translator
Lecumberri Prison, “The Black Palace”

Listen and Read:

Audio: “A short, sharp punch to the face”

Transcript 4.4 “A short, sharp punch to the face”

4.6 Translation is the Closest Way to Read: Ann Goldstein and Saskia Ziolkowski Novel Dialogue

In our season finale, Ann Goldstein, renowned translator of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, gives a master class in the art and business of translation. Ann speaks to Duke scholar Saskia Ziolkowski and host Aarthi Vadde about being the face of the Ferrante novels, and the curious void that she came to fill in the public imagination in light of Ferrante’s anonymity. In a profession long characterized by invisibility, Ann reflects on her own celebrity and the changing orthodoxies of the book business. Where once having a translator’s name on a book cover would be sure to kill interest, now there are movements to display author’s and translator’s names together. Ann reads an excerpt in Italian from Primo Levi’s The Truce, followed by her re-translation of the autobiographical story for The Complete Works of Primo Levi. She then offers an extraordinary walk through of her decision-making process by honing in on the difficulty of translating one key word “scomposti.” Listening to Ann delineate and discard choices, we are reminded of Italo Calvino’s assertion (echoed by Ann) that translation is indeed the closest way to read. This season’s signature question on “untranslatables” yields another brilliant meditation on word choice and the paradoxical task of arriving at precise approximations. Plus, Ann and Saskia reveal some of their favorite Italian women writers, several of whom Ann has brought into English for the first time. Mentions: –Elena Ferrante –Jennifer Croft –Primo Levi, The Periodic Table –Primo Levi, The Truce, from The Complete Works of Primo Levi –Stuart Woolf, original translator of Levi, If This is the Man –Catherine Gallagher, Nobody’s Story –Italo Calvino –Marina Jarre, Return to Latvia –Elsa Morante, Arturo’s Island –Emily Wilson, only female translator of The Odyssey –Jenny McPhee –Cesare Garboli Find out more about Novel Dialogue and its hosts and organizers here. Contact us, get that exact quote from a transcript, and explore many more conversations between novelists and critics. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  1. 4.6 Translation is the Closest Way to Read: Ann Goldstein and Saskia Ziolkowski
  2. 4.5a Novel Dialogue Bonus: Jean-Baptiste Naudy Reads from Claude McKay’s "Amiable with Big Teeth"
  3. 4.5 The Best Error You Can Make: Brent Hayes Edwards and Jean-Baptiste Naudy on Claude McKay
  4. 4.4 “A short, sharp punch to the face”: José Revueltas’ The Hole (El Apando) with Alia Trabucco Zerán and Sophie Hughes.
  5. 4.3 Strange Beasts of Translation: Yan Ge and Jeremy Tiang in Conversation
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