4.5 The Best Error You Can Make: Brent Hayes Edwards and Jean-Baptiste Naudy on Claude McKay (SW)

What can a French translator do with a novelist who writes brilliantly about the “confrontation between Englishes?” How can such a confrontation be made legible across the boundaries of language, nation, and history? Renowned scholar and translator Brent Hayes Edwards sits down with publisher and translator Jean-Baptiste Naudy to consider these questions in a wide-ranging discussion about translating the Jamaican American writer Claude McKay. They focus especially on the recent translation into French of McKay’s 1941 Amiable with Big Teeth, which paints a satirical portrait of efforts by 1930s Harlem intelligentsia to organize support for the liberation of fascist-controlled Ethiopia. Brent and Jean-Baptiste consider McKay’s lasting legacy and ongoing revival in the U.S. and France. Translating McKay into French, they note, is a matter of reckoning with France’s own imperial history. That history, along with McKay’s complex understanding of race both in the U.S. and abroad, is illuminated in this conversation about one of the Harlem Renaissance’s most celebrated writers. Be sure to check out this episode’s special bonus material for a dramatic, bilingual reading from Amiable with Big Teeth by Jean-Baptiste!

Mentioned in this episode:

Amiable with Big Teeth, Claude McKay (1941)
Les Brebis Noirs de Dieu, Claude McKay, Trans. Jean-Baptiste Naudy (2021)
The Practice of Diaspora, Brent Edwards Hayes (2003)
A Long Way from Home, Claude McKay (1937)
The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction 1948-1985, James Baldwin (1985)
Banjo, Claude McKay (1929)
Home to Harlem, Claude McKay (1928)
Romance in Marseille, Claude McKay (1929)
The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois’s (1903)
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
Mais leurs yeux dardaient sur Dieu, Zora Neale Hurston, Trans. Sika Fakambi
Passing, Nella Larsen (1929)
Quicksand, Nella Larsen (1928)
Cane, Jean Toomer (1923)
Quartier Noir, Claude McKay, Trans. Louis Guilloux (1932)
Dictionary of Untranslatables, Ed. Barbara Cassin et al. (2014)
Phantom Africa, Michel Leiris, Trans. Brent Hayes Edwards (2017)
The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon (1961)

Listen and read:

Audio: The Best Error You Can Make

Transcript: 4.5 The Best Error You Can Make

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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