| Back to Blog >

Looking Back on a Day of Translation

Translators, authors, and literary enthusiasts gathered Fairfax, Virginia, this past April for a daylong discussion of all things translation.

In recent years the number of translation-related activities at literary festivals and other venues continues to grow. Yet it is still rare to spend an entire day talking about translation and connecting with colleagues working with many different languages. One of my translation highlights is gathering with fellow writers, translators, and editors at the ALTA Conference every autumn.

This April 5 it was an honor to be invited to participate in the inaugural Day of Translation, hosted by the Alan Cheuse International Writers Center in partnership with the Center for the Art of Translation. It was a rich day packed with panels by a stellar cast of heavy hitters covering a broad range of genres, languages, and translation approaches. There were tears, sighs, silence, and laughter throughout the day as we listened to writers and translators read and discuss works from across the globe (Kurdish Iraq, Denmark, Burma, South Korea, Syria, First Nations, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, and more).

Each topic could have been expanded into a daylong event; question-and-answer periods opened doors to more discussion than we had time for. Between panels, we enjoyed passionate conversations and wished we didn’t have to run back to another panel. (Not that it felt rushed at all—everything was perfectly timed thanks to flawless organizing, but we really could have kept talking for days.) At the end of the afternoon Karen Emmerich skillfully picked up threads from various parts of the day into a keynote address about the complex role of the interpreter-activist in humanitarian conflicts.

Until next year’s ALTA Conference in Minneapolis, I get to revisit my notes and explore connections I made or rekindled during the event. It is a gift to have one more venue to continue our work, and I look forward to hearing about future endeavors by the Cheuse Center.

Audio Table of Contents


Keynote Address: “Translation as Advocacy: For and Against” by Karen Emmerich


Panel: “Translating Contemporary Spanish Literature” with Roy Kesey, Sergio Waisman, and María José Giménez

0:00 Introductions

4:41 Roy Kesey on the theme of the panel: Knots

5:51 Sergio Waisman

20:26 María José Giménez

36:18 Roy Kesey

39:56 Panelists on the engagement of authors in the translation process

46:05 Audience Q & A


Panel: “The Politics of Translation” with Howard Norman, Soledad Marambio, and Kareem Abdulrahman

0:00 Introductions

4:15 Howard Norman

22:34 Soledad Marambio

29:54 Kareem Abdulrahman

44:40 Conclusion and audience Q & A


Panel: “Literature in Asylum and Exile” with Khet Mar, Osama Alomar, and Bruce Fulton

0:00 Khet Mar reading

3:10 Osama Alomar reading

8:46 Khet Mar on journey from past in Burma to present in the United States

12:00 Osama Alomar on coming to the United States from Syria and translating Fullblood Arabian in his cab

23:47 Bruce Fulton on how exile has shaped Korean literature

40:21 Khet Mar on how her writing has changed since coming to the United States

42:14 Osama Alomar on how his writing has changed since writing full-time in Syria and since the war in Syria

43:26 Conclusion and audience Q & A