Art Works Blog

Creating a World

Washington, DC

Unai Elorriaga's novel Plants Don't Drink Coffee was one of the few Basque works translated into English this year?okay, it may well be the only Basque work translated into English this year. Despite a strong oral tradition of storytelling, few literary books in Basque?a language once forbidden by the dictator Franco to be spoken outside of the home?are translated into English. The NEA gave an International Literary Award to the not-for-profit literary press Archipelago Books in 2007 to translate and publish Elorriaga's work.

Elorriaga's book provides a poignant look at an eccentric Basque family, creating a world where children search out rare blue dragonflies to increase their intelligence and uncles create rugby fields out of golf courses.

To make this world real in another language, though, requires the art of the translator. As Amaia Gabantxo, the translator of Plants, notes in this excerpt from our Art Works podcast, you can't just translate the original text word-by-word in order to recreate the literary work, you have to recreate the world. [2:12]

Listen to the entire podcast with Elorriaga and Gabantxo.

And check the website Newsroom September 7 to find out who this year's NEA Translation Fellows are and what works they will be bringing to American audiences.


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