Art Works Blog

NEA Arts: Giving Voice

In the new issue of NEA Arts, two stories focus on the idea of giving voice. Ever read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Or anything by Colette? Or how about Stieg Larsson's popular Elisabeth Salander series? In "Literature's Invisible Art," Rebecca Gross takes a look at the art of literary translation, without which none of these works would be available to English-speaking audiences. The piece focuses on Nancy Naomi Carlson, a poet and recent NEA Literature Translation Fellow, and on Djibouti writer Abdourahman Waberi, whose work (in French) is Carlson's latest translation project. In this excerpt from the NEA Arts article, Carlson discusses the challenges involved in bringing literary work from one language into another.

“There’s always going to be a flaw,” said [Nancy Naomi] Carlson. No matter how long you might work at it, “It’s always going to be imperfect.” She invoked a quote by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko: “Translation is like a woman. If it is beautiful, it is not faithful. If it is faithful, it is most certainly not beautiful.”

"Telling Their Stories" by Michael Gallant looks at another translation project, of sorts. Arena Stage's Voices of Now project uses theater as a platform to allow marginalized communities to have their say, translating their everyday experience to one that can be shared by the wider community. What started as an engagement initiative for the DC-based theater's local community has now, through a partnership with the U.S. Department of State, expanded its reach overseas to communities in India and Croatia. In this excerpt from the article, Maja Popović, a disabled Croatian woman, speaks about the importance of Voices of Now in her country, where disability is seen as a shameful condition.

“As soon as I learned that these wonderful people were coming to our country with such a noble mission of raising awareness about problems people with disabilities encounter every day, I was immediately on board,” said [Maja] Popović. “There is still much to be done on the subject here, but the idea of addressing people—well, audiences in this case—seemed like a very good start.”

Click through to read the entire issue's worth of articles about inspiring art projects and artists with an international focus. Have a comment on an article? We'd love to hear what you think on the NEA Facebook page or on Twitter where you'll find us at @NEAarts.

Add new comment