In a PEN Transmissions interview from July 2019, Kapka Kassabova says that ‘good art by its very nature crosses all borders’. Today, in October, the need for such ‘good art’ is acute. And it’s not just national, physical borders that we traverse: literature moves us across personal, communal, and linguistic borders in particular, vital ways.
In this Granta x PEN Transmissions collaboration, we swim in the wake of International Translation Day, the celebration on 30 September of translators’ and translated writers’ roles in fostering internationalism. In the series, we give equal billing to writers and translators: we recognise writing and translation as cousins in craft, and we consider the two (or more) people who speak to us when we read in translation.
Additional borders are crossed in translated literature. It is perhaps telling that, in a political moment when boundaries are being reinforced and freedoms challenged, the publication and readership of literature in translation is increasing. Sigrid Rausing, in her introduction to Granta 147: 40th-Birthday Special, speaks about the ‘narratives of place’ so central to Granta’s editorial history. Such narratives are complex stories indeed, and this series takes many and varied looks at places, spaces, and the borders that sometimes-falsely, always-stubbornly, never-permanently circumscribe them.
Two lines from Peter Stamm and Michael Hofmann’s piece ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’, which opens the series, bespeak something of the relationships between subject, writer, translator and reader – and the boundaries they transgress – that this collaboration explores:
Peter: ‘The only thing I can do is write about him, so that the clean, well-lighted place isn’t completely lost to me’.
Michael: ‘I owe him the memory and the feeling of many stories, many people, many places’.
– Will Forrester, Editor, PEN Transmissions, and Luke Neima, Online Editor, Granta