PEN America has announced the recipients of the 2016 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants, and we are delighted that Professor Karen Leeder is one of them, for her translation of Thick of It by Ulrike Almut Sandig. Sandig’s work suffuses contemporary settings with classicism, drawing inspiration in part from Goethe and Annette von Droste Hülshoff, as well as Paul Celan. Thick of It explores German history and landscape, the broader world, natural and human, and language itself, and is stunningly rendered in Leeder’s translation, which pays close attention to meter, register, and recreates the magic of the original.
The Translation Fund, now celebrating its thirteenth year, received a large number of applications this year—171 total—spanning a wide array of languages of origin, genres, and eras. From this vast field of applicants, the Fund’s Advisory Board—Esther Allen, Peter Blackstock, Sara Khalili, Tynan Kogane, Allison Markin Powell, Antonio Romani, Chip Rossetti, and Alex Zucker—has selected fourteen projects, spanning 9 different languages, including Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, Chinese, Czech, Hindi, Yiddish and more.
One of the poem's from Karen Leeder's translation of Thick of It, by Ulrike Almut Sandig
when the last song is done
the sine wave of the last chord
is moving off towards the horizon ∞
in small and smaller and almost
imperceptible waves, when the vinyl disc
has stopped turning, the diamond stylus
circles, when from the two blue speakers
an ocean almost vanished softly roars
when the heart chambers flicker and when
you are with me and hear all of this
then go on and tell the others too: we
have taken leave of our senses
but can still, still, just be heard.