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2019 ALTA Conference: Sight and Sound

Thursday-Sunday, November 7-10, 2019



Words are not simply containers for meaning. As translators, we know that we cannot separate the sense of words from their musicality, from the way they look on the page, from the way they are spoken or signed, or from the cultural and historical contexts in which they appear. The theme for ALTA42 allows us to attend to the visual, aural, oral, gestural, kinetic, and performative aspects of language and literature that shape translation practice. We invite panels, readings, roundtables, and workshops that address the theme “Sight and Sound,” broadly conceived.

These forums might consider topics such as: translating rhythm, rhyme, and repetition; translating form; translating ekphrasis and synesthesia; translating dramatic and spoken word texts; translating visual spectacle in theatre; translating screenplays; translating graphic novels and illustrated texts; translating oral literatures; translating lyrics; translating to, from, and between sign languages; empowering language through translation, regardless of language modality.

Women can fly

Just in time for Women's Day

March 15, 2019

Last May I was contacted by Luca De Antonis, an awarded Italian author with a passion for writing about women’s past and present accomplishments.

He proposed me to translate his historical novel “Women can fly” (Italian title: “Donne con le ali”). The fantastic story of Bessie Coleman, the first woman of African-American descent and the first of Native American descent, to hold a pilot license. She developed an early interest in flying, but African Americans, Native Americans, and women had no flight-school opportunities in the United States, so she saved up money to go to France to become a licensed pilot. She soon became a successful air show pilot in the United States and hoped to start a school for African-American fliers. She died in a plane crash in 1926 while testing her new aircraft. Her pioneering role was an inspiration to early pilots and to the African-American and Native American communities.

Reading and translating Luca’s novel was a moving and inspiring experience. I came to know about the life of amazing, courageous women who did extraordinary things.

As Luca says in his book:

“I started writing this book a short time after the publication of my first novel, Honey and Kerosene, based on the life of a truly extraordinary person, so remarkable as to make one doubt that she really existed.

This person is Joséphine Baker, African American actress, singer and showgirl, who became famous in 1925 in Paris, the day after her first appearance at the Théâtre des Champs Elisées.

She was born in St. Louis, the eldest daughter of a washerwoman and a gravel hauler. She fought poverty and hunger by doing all kinds of jobs, until she became a musician, a chorus girl and a singer, in the Vaudeville touring shows, and then at the New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York venues. She had the opportunity to meet the greatest jazz artists, but it was in Europe that she made her fortune. She became the highest-paid star in the Old Continent, the most famous. When World War II broke out, she joined the France Libre partisan organization. After the war, as she became an activist against racism, she had enormous problems whenever she performed in the United States.

She tried to fulfil her dream to adopt orphans from all over the world, and she succeeded, but the crazy expenses incurred reduced her to bankruptcy. She managed to revive her fortunes only with the help of Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco.

I was fascinated by her exuberant personality and astonished when I realized that — 30 years after her death — no one seemed to remember anything about such an extraordinary woman. I, therefore, decided to write a novel about her, and it was thanks to Joséphine that I discovered many other women who had accomplished great enterprises in every field of human activities. Regretfully, they are all forgotten.

Even women who had reached significant achievements in the field of aviation. The first woman pilot. The first woman to fly across the English Channel, the first one to cross the Atlantic, the Andes, the world.

The first French female pilot, the first American aviatrix and, among them, Bessie Coleman, the first African-American young woman to get a pilot’s license.

All forgotten.

Almost all.

Yet, the presence of pioneer women, in every field of human activities, has never diminished. But, unlike what happens to men, their contribution to human progress is always reduced or falls into oblivion.

That was the reason that prompted me to write Women can fly (original title: Donne con le ali — “Women with wings”), and then Sali d’argento (“Silver salts”, about the life of Tina Modotti, photographer and political activist): to present a small tribute to all the women who were true pioneers and inspired later generations.

Just like Mae Jamison, the first female African-American astronaut in space, who carried a photo of Bessie Coleman with her on her first mission”.