PEN: Translation & Migration

This panel, Crises of Empathy: Translation & Migration, will attempt to address the immediacy of the crises in various countries around the world involving migration and refugees, examining how literary translation has played a role in recent movements and passages. We are gathering ideas based on translators’ experiences in camps, assisting those in shelters, as well as from the recent issue of Words Without Borders on migration in Italian literature. The translation committee is consulting with Karen Emmerich, and potentially with Sandra Bermann, Emily Apter, and Ben Conisbee Baer. 

Lina Mounzer is a writer and translator living in Beirut. Her work has appeared in Literary Hub, Bidoun, Warscapes, The Berlin Quarterly, and Chimurenga, and she is fiction editor for the Beirut-based literary magazine Rusted Radishes. She has also translated short stories by Chaza Charafeddine and Mazen Maarouf and a novel by Hassan Daoud from Arabic to English. She is at work on her first novel.

Jonathan Blitzer is a contributing writer to The New Yorker. He’s written for the magazine since 2014, and was a finalist for a 2016 Livingston Award. His writing and reporting have also appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Oxford American, The Atavist, and The Nation.

Sahand Keshavarz Rahbar is a fourth-year undergraduate studying history at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersections of religion, race, gender, and the law to examine how individuals, especially those who adhere to minority faiths, resist and reinforce popular assumptions about the various facets of identity. He is currently finishing up a thesis on the American Baha’i community and its advocacy for racial equality at the turn of the twentieth century.

Moderator Allison Markin Powell is a translator of Japanese. Her translation of Hiromi Kawakami’s The Briefcase was nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Her other translations include works by Osamu Dazai, Fuminori Nakamura, and Kanako Nishi. In addition to translating, she works as an editor and publishing consultant, and currently serves as co-chair of PEN America’s Translation Committee. She maintains the database Japanese Literature in English.