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Acting Upon the Literary Work: Revision, History, and Translation in Antonio DiBenedetto’s Trilogy of Expectation

April 11, 2022 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Antonio Di Benedetto’s Trilogía de la espera—first published as a single volume in 2011, fifteen years after his death—is a work that came into existence independently of its author’s volition, an after-the-fact juxtaposition of three novels he never presented as interrelated, under a title he did not choose. Each of the novels within it has a distinct relationship to history, which is posited in Zama (published in Argentina in 1956), and subsequently evolves through El silenciero (1964) and Los suicidas (1969). Di Benedetto himself acted upon his works, sometimes revising them substantially in subsequent editions in ways that speak to his idea of their relationship to history.  And history has acted upon them, as well.  Karen Emmerich has called on translators to engage with the fact of textual instability; my talk will address how I’ve tried to do that as I, in turn, act upon these texts by translating them.

Esther Allen’s translation of Antonio Di Benedetto’s 1956 novel Zama won the 2017 National Translation Award, given by the American Literary Translators Association. She was subsequently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the translation of the two other novels in what has come to be known as Di Benedetto’s Trilogy of Expectation. Her translation of the second, The Silentiary (originally published in Argentina in 1964), comes out from NYRB Classics in February of 2022, while translation of the third and final book in the trilogy, The Suicides (1969) is nearly complete. She is a professor at City University of New York Graduate Center, and at Baruch College, where she directs the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program. Her essays, translations, reviews, and interviews have appeared in the New York Review of Books, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Paris Review, the Poetry Foundation website, Words Without Borders, Bomb, and other publications.