For over 90 years PEN America has operated on the notion that literature and art can bridge the cultural divide between people and nations. Literary translation plays an important role in the work we do by providing a unique and valuable window into the histories and narratives of other cultures. Unfortunately, in the United States only 3% of books published are works in translation. Internationally, only 9 languages account for approximately 90% of the world’s translations, and a majority of those translations are from English into other languages.
With so few works being translated into English, we have to ask: what’s lost when so many of the world’s other languages and stories aren’t translated?
Passages intends to answer that question, issue by issue, by exploring the literary and narrative trends of some of the world’s least translated territories. Each issue will be co-edited by local editors with knowledge of the most current and relevant arts movements to publish exciting new fiction, poetry, essays, graphic narratives, and new literary forms being developed. We hope that the series will eventually turn into a positive way to bring compelling new projects to English-reading audiences and publishers.
If we meet our modest target of $5500, we’ll be able to cover some of the production costs for future issues and convince our anonymous seed funder that there’s a place in the literary community for a project like this. All backers should know that regardless of the success of the Kickstarter campaign, writers and translators whose work has already been commissioned will be paid, something we are proud of and which, unfortunately, is not the default when submitting work to a literary magazine. Like all Kickstarter projects, we will only receive the money if we meet our target. Otherwise, you will get your money back.
Edited by Words Without Borders editor and translator Eric M.B. Becker and Mirna Queiroz of Revista Pessoa, Passages: Brazil brings us an extraordinary group of contemporary writers pushing the boundaries of poetry, reportage, fiction, and narrative nonfiction—all of them women. We’ll have a sneak peak of Elvira Vigna’s new novel, crônica by Maria Esther Maciel, indigenous narratives by Betty Mindlin, harrowing reportage by Eliane Brume, new poems by Marília Garcia and Adriana Lisboa and Alice Sant'anna, and new work by Ana Maria Gonçalves, Ana Martins Marques, and Noemi Jaffe.
Edited by Pathlight magazine co-founder Canaan Morse and translator Eleanor Goodman (recipient of the 2015 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize). Given the pressures of censorship in China, how have writers and artists circumvented these strictures to comment on and examine contemporary Chinese culture, government policies, and everyday life in this rapidly evolving nation? In this issue of Passages, we offer a satirical fantasy by Sheng Tie, new short-form journalism from dissident Li Chengpeng, sharply observed essays by the celebrated writer Wang Xiaoni, and poetry by Mu Cao, one of the few openly gay poets living and publishing in mainland China today.
Co-edited by Billy Kahora of Kwani?, our first issue focused on LGBT literature and featured 16 pieces from across the continent with works translated from Swahili, French, and Portuguese. It was also recently selected as a "Staff Pick" by McNally Jackson bookstore buyer Douglas Singleton.
Contributors: Unoma Azuah, Rotimi Babatunde, Kehinde Bademosi, Eric M. B. Becker, Bree, Efemia Chela, Chimurenga, Mia Couto, Annmarie Drury, Martin Egblewogbe, Clifton Gachagua, Billy Kahora, Euphrase Kezilahabi, Zanele Muholi, André Naffis-Sahely, Mohamed Nedali, and Ribka Sibhatu.
Risks and challenges
Low Risk! We have already published one issue of Passages, which focused on the African continent, and are in the process of producing two new issues focusing on literature from Brazil and China.
The pieces for both the Brazil and China issues have been commissioned by the editors. Editing for the Brazil issue will take place in February and March, and will be sent to the printer in April for publication in May.
Editing for the China issue will take place in April and May, and will be sent to the printer in June for publication in July.
We aim to have print and digital issues of the China and Brazil editions shipped out to backers in September 2016. Any delays in production will be promptly communicated to backers with an adjusted delivery date.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter