Fifth Annual Workshop in Literary Translation at the Seeger Center

June 2, 2023

By Catherine Curan

Six early career translators visited Princeton University’s Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies May 3-4 for the fifth annual workshop in literary translation from Modern Greek to English. The Seeger Center and the Dimitrios and Kalliopi Monoyios Modern Greek Studies Fund cosponsored the event.

Peter Constantine, professor of translation studies at the University of Connecticut, ran the workshop, aided by Karen Emmerich, associate professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton. Both professors are award-winning translators. Constantine also recently published his first novel, “The Purchased Bride,” which he began developing as a Seeger fellow at Princeton.

The workshop drew both local and international participants. Gathered companionably around a seminar table in Chancellor Green, they shared work in progress. In one intensive hour-long session, the conversation ranged from Greek dialects, to conveying the rhythm of the original short story in English, to the correct pronunciation of Albanian words in the story.

Five people seated at a long wooden table for a workshop.
 Having shared draft translations before the workshop, participants gathered in Chancellor Green for in-depth discussions of each piece.  

Overall, the texts reflected “a growing trend of multi-ethnic Greek literature,” said Constantine. He added that four of the six texts discussed “contained elements of Albanian, Ottoman Turkish, and Arvanitika (an endangered language of Greece that has shared roots with medieval Albanian).”

Emmerich and Constantine offered encouragement and advice about publishing and working with editors. Some of the texts discussed were well-suited to academic audiences, said Constantine, while others had mainstream appeal.

Constantine is also the publisher of World Poetry Books, which recently published “Abyss and Song: Selected Poems” by George Sarantaris, translated by Pria Louka, Class of 2020 and the 2020 Seeger Center Senior Project Prize winner.

The workshop reflected Princeton Hellenic Studies’ long history of supporting translations of Modern Greek literature. The late Edmund Keeley, a renowned translator of Modern Greek literature, helped launch Princeton’s Program in Hellenic Studies. Keeley also mentored translators including Constantine and Emmerich.

Constantine spotlighted the resources and traditions of the Seeger Center and Princeton.

“Princeton is America’s center of Greek translation. So many books have come out of this workshop, and not only books by the participants. Even Edmund Keeley, the last book that he did, “Nakedness Is My End,” was translations from Ancient Greek. Keeley was in his 80s, setting out on something new. That’s the sort of place that Princeton is. It inspires people to take risks, to go out of their comfort zone and embark on something new and exciting.”

Workshop Participants and Texts

Kutay Onayli: Poems by Konstantinos Makridis

John Porter: The Alipashiad  (Hazte Sehretes)

Natasha Remoundou: “Mr. Penelope” (Eleni Yannatou)

Jason Rigas: “Butterfly Kicks”  (Georgia Tatsi)

Gina Scarpete Walters: The Women (Evengia Bogianou)

Sian Valvis: “Knocker” (Dimosthenis Papamarkos)