From the Archive: Monika Cassel translates Daniela Danz

Over the next few months, we’ll be revisiting translations we’ve loved from graduates and faculty. This week, we’re proud to feature Monika Cassel’s gorgeous renderings of Daniela Danz’s triptych of poems featured in the July/August 2016 issue of Poetry and available here.

One poem, In particular, is calling our attention today:

We Are Alive. We Are for Everything

After Otto Piene

How does beginning go how does
remembering without forgetting go
in front of me in the snow a man
his back lonesome somber
how does beginning go not remembering
flashes of light that showed him images when he
was a boy quick and blinding see the shadows
in the light how does not-remembering go
listen to the hissing see the light
and Germany’s lightness
how bright Germany is like soot
like images quick and blinding how does
beginning go smell the snow
it’s new it fell in the night
in the dark gets forgotten
in images quick listen to the snow
it lies light like linen
something’s burning a hissing somber
like images at night on walls listen
to the hissing smell the smell of burning
look at the soot on a white background


Introducing another set of translations of Danz’s work for Waxwing, Monika writes of her process: “I am drawn to Danz’s simultaneously intimate and historically and philosophically wide view, the beauty of her lines and images, and her challenging syntax and line breaks. As a translator, I seek a musical register in English that mirrors what I find in Danz’s German, working until I see two poems in conversation side by side, each speaking to the other.”

Monika Cassel is a translator and poet who teaches at the New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe. Her chapbook, Grammar of Passage, won the 2015 Venture Award. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan in 2001, and was an American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) Travel Fellow in 2016.


Available now: Professor Benjamin Paloff translates the work of Dorota Masłowska

Professor Benjamin Paloff’s recent translation of Dorota Masłowska’s Honey I killed the Cats (2012) is out and receiving some much deserved attention. The publisher, indie darling Deep Vellum, describes the novel as “an incomparably hilarious satire of modern consumer culture, with everything from personality to religion commodified, like Virginie Despentes meets Blade Runner.” This is Paloff’s second translation of Masłowska’s work, the first being his “pitch-perfect” translation of Snow White & Russian Red (2009).

We suggest checking out Ambrose Mary Gallagher’s insightful review of the translation in Michigan Quarterly Review, or, for a quicker read, Matt Janney’s write-up in Calvert Journal or Bridey Heing’s overview in World Literature Today. Can’t wait to dive in? We love this excerpt in Lithub.

Congratulations, Professor Paloff!

Meet Complit major Davis Boos, winner of the Sweetland Upper-Level Writing Prize in the Humanities!

We recently caught up with CL major Davis Boos, whose translation and critical introduction of Mario Benedetti’s “Geographies” and “Out of Pure Distraction” recently won him a Sweetland Upper-Level Writing Prize in the Humanities.

Boos is interested in the problems language helps to overcome and to create. The essay that won Sweetland’s award explores this duality and the exile. As you read this, he will be studying in Buenos Aires and, with luck, translating more of said author’s work.

  1. Where are you from? What is your Major/ Minor? What year are you graduating?
    I’m from Orchard Lake, an easy forty-five minute drive from Ann Arbor. I’ll be graduating in the Spring of 2021.
  2. How does your major/minor fit together and why did you choose them?
    Coming to U-M, my two majors—Comparative Literature and Environment—were only united by my interest in each subject. I started reading very young and have never stopped. This cultivated, nearly by accident, an appreciation for and respect of language. I found the English department too restrictive and landed in the Complit office. The Environment major came about through my appreciation for the outdoors and desire to preserve it. Now, after a few years, the connections have become, sometimes through force and sometimes organically, clearer. I plan to write a thesis comparing the environmental legal structures of Latin America and the United States, especially focusing on the somewhat recent codification of environmental rights.
  3. What was your favorite thing about CompLit 322? Would you recommend this class and why
    The most enjoyable aspects of 322 are the freedom you are given as a student and the practicality of the course. Students can pick nearly any source text in any language and have the entire semester to produce a translation and their reflections on it. There is little distraction from the work. Through this largely independent task, you begin to hone a tangible and pervasive skill—the ability to translate well. It turns out to be harder than it sounds.
  4. Can you briefly describe what your essay was about and what inspired you to write about this topic?
    The essay is a critical introduction to the translations I produced for the class. Broadly, it relates the linguistic exile we each experience as citizens of a multilingual world and the physical exile of Mario Benedetti, the author who wrote the source texts for my translation project and was forced to remain outside of his home country of Uruguay for over a decade.
  5. What was the creative process like for you as a translator during this paper?
    It is largely a process of revision. The initial translation, which seemed fine while it was underway, was comically bad when I sat down to read it over. With each round of edits the translation became a fairer compromise between the original meaning imbued in Spanish and comprehension for readers of English.
  6. What do you hope to do after you graduate and how will your major/minor help your goals?
    I plan on attending law school after graduation. Comparative Literature not only sharpens rhetoric, comprehension and critical thinking, as many humanities departments can claim, but fosters second (or third or fourth) language acquisition. This is a skill that is becoming fundamental in an increasingly smaller world.

Here are two of Davis’ favorite excerpts:

From “Geographies”:

Ah, she said. But I don’t think either of you would recognize the city. Both of you would lose that game of geographies. For example? Dieciocho de Julio no longer has trees. Did you know that there is no longer shade to walk beneath on that long avenue in the heart of our city?

Suddenly I realized the trees on Dieciocho were important, almost crucial for me. It was me that they had mutilated. I am without branches, without limbs, without leaves. Imperceptibly, the game of geographies transformed into an anxious investigation. We went through the city, our city, mine and Bernardo’s, with questions blurred by our desire.

From “Out of Pure Distraction”:

He never considered himself a political exile. He had abandoned his land because of a strange impulse that took form in three stages. The first when four beggars came up to him on the street one after the other. The second when a government official used the word peace on television and his right eyelid immediately began to twitch. The third when he entered his neighborhood church and saw Christ (not the one most prayed to or surrounded by candles but a tired Christ in a back hallway) crying like a saint.

Congratulations, Davis!

Available now: Professor Michèle Hannoosh translates the work of French painter Eugène Delacroix

Our congratulations to Professor Michèle Hannoosh, a Comparative Literature affiliated faculty member, who has recently published a translation of Eugène Delacroix’s Journey to the Maghreb and Andalusia, 1832: The Travel Notebooks and Other Writings with Penn State University Press. 

From the publisher:

In 1832, Eugène Delacroix accompanied a French diplomatic mission to Morocco, the first leg of a journey through the Maghreb and Andalusia that left an indelible impression on the painter. This comprehensive, annotated English-language translation of his notes and essays about this formative trip makes available a classic example of travel writing about the “Orient” from the era and provides a unique picture of the region against the backdrop of the French conquest of Algeria.

Delacroix’s travels in Morocco, Algeria, and southern Spain led him to discover a culture about which he had held only imperfect and stereotypical ideas and provided a rich store of images that fed his imagination forever after. He wrote extensively about these experiences in several stunningly beautiful notebooks, noting the places he visited, routes he followed, scenes he observed, and people he encountered. Later, Delacroix wrote two articles about the trip, “A Jewish Wedding in Morocco” and the recently discovered “Memories of a Visit to Morocco,” in which he shared these extraordinary experiences, revealing how deeply influential the trip was to his art and career.

Never before translated into English, Journey to the Maghreb and Andalusia, 1832 includes Delacroix’s two articles, four previously known travel notebooks, fragments of two additional, recently discovered notebooks, and numerous notes and drafts. Michèle Hannoosh supplements these with an insightful introduction, full critical notes, appendices, and biographies, creating an essential volume for scholars and readers interested in Delacroix, French art history, Northern Africa, and nineteenth-century travel and culture.

What the critics are saying:

“Eugène Delacroix’s journey to Morocco in 1832 was one of the defining artistic moments of the nineteenth century, and it is brought to glorious life by Michèle Hannoosh’s compilation and translation. This work chronicles the artist’s journey and provides exceptional insights into his fascination with the ‘Orient’ and his motivations as a painter.”

—John Zarobell, author of Empire of Landscape: Space and Ideology in French Colonial Algeria

Senior Prize in Literary Translation — Now accepting translations!

The Department of Comparative Literature is pleased to invite graduating seniors in all departments at the University of Michigan to submit entries for our annual prize in literary translation.

Submissions are due by Tuesday, April 14, and will be judged by a team of faculty members in Comparative Literature.

A prize of $500 will be awarded at the end of winter term. The winner or the winners will be invited to read at the department’s end-of-year reception on Friday, May 1.


  1. All seniors graduating in Fall 2019 or Winter 2020, and affiliated with any department at the University of Michigan, are eligible to submit a translation.
  2. Students may choose to translate into English any literary text (or excerpt of a literary text) that was originally written in another language and in any literary genre (e.g. fiction, poetry, drama, creative nonfiction).
  3. A submission should consist of your translation (no more than 10 pages), and a brief translator’s preface (no more than 5 pages) that introduces the text and author you have chosen and explains your method of translation.  If you have worked significantly with previously available translations, glosses, or commentaries, please note these in your translator’s preface. Make sure your submission references all texts and tools you have used to produce your translation (i.e. other translations you have consulted, translation software you may have used, etc).
  4. Please submit your translation in the following format: an email listing your name, your graduation date, your major(s) and minor(s), and the complete title, author, and language of the original text you have translated, and an email attachment without your name that includes your translator’s preface, your translation, and a copy of the text you have translated in its original language.
  5. Your submission should be emailed to no later than 11:59 PM on Tuesday, April 14, 2020.

Questions?  Contact

2020 Classical Translations Contest is now accepting translations!

19th Annual Classical Translations Contest

Students in all departments and programs (graduate and undergraduate) across the University of Michigan are invited to submit literary translations of texts from Latin, Ancient Greek, and Modern Greek. We know that there are many people inspired by the beauty of these languages who wish to render them more freely and creatively than classwork often involves. This contest is intended to highlight the work of students who are interested in the process of translation as a creative, intellectually meaningful enterprise.

Rules and Prizes

  1. Please submit your work anonymously in the following format: FOUR hard copies of your English translation(along with the original text) and ONE separate cover page (listing the title and author of the text you translated, your name and email address, and your undergraduate major or graduate program).
  2. Submissions are due on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 by 5:00pm to the Comparative Literature Main Office, 2021 Tisch Hall (2nd floor).
  3. All submissions will be judged anonymously by a panel of faculty members from Classics, Comparative Literature, English, and related departments.
  4. Students affiliated with any UM department are eligible.
  5. All work should consist of original translations/interpretations of works from Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, or Latin.
  6. Original works may be in prose or verse and translations may be in prose, verse, or other format, such as multi-media.
  7. Maximum length of written submissions is five double-spaced pages.
  8. In each category (undergraduate and graduate), the prizes will be $100 each.
  9. Winners will be invited to present their translations at the annual Classics Department awards ceremony on April 21, 2020.

U-M scholars to explore multilingual Midwest in Sawyer Seminar

The University Record announced a new Mellon Sawyer Seminar, “Sites of Translation in the Multilingual Midwest” organized by the Department of Comparative Literature starting in Fall 2020 for two years. U-M humanities scholars have secured a $225,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to explore the Midwest as a multicultural, multilingual region shaped by successive waves of international and domestic migrations. They plan a series of events under the foundation’s Sawyer Seminar program.

Canon Translation Journal Accepting Submissions

Did you hear? Canon Translation Journal has launched a new website! Canon is a student-run online journal that publishes translations by U-M undergraduate and graduate students.

Canon is now accepting submissions for the 2019-2020 academic year!  Translations are accepted on a rolling basis and details on how to submit your translation can be found on their website.

Follow them at “Canon Translation Journal” on Facebook, and at @umichcanon on Twitter and Instagram. And of course, check out the latest translations!

Center for Southeast Asian Studies lecture featuring Marlon James Sales, Postdoctoral Fellow in Critical Translation Studies

Marlon James Sales, Postdoctoral Fellow in Critical Translation Studies in the Department of Comparative Literature, presented a lecture entitled, “On Filthy Nouns and Dirty Verbs: Translating Sex in Tagalog Missionary Linguistics”, for the Friday Lecture Series in the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at U-M in March 2019. A video of the lecture is available online.

Interview with Marlon James Sales on Spanish in the Philippines

Marlon James Sales, our Comp Lit Postdoctoral Fellow in Critical Translation Studies, was recently interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for an article about the significance of the Spanish language and Spanish heritage in the Philippines. In the article written by Alan Weedon, Marlon discusses Filipino literature in Spanish and its translations.

Read the full article, “The Philippines is fronting up to its Spanish heritage, and for some it’s paying off”, on the ABC website.