Skip to main content Menu Menu

Duke Forum for Scholars and Publics

Login   |   Signup

Translating Fiction

with Achy Obejas
March 28th, 2017
11:45 AM


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.

Forum for Scholars and Publics (Old Chem 011)

Light lunch served

Facebook event


In an interview for the journal Origins, Cuban American writer and translator Achy Obejas revealed that she is “always interested in the truth in fiction, and how fiction can dare go places so-called historical accounts can't. Part of the reason for that is that fiction is personal—the reader needs someone to identify with—and so the stories are always more intimate, smaller in dimension, and more accessible than the kinds of movements and forces that formal history contends with.”

Obejas cites translating as “the closest close reading” she’s ever conducted. In this conversation, she will talk about the challenges and rewards of her work as a translator of fiction. As a translator, Obejas is highly unusual, in that she has earned accolades both for her translations from English to Spanish and for those from Spanish to English. To cite just two examples, her translation into Spanish of Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was a finalist for Spain’s Esther Benítez Translation Prize, and her translation into English of Papi by Rita Indiana was listed among World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2016.

After a brief introduction, Obejas will present and then we will invite our translation students to respond and ask questions. Finally, we will open up the conversation to questions from the wider audience.

For information on how to find us and where to park, visit this page.

This event is organized by Joan Munné and Melissa Simmermeyer and has been made possible with the support of Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Mary D.B.T. and J.H. Semans International Exchange Fund, Dean of the Humanities, the Department of Romance Studies, Trinity Language Committee, Duke University Center for International Global Studies, and Community-Based Teaching and Learning Funds.

For more information, please visit the Translating Spanish-English and English-Spanish site

Achy Obejas

Achy Obejas is an accomplished poet, novelist, journalist, professor, and translator. She was born in Havana and after the Cuban Revolution, came to the US at the age of 6 with her parents. She grew up in the Midwest, and studied journalism at Indiana University, Bloomington, before earning an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She has developed writing workshops, taught writing classes, and lectured at many colleges and universities. Obejas is the recipient of a USA Ford Fellowship in 2014 for literature and translation, a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellowship, a team Pulitzer Prize for the series “Gateway to Gridlock” while at the Chicago Tribune, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, the Studs Terkel Journalism Award, and a Cintas Foundation Fellowship. She currently serves as the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College in Oakland, CA, where she lives with her wife, Megan Bayles, and their son Ilan. In 2016 Mills College debuted its Low Residency MFA in Translation, a program that Obejas conceived and co-directs.