Students at Chile’s UDP Organize Public Reading for Columbia Word for Word Participants

September 05, 2019

Students from Chile’s Universidad Diego Portales (UDP) have been organizing public readings of texts written by graduate students at Columbia’s School of the Arts participating in the literary translation workshop Word for Word, currently in its second year.

Under the workshop, which in the US is coordinated by Susan Bernofsky, a leading translator of the German language at Columbia’s Master of Fine Arts Writing Program, US students are paired with writers from different countries for their works to be mutually translated. This global course was launched in 2011 and is currently conducted between Columbia students and their counterparts at five universities in Europe and Latin America: Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig in Germany, Scuola Holden in Italy, Instituto Vera Cruz in Brazil, the Université Paris 8 in France, and UDP. The latter has participated in the program since 2018.

The idea is to provide emerging writers with valuable experience and a global network, and to encourage the authors to engage with their own language in a new way.

Each year four UDP students are paired with the same amount of writers from Columbia. The writers coordinate via email, video and text and at the end of the period the Columbia writer can apply for funds to visit Chile, to meet the person with whom they have been working.

The texts from last year’s exchange were published as an online anthology, and the 2019 anthology is currently under preparation.

According to professor Rodrigo Rojas, a Chilean poet, journalist and translator at the UDP’s School of Creative Literature who heads the Word for Word program in Chile, in the context of the Columbia writer’s visit “we decided to organize an event, which consists first of a short interview, a conversation about the text with the Columbia writer and the four students in Chile. After that the Chilean students organize a public reading. The four students as well as the Columbia student read the text, with a number of invitees, at the Aquí art gallery in Bellavista neighborhood in Santiago.”

Two Columbia students, Eva Dunsky and Hannah Kauders, have participated in the literary reading event to date this year, and another two writers from Columbia, Liza Stewart and Celine Aenlle-Rocha, are scheduled to come in December. The event attracts about 60 people, “which is very good for a literary reading for people who are just starting out,” notes Rojas.

“Besides meeting with their par here in Chile, I also invite the other writers in the program – the other three from this year, the four from last year, and other writers that want to participate. So instead of meeting with just one person, the Columbia student ends up meeting with 10 or 12 writers here in Chile,” he adds.

“The idea of this program is to create bonds between people, the students, more than between institutions. As such, more than institutional planning, these events are organized and driven by the students themselves. The goal is for these writers, as they mature and begin to publish more, to stay in contact with their international peers.”

In November, Rojas will select four more authors in Chile to pair them with four authors from Columbia. The texts to be developed and translated from English to Spanish and vice versa may include prose, poems, short stories, features, novels and essays.