"I'm not young, I'm not Spanish, I don't have a sexy accent," said David Guterson, author of the famous novel Snow Falling on Cedars, sitting next to three young Spanish men with sexy accents. All three made Granta's Best Young Spanish Novelists issue; Guterson had been on a comparable Granta list of American novelists in 1996. Guterson was being self-effacing—the quality you always want in a moderator—but it's true that it didn't make much sense for him to be there. Having overprepared, he brought copies of Snow Falling on Cedars translated into more than 20 different languages and proposed they all talk about what it's like being translated. "I feel quite alienated from my own translated work, primarily because I can't read it," he said, adding, "You can pass them around and share in my sense of alienation." Someone passed me Snow Falling on Cedars in Chinese.

Confusing Guterson's role, a UW professor onstage kept proposing topics. After Guterson told a funny story about a Dutch translator misunderstanding what it meant for a young girl to be doing cannonballs off a rock (in translation, she's pushing cannonballs from a ledge), the UW professor interceded to ask the panelists for "reflections and considerations about the challenges and rewards of translation," which is what they were already talking about.

The Spanish visitors—Andrés Barba (swarthy, grinning), Javier Montes (handsome, languid), and Alberto Olmos (goofy, bald)—would have happily talked about sex, and the audience (which kept leaving) clearly would have been more alive to that, but the starchy moderators kept driving in their academic direction. No one asked Montes about his piece in Granta wherein the narrator comes across a confusing three-way in a hotel (a woman in panties, a man shaking his flaccid penis "like a rattle," another unseen man). Likewise, no one asked Barba about his young French porn star character who's had so many breast implant surgeries she can barely breathe. (Cleverly, Barba snuck some sex in by talking about a Syrian who translated one of his novels. "I said, 'There might be too many prostitutes in it for Syria,' and he said, 'Don't worry, I'll fix that!'" The translator changed all the prostitutes to tailors.)

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Five or six couples, evidently sick of passing around Snow Falling on Cedars in Portuguese and Russian and Thai, got up and left, and the audience members who jumped into the Q&A evidently wished to please the moderators. The first question related to translating within languages to account for regional dialects (eventually the UW professor interjected, "This is an endless and perhaps unresolvable debate..."). The second question concerned whether Granta's American translators were Latino or Latina and whether that made their translations better. The third question I don't remember, having died of disinterest; I only remember a strong urge to storm the stage and announce that these writers were not nearly as boring as you'd guess based on what had just transpired.

Afterward, over dinner, Montes and Barba talked loudly about their sex lives. recommended