Donald Nicholson-SmithTuesday, November 13, 2018 @ 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Join us for a reading with Donald Nicholson-Smith, in partnership with New York Review Books.
Yvan Alagbé is one of the most innovative and provocative artists in the world of comics. In the stories gathered in Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures—drawn between 1994 and 2011, and never before available in English—he uses stark, endlessly inventive black-and-white brushwork to explore love and race, oppression and escape. It is both an extraordinary experiment in visual storytelling and an essential, deeply personal political statement.
With unsettling power, the title story depicts the lives of undocumented migrant workers in Paris. Alain, a Beninese immigrant, struggles to protect his family and his white girlfriend, Claire, while engaged in a strange, tragic dance of obsession and repulsion with Mario, a retired French Algerian policeman. It is already a classic of alternative comics, and, like the other stories in this collection, becomes more urgent every day.
This NYRC edition is an oversized paperback with French flaps, printed endpapers, and extra-thick paper, and features new English hand-lettering and a brand-new story, exclusive to this edition.
Born in Manchester, England, Donald Nicholson-Smith is a longtime resident of New York City. He has been an academic and literary translator since the 1970s. After translating Jean Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis’s magisterial concordance to Freud, Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse as The Language of Psychoanalysis (London and New York, 1973), he made psychology and psychoanlysis one of his specialties (Henri Wallon, Piaget, Derrida on psychoanalysis, etc.). On another front, he has translated much writing of the Situationist International, including that group’s major programmatic texts, namely Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (New York, 1994) and Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life (third, revised edition, Oakland, 2012). A related translation was Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (Oxford, 1991). In recent years Nicholson-Smith has tackled more strictly literary projects. In 2011 he was a French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalist (non-fiction) for the poems and correspondence in Guillaume Appollinaire’s Letters to Madeleine, as sent from the Champagne trenches in 1915. And he has been active in the field of noir fiction, translating Thierry Jonquet’s Mygale/Tarantula (San Francisco, 2002); Yasmina Khadra’s Cousin K (Lincoln, Nebraska, 2013), in collaboration with Alyson Waters; and Luc Lang’s Cruel Tales from the Thirteenth Floor (Lincoln, Nebraska, 2015). In 2016 he was runner-up for the Griffin Poetry Prize (Toronto) for his translation of a collection of poems self-selected by the celebrated Moroccan author Abdellatif Laâbi (New York: Archipelago Books).
Nicholson-Smith is responsible for the translation of the work of the French crime novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette, whose famous cycle of ten novels from the 1970s, ten in all, is more than half Englished. Titles already published include Three to Kill (San Francisco: City Lights, 2002); Fatale (New York: NYRB, 2011); The Mad and the Bad (New York: NYRB, 2014); and Ivory Pearl (New York: NYRB, 2018). Four more titles are in preparation at NYRB.
Also for New York Review Books, Nicholson-Smith has been translating works for the new comics series, notably Yvan Alagbé’s remarkable Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures (2018), reminiscent, perhaps of “Inner City Comix” of the American 1960s, but concerned with the daily life of poor immigrants in the Paris banlieue in the 1990s.
Donald Nicholson-Smith is a member of the Translators’ Association of the Society of Authors (London) and of the American PEN Translators’ Committee (New York). He has been named Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French government in recognition of his services to French literature in translation.