Monday, November 15, 2004

OFAC Censorship Update

This morning, members of the American Literary Translators Association received a message from ALTA president David Ball with more information on the Office of Foreign Assets Control's policy with regard to the publication of written works from countries under the trade embargo. Since intellectual property is exempt from the embargo, the OFAC restrictions (including the threat of prison time and fines) are actually unconstitutional. This year alone, the publication of eight translations has been cancelled or postponed due to the risks involved.

Ball writes:
"In the face of such persistence in blind repression, PEN, the Association of American Publishers Professional and Scholarly Publishing division, the Association of American University Presses and Arcade Publishing are asking the Federal court to strike down OFAC regulations that require publishers and authors to seek a license from the government to perform the routine activities necessary to publish literature from embargoed countries.
There are things all of us can do to help this suit. Judges do not render their decisions in a vacuum, nor are they immune to public opinion. The more public outcry there is about this affair the better. I urge you to write your representatives in Congress, in the Senate, and your local newspaper: tell them how important this is for you and for all of us."
It's times like these when the free circulation of information and ideas is crucial, especially with suppressed and critical voices needing to be heard. It shouldn't matter where those voices come from. Authors, translators, publishers, and editors shouldn't have to fear repression. Write a letter.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

Translate Book, Go to Jail?

Some people think that the work of a translator is all about finding the right words and tone, but pretty much removed from everyday concerns. Not so. Here's a current example of how translation and translators are directly affected by politics and power issues: Translators, editors, or publishers in the U.S. who decide to publish certain works from certain countries on the trade embargo list may be fined and sent to jail. The absurdity of these regulations is mindboggling. They reflect an appalling authoritarianism.

Since late September, two lawsuits have been filed to challenge them, one by
Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the other by a number of publishing-related organizations. Read up on this messy issue on the PEN American Center's website. From the press release:

"The organizations are asking the court to strike down OFAC regulations that require publishers, writers, and translators to seek a license from the government to perform the routine
services necessary to publish foreign literature in the United States.
Representatives of the plaintiffs' organizations expressed frustration over a series of OFAC rulings that have created an atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion among publishers fearful of incurring prison sentences of up to 10 years or fines of up to $1,000,000."

Have your book purchases and library visits monitored under the Patriot Act, get fined if you decide to publish a Cuban, Iranian, or Sudanese author under the OFAC embargo--if this curtailing of access to information happened in another country, wouldn't it be called censorship?


Saturday, November 13, 2004


We have created this blog to extend the capabilities of our journal, Passport: The Arkansas Review of Literary Translation. We want to offer a more dynamic forum to discuss topics related to literary translation. Please join the discussion, respond to our journal, or bring up any literary translation issues by leaving your comments here or by e-mailing us at


The Editors
Annaliese Hoehling, Sabine Schmidt, and Nadine Sinno