Born in Russia in 1970, the Austrian writer Julya Rabinowich was invited by the ACFNY in 2012 to participate in the PEN World Voices Festival, where the author took part in a panel discussion about "Reviewing Translations.”
Heinz: Was the PEN World Voices Festival a literary festival like any other to you, or was it a special experience?
Rabinowich: Based on its intensity and size alone, this festival was something quite unique. So many great authors had been invited. After all, it is not every day that you hear someone like Salman Rushdie speak. It is important for writers to create new networks, to find inspiration. The festival provided so many different points of view – and, at the same time, so much common ground.
Heinz: You are a translator and participated in the panel discussion about "Reviewing Translations." That must have been doubly exciting for you!
Rabinowich: I felt as if I was part of both sides. Critics, translators, and writers sharing the stage – and even the people in the audience got very involved, as most of them were translators themselves.
Heinz: Compared to European audiences, how was this one different?
Rabinowich: The visitors were very open and involved – in a way I rarely see in Vienna. When they felt they had something to say, they usually had something really substantial to contribute! I wasn't used to that, since here in Austria, people mostly react like deer in the headlights, whereas in New York, they were more like car-crushing killer-deer in the headlights.
Heinz: Did you witness any other such clear cultural differences?
Rabinowich: I also encountered the American Way of Life in a negative sense. The event organizer let you know in no uncertain terms if he thought you were important or unimportant. There was one person who was really important and had a rather humble approach to everything. It was embarrassing that she was not treated accordingly – based simply on her behavior, which made people think she wasn't all that important. Although she was, in fact, a superstar.
Heinz: How would you compare this to your experiences at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York?
Rabinowich: I want to go back there! The entire building has such a nice ambience, a very particular atmosphere that I appreciate tremendously. It is sort of in-between; a kind of island in New York – which is not to say, an Austrian island. Much rather, it is a place where two pieces of a puzzle interlock, linking the cultural life of New York with that of Austria. In its own way, it provides a unique opportunity for Austrian artists – particularly the young ones, who are not yet well-known– to venture out on a cultural exchange. (Andrea Heinz)