In this feature, I’ll be talking about rising in translation.
I chanced across this wonderful article in the Wall Street Journal, an interview with Jhumpa Lahiri called How Jhumpa Lahiri learned to write again. Lahiri has written yet another book- In Other Words. However, this is not just another book. Lahiri fans know about her Indian emigrant world painted in brilliant short stories and commercially successful novels. But she has departed from the comfort of being a well-known author and tried to find herself using another language as a new crutch. “In learning Italian I learned, again, to write,” she says.
This interview throws a lot of light on how important creativity is, not just for success. Lahiri has achieved everything a writer would probably dream of. What does a writer dream of once she is a Writer without a doubt? She wishes to go back to what started off, of course. To the anonymous writer pitching to magazines, never really knowing where to go. She talks about how the English language was always a burden and Italian freed her up to look at herself without the baggage of her roots. She also went back to writing the diary, writing for herself, and not for how it would feel if copies are printed.
Many struggling writers probably forget how lucky they are that their words are theirs alone and that success around the corner is probably more beautiful than success itself.
In an interview called The Face of Ferrante with Ann Goldstein, also Jhumpa Lahiri’s translator, Kate Dodson talks about how she identified with Goldstein since she works as a translator too. Says Dodson:
“Lispector’s The Complete Stories was my first book-length translation. By the end of it, I was a transformed woman. I was also a wreck, going cross-eyed from pages and pages of proofs, anxiously tweaking words, worn out from the emotional weight of Lispector’s characters. I wished I were Ann Goldstein, as I imagined her: unflappable, expertly laying down “elegant, burnished English,” as James Wood described her translations of Ferrante in The New Yorker. Her work possesses an assurance that comes from over twenty years of translating, ten of them spent with Ferrante’s books, as well as a singular training—forty years at The New Yorker, where she is head of the copy department.”
Ann Goldstein changed the status of the translator as sheet anonymous presence to someone who was sought after. Elena Ferrante, the writer she has translated, is nowhere in the picture. Ann Goldstein does not know the reclusive mind who has created the famous Ferrante Trilogy, though she knows the works themselves and how they have a mind, a deep, dense mind of their own. Working on an author’s works for years together can change the very fabric of your being. While Jhumpa Lahiri wrestles with her sense of self in a new language, Ann Goldstein is immersed in the intricacies of a world created by another in a language she has grown to love.
Translation is glorious stuff and with writers who are starting to see beyond their own languages, we only gain from more and more interpretations.