What was the experience of working with the book’s translator, Reuben Woolley, like? How closely did you work together on the English edition? Did you offer any specific guidance or advice? Were there any surprising moments during your collaboration, or joyful moments, or challenges?
Reuben and I exchanged emails, and I was always happy to get his messages and suggestions. Once he wrote to say that the first thing he would do when the war in Ukraine was over would be to visit Lviv. The novel made him very curious about the city and Ukraine in general. I was particularly touched by his interest in the work and life of Lesia Sanotska – a real person, who organized the first-ever shelter for homeless people in Lviv. She passed away from cancer three years after the novel was published. In a way, this novel is also a small tribute to her.
Why do you feel it’s important for us to celebrate translated fiction?
Literature has to travel, and readers have to move out of their ‘home zone’ to greet some literary guests at their port of entry – the translation. These journeys result in enrichment for all concerned. Celebrating translated fiction promotes and supports these journeys.
I feel that translators need all the attention they can get. A good translation is truly a work of art in which the translator inevitably creates channels by which a different culture can be understood and appreciated.
If you had to choose three works of fiction that have inspired your career the most, what would they be and why?
Early on, there was The Castle by Franz Kafka, who continues to fascinate me. He had a rare gift for creating a fantastic but, at the same time, very believable world and populating it with heroes who were suffering from that world.
The novel Hunger by Knut Hamsun showed me how powerful psychological prose can be. It was also because of Knut Hamsun that I began to read and then write books while listening to classical music.
For the past few years, East-West Street by Philip Sands has regularly returned to my mind. This non-fiction book pushed me to a deeper study of recent history and led me to the conviction that non-fiction can be even stronger than fiction. What has struck me most is that the heroes in such prose - real historical figures - remain with the reader much longer than fictional characters.