How does it feel to be longlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023 - an award which recognises the art of translation in such a way that the translators and author share the prize money equally should they win - and what would winning the prize mean to you?
It’s quite an honour, needless to say! I put a lot of hard work into my translation of The Birthday Party, of course, but even so I’m moved and just a bit incredulous to see my efforts put on par with the author’s. Winning would above all be a welcome opportunity to fund some new translation projects for my own small press, Fern Books.
How long did it take to translate the book, and what does your working process look like? Do you read the book multiple times first? Do you translate it in the order it’s written?
It took six very intense months, and the process – which I’ve described at length here – was as propulsive as the book itself, though slightly less ominous and significantly less classy. I read the book once before starting the translation, and went through it in order, albeit in multiple passes (I’ve seldom done it any other way).
What was the experience of working with Laurent Mauvignier like? How closely did you work together? Was it a very collaborative process? Were there any surprising moments during your collaboration, or joyful moments, or challenges?
I had a few exchanges with Laurent (which were extremely pleasant), but he told me early on that his English wasn’t good enough to weigh in on my translation, so I approached him for help only as a last resort – when I couldn’t figure out on my own why he chose to write this or that sentence in this or that unconventional way. His answers were not always, shall we say, entirely forthright.
Aside from the book, what other writing did you draw inspiration from for your translation?
Despite the various authorial comparisons I’ve seen bandied about – Javier Marías, Rafael Chirbes, Virginia Woolf – I’ve never read a book quite like The Birthday Party, so my answer is ‘being aware of but refusing to watch Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (both versions)’.