Anja Snellman




The Gift of Translation

“Translator Ann Goldstein has given the world a gift in Elena Ferrante’s works,” says Ojay Dagistan, whose online bookstore, 7 Pages UK, specializes in translated literature.

“Language should never be a barrier to reading a good book. Translation gives English-speaking readers an opportunity to broaden their worldview. Through translation, a reader can travel and experience the sounds and tastes of another culture.”

Ferrante’s breakthrough novel, My Brilliant Friend, is the first book of her Neapolitan novels, a series of four books. The book has been published in more than 40 countries.

“Ferrante’s books are more than family sagas. They give you an insight into Italian society, politics, class, sex, and being a woman in a world where men wreck her dreams,” Dagistan says. “When you sit down to read, you fidget not with discomfort but with the truth.”

ANN GOLDSTEIN is an editor with The New Yorker. In an interview with National Public Radio, she describes her translator role as that of an “enabler.”

“In my day job, I’m essentially an editor, and I think there are certain similarities: you are trying to enable someone to express themselves as much as they possibly can,” Goldstein says.

Her goal is to take a feeling from one language and express it in another.

“You cannot possibly achieve that in a perfect way because there are so many things you have to take into consideration,” Goldstein said to NPR.

“I like to think of the individual words, then you put the word in the sentence, then you have to think about what that word means in the sentence, then you have to read the sentence in the paragraph—you’re sort of building up like that.”

WHO IS ELENA FERRANTE? No one knows—apart from her Italian publisher. The writer behind the pseudonym has chosen to remain anonymous. In a rare interview with the Los Angeles Times, she described the process behind the Neapolitan novels.

“I have always written, ever since adolescence, but it was a struggle, and I was generally dissatisfied with the result. The consequence is that I have rarely been convinced that I should publish,” the writer known as Ferrante explains.

“In the case of this very long story, things went differently. The first draft rolled along without running into any obstacles. The pure pleasure of telling a story dominated.”

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