Celebrity Translator?

A thoughtful library patron brought me an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal this week, about the translator of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Series.  This patron and I have spoken enthusiastically about the series, of which I have read two (so far) and she has read one.  It seems like since Ferrante herself is so reclusive (some have even questioned her gender) translator Ann Goldstein is becoming a celebrity.  I think it makes sense, since avid readers can’t interact with the author. One interesting nugget from the article is that Goldstein didn’t even  start learning Italian until her late 30’s!  That gave me hope that I, too, can start learning a language – although my pick is Farsi (my father’s native language, of which I know very little.)

Can you recall the name of any other translator?  I can’t.  That may be because before I read Ferrante, I hadn’t read much in translation at all.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Dinner by Herman Koch, but not much else.  I certainly don’t know the names of their translators. Reading the Neapolitan Series has opened my eyes to how woefully ignorant I am of fiction published in other languages, something I intend to remedy.

Another part of the article that struck me, and had me hitting the Google search, is that Goldstein is the translator for Jhumpa Lahiri’s new memoir coming out in February. Lahiri may be, as this article suggests, adopting Italian as her new written language.  I didn’t know that she had a memoir coming out, much less that it’s in Italian.  (I loved The Namesake but I have yet to read any of her other fiction.)

If you’ve contracted Ferrante Fever like me, would you go to an event headlined by her translator, Ms. Goldstein?  What do you make of Lahiri’s experiment?  Can you recommend any translated works I should check out?



9 thoughts on “Celebrity Translator?

  1. How interesting! I’ve not read Ferrante’s books yet but I do tend to pay attention to translators. Lydia Davis has done some great work as has Anne Carson. Robert Fagles has done some really good translations of ancient Greek work like Homer, though I tend to prefer Richard Lattimore of Robert Fitzgerald because they are more poetic. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have done some really good new translations of Russian works. A good translator can make all the difference!


  2. Wow, great post! I too have been meaning to jump into Ferrante’s series. I had to go through my books to find translated recommendations, and found that most of them were written in French.

    I really enjoyed “The Invention of Curried Sausage” by Uwe Timm (German), “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery (French), and Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda (French).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was going to mention the Pevear and Volokhonsky duo because I read their translation of Anna Karenina. Apparently, many people have opinions about the best English version of that – I recall reading discussion about it when I decided I just had to read AK before the movie hit the screen. I am just glad I got through it.
    And HOW INTERESTING about Lahiri! I could have sworn I read that she grew up in Rhode Island. Now I’m wondering if I have the wrong author in my head about that.

    Liked by 1 person

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