Interview with Adam Thirlwell

At the Harper’s blog, Wyatt Mason interviews Adam Thirlwell, the author of The Delighted States: A book of novels, romances, & their unknown translators, containing ten languages, set on four continents, & accompanied by maps, portraits, squiggles, illustrations, & a variety of helpful indexes.

As a whole, the interview is really interesting, especially because a huge chunk of it focuses on Thirlwell’s translation of Nabokov’s “Mademoiselle O,” one of only two stories Nabokov wrote in French.

They get into a lot of details concerning the translation, especially the aspects of the story that proved troublesome and Dmitri Nabokov’s revisions to Thirlwell’s translation is particularly interesting.

But this the bit that grabbed my attention—mainly because we are publishing Macedonio Fernandez’s Museo de la Novela de la Eterna next year:

Can we expect to see you take on a longer translation in the future?

I’d love there to be more translated from South American writers from the early twentieth century: Roberto Arlt, Macedonio Fernandez. Then a more complete version of Central Europeans like Bohumil Hrabal. And also more from less well-known periods of major literatures, like the libertine French novels of the eighteenth century, by novelists like Crébillon fils. As for me, though, I don’t know when I’ll ever undertake any of these. I was asked by my publisher if I wanted to translate Madame Bovary—which initially excited me and then I thought of the time it would take—about the time, basically, it would take to write Madame Bovary. I wish more novelists translated novels, but novelists, rightly, in a way, are selfish, and translation of long works takes up so much time. The great novelist-translators like Nabokov and Kundera are massively concerned with the translation of their own works, not the translations of other people. Nabokov’s Pushkin is an uncharacteristically altruistic monument.

(Also worth checking out Mason’s post about The Delighted States.)

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