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Obituary: Barbara Wright (1915-2009)

This is horrible news. From the Alma Books Bloggerel:

John Calder called me this afternoon to give me the sad news of Barbara Wright’s death last night, after complications from a hip operation. Barbara was one of the greatest and most influential translators from the French, and was almost as instrumental as John in making available the works of some of the greatest authors of twentieth-century French literature, such as Queneau and Sarraute.

Before she moved from her house on Frognal, and before I left Dalkey Archive, I used to go and have dinner with Barbara Wright every time I was in London. I swear, I could’ve listened to her talk for hours about how she became a translator, about James Laughlin, about John Calder, about the first time she met Beckett . . . Thankfully, I still have a few of the postcards she used to send me along with a special “Tolling Elves 5” brochure that was printed in honor of Raymond Queneau’s centenary and features samples from a few of Barbara’s translations of his work. (Speaking of which, her story about how she invented a few of the pieces in Exercises in Style while translating the book is another classic story . . .)

She was one of the all time great translators, and also one of the kindest people I ever met. She will be greatly missed.



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