Thursday, February 22, 2007

Translating Primo Levi

Readers of the New Yorker might have noticed that quite a few recent issues have included stories by late authors, two of which were by Primo Levi. Ann Goldstein translated one of those stories from the Italian (Alessandra Bastagli translated the other one) and she talks about his work and the translation of it on the New Yorker’s website.

In this interview, Ms. Goldstein discusses, among other things, Mr. Levi’s “precise” language and his use of scientific terms; she says that she chooses scientific words in English that the reader may not know rather than simplifying them because she is aware of the fact that Italian readers, too, wouldn’t necessarily recognize all those terms. Thus, she attempts to retain Mr. Levi’s intentions.

An interesting note is that Ms. Goldstein seems to say that her first translation from Italian was published in the New Yorker. I’m sure many of us who work as literary translators, or would like to, don’t ever get published in that magazine, much less with our very first job! She is now one of the translators of the forthcoming collected works of Primo Levi.

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