Found in Translation

9781609452865_92e01  9781101875551_92053  9781609452926_cb5cd

In 2014 few Americans knew Italian author Elena Ferrante’s name, let alone the name of her English-language translator Ann Goldstein.

In a profile yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reports that Goldstein, who by day is chief of the New Yorker magazine’s copy department, often draws packed audiences at events where she stands in for the author, who does not make appearances.

Goldstein tells the WSJ that she became attracted to writing translations in typical copy editor fashion, because it focused her attention. “I liked it as a way of reading,” she said, “If you have to copy down every word of something, you become very close to it.”

Describing her take on translation, Goldstein says,

“Sometimes, I think, it’s puzzle-solving. I want to make good English sentences but without losing the particular voice of the Italian writer. I can’t explain how that happens. I think it has to do with staying pretty close to the original.”

“Her name on a book now is gold,” says Robert Weil, editor in chief of Norton’s Liveright imprint (she translated the imprint’s enormous Complete Works of Primo Levi). Her upcoming projects include Jhumpa Lahiri’s new memoir In Other Words (PRH/Knopf; BOT), which was composed in Italian when Lahiri moved to Italy and decided to write in that language, and Frantumaglia: Bits and Pieces of Uncertain Origin (Europa Editions) Ferrante’s upcoming collection of interviews, letters, and other writing.

Her fame will only grow if circulation is any measure. Libraries still have active holds queues on all four of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, (Europa Editions).

Goldstein discusses them in this New Yorker “Out Loud” podcast.

3 Responses to “Found in Translation”

  1. Angie Says:

    Do you have a specific area/set of libraries you check for the holds? Or do you randomly check from a sampling of libraries across the country?

  2. Erica Says:

    I am curious as to Angie’s questions – following this post.

  3. Nora Rawlinson Says:

    Hi Angie and Erica;

    Thanks for your questions. We check holds at libraries across the country that, based on our experience, are bellwethers. All of them have the following characteristics:

    1) the library’s online catalog shows holds and numbers of copies ordered.

    2) the library’s users are active in placing holds

    3) and, they tend to place holds early.

    Hope that give you more background.