And now for the Back Story on …
A translator’s book recommendations
The prolific translator Margaret Jull Costa, who has brought Portuguese- and Spanish-language fiction and poetry into the English-speaking world, spoke to our Books desk about what she’s reading.
What books are on your night stand?
I never read in bed, but there’s always a pile next to my favorite chair. At the moment, this includes “Buddenbrooks,” which we’re reading with a group of friends; “Le Château de Ma Mère,” by Marcel Pagnol, which my husband and I are reading with our French tutor; a collection of novellas and short stories by the Portuguese writer Maria Judite de Carvalho, who I’m keen to translate more of.
And Michael Gorra’s “Portrait of a Novel,” about the writing of “Portrait of a Lady” (possibly my favorite novel), which has been on my pile for far too long and should be read soon.
What’s the last great book you read?
“Mrs. Dalloway,” by Virginia Woolf. Her prose is sometimes poetry. Listen to this: “Fear no more says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, collects, lets fall.” And she’s such a compassionate describer of her characters with all their flaws.
I hadn’t read the novel for years, and it was such a joy to revisit and rediscover it.
What book, if any, most influenced your decision to become a translator?
I read a lot of Russian authors when I was in my teens without even realizing they were translations! It was only when studying Spanish before going to university that I was introduced to translating, and I just fell in love with the whole alchemical process of transforming one language into another.
That’s it for this briefing. We’ll be launching a redesigned version of this morning newsletter in the near future — stay tuned.
Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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