Anne Serre is a remarkable and unusual writer; her pen a scalpel dissecting the human condition with painful precision. The Fool & Other Moral Tales – three novellas – is lyrical and disturbing, wonderful and terrible, arousing and devastating. The hallucinatory, and at times nightmarish quality, is beautifully rendered by translator Mark Hutchinson.
All three tales adventure through the multiple guises and meanings of The Fool. Is he a fallen angel, a grotesque carrier of vice and folly bringing wisdom in his wake as a consequence of blind faith, hopeless romance and reckless desire, or is he an abortive saint, a mistaken revolutionary? The ultimate shapeshifter, he can lead you to Heaven or Hell or, if you get stuck, into the abyss.
Continue reading Review | The Fool & Other Moral Tales, Anne Serre | Les Fugitives
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I grew up in England, worked as a journalist on The Observer for eight years, moved to France and wrote four novels, then translated my first novel (Laurent Binet’s HHhH) in 2010. Two years later, I moved to the US, where I now divide my time between writing and translating.
When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you?
The Lord of the Rings is the first book I remember loving. I was a big Italo Calvino (tr. William Weaver) fan as a teenager, Baron in the Trees in particular. I’ve always been attracted to fairytale-like stories that have aspects of the real world but also some magical difference.
How did your career as a translator come about?
Around 2009, I realized I could no longer make a living as a novelist, so I tried to think what else I could do to support my family. I was living in remote rural France, so journalism was out, but by then I could speak French fluently. So I asked my agent how I could become a literary translator. She put me in touch with editor Rebecca Carter (then at Harvill Secker), who advised me to write reader reports on French novels for UK publishers. The first one I wrote, luckily, was about HHhH. Continue reading Interview | Sam Taylor, translator
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up here in London – my father is Indian and my mother English, and at the time we were a fairly unusual family to say the least. I was always a great reader – and music has always played a big part in my life too. I’ve lived in America and in France – and I’ve travelled quite a bit, but now I spend most of my time either here in London, or in a small village in France. I sing in a choir, and spend most of my time when I’m not working either reading or coaxing my garden to grow. My family is very important to me.
Did you grow up learning and speaking different languages? What fiction in translation did you read, or rather, was available?
My father’s language is Urdu – but I grew up speaking English. I heard Urdu spoken around me, but not enough to learn to speak it myself, although I have made repeated efforts and I have made some progress. But I fell in love with French as soon as I started it at school. After that, I added German and Russian, but French was the language I absorbed the most thoroughly. As for fiction in translation, I’ve always been a voracious reader. As a child I read everything I could lay my hands on and never thought about whether or not it was translated. I remember my father reading me stories by Prem Chand when I had one of the childhood diseases we all used to succumb to, and I started reading the Russian classics as a very young teenager. Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot made a huge impression on me. And I read Anna Karenina for the first time around then too.
Continue reading Interview | Aneesa Abbas Higgins | Translator of the Week
Summer in Nice on the Côte d’Azur. After a blistering two months without rain there’s a violent storm. Chantal abandons herself to the torrential rain and wades into the sea, “it’s pure joy to be swimming in both sea and rain at once, the rain falling in sheets, drenching my head.” She acquired an obsession with the sea from her mother whom she sees in her mind’s eye, “swimming, alone, unreachable, a minuscule speck against the blue immensity, an almost imperceptible dot, except in my own memory.”
Continue reading Review | Memories of Low Tide, Chantal Thomas | Book of the Week
Translation is no longer marginalised as it once was, with its advocates being viewed as quirky oddballs lacking commercial sense and sensibility. The number of independent presses publishing translated literature in the UK has greatly increased in the past decade, often set up by people with a corporate publishing or banking background who are astute operators. Booksellers are far less curmudgeonly than they once were. And somewhat unexpectedly, in 2015, Amazon Crossing published three times more translated fiction in the US than its closest competitors in America (FSG, which has a long tradition of publishing works in translation, and Atria, which mostly publishes books by celebrities).
The imprints of conglomerate publishers in the UK who publish works in translation – MacLehose Press, Harvill Secker, Sceptre, Vintage, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Penguin Press – publish predominantly though not exclusively the sub-genre of crime fiction in translation, leaving the field open for the likes of Alma Books, And Other Stories, Arc, Carcanet, Comma Press, Dedalus, Fitzcarraldo, Les Fugitives, Gallic, Granta, Hesperus, Istros, Jantar, Norvik Press, Peirene Press, Portobello Books, Pushkin Press, Saqi Books, Scribe UK, Small Axes, and others, to publish experimental and literary translation. Continue reading Spotlight | The 2019 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation