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Translating Elena Ferrante

14 September 2020

'The first draft is the words as they are, more or less in the order they appear. It is pretty straightforward. But most of the time there is then some shaping of that language into an English that reads like English but still contains some suggestion of the Italian. In my first draft I look at the Italian; in the second I am still working with the Italian and trying to solve problems I couldn't solve first time around. Then, eventually, I try to read just the English, without the Italian, but I never can, because there's always something I need to go back to check. Sometimes I find I've gone too far away from the Italian; sometimes I find I need to go further away...

Definitely more attention is being paid to translators and they're getting more credit, but there's a long way to go. Now this is something I don't really care about, but it's often a battle to have your name on the cover of a book.'

Ann Goldstein, who has worked with Elena Ferrante for 16 years and translated the work of Primo Levi, Jhumpa Lahiri and many other great Italian writers, and is also head copy editor at the New Yorker, in the Observer