Liesl Schillinger: Literary Translation as Focused Play

Liesl Schillinger

Some of you may know Liesl Schillinger as a critic for the New York Times Book Review, or seen her byline on cultural essays and articles at various other publications. She’s also a literary translator, and she spent much of last year “tweaking and ‘sanding'” an English-language edition of the debut novel by Croatian-born Nataša Dragnić, Every Day, Every Hour. The title comes from the Pablo Neruda poem “If You Forget Me,” which should give you some idea of how romantic this decades-spanning story will be—and, in this guest essay, Liesl explains a bit more about why she was so drawn to translate it for English-language readers.

I’ve translated short stories many times before—always by living authors, though I never consulted them during the translation process—but this was my first book-length translation, and the first time that the author and I discussed wording choices along the way. I worried that, given Nataša Dragnić’s proficiency in English, if I translated glücklich as “happy,” for example, rather than “lucky” (both meanings are possible), she might think I was a moron. But I knew I had an instinct for what language would go over best with English-speaking readers, and trusted that this instinct would see me through. I couldn’t let anxiety hamper my work. I believed in the novel, and in my ability to convey its emotion and vitality.

The book came to my attention serendipitously. An editor friend returned from Frankfurt in 2010 with a copy of Jeden Tag, Jede Stunde in his suitcase. It had been the talk of the Frankfurt Book Fair, he said. Would I look it over and let him know if I thought it had potential here? Reading it in German, I cried many times—the tears that come when you read or watch “The English Patient,” or “Romeo and Juliet,” or any book, play or opera about star-crossed love. Set in a Croatian seaside village and in Paris, and spanning several decades, it told the poignant and passionate tale of two creative people̶a strong-willed woman and a weak-willed man—who loved each other but couldn’t make it work. I wholeheartedly endorsed the book, and agreed to translate it.


27 May 2012 | in translation |

Let’s Meet Up at BookExpo America

BookExpo logoWe’re coming up on BookExpo America, the annual bookselling industry’s national trade show, in a few weeks—and I’ll be pitching in at a few events again this year. First of all, on Monday, June 4, I’ll be a panelist at the Book Bloggers Conference, one of several folks who’ve been invited to talk about how to make money as a book blogger. Except that I won’t actually be talking about how to make money blogging, but about my recent efforts to produce an app version of Beatrice, delivering “premium content” that expands upon the mission I’ve been working on at this site all these years—introducing readers to writers. I’ll be joining BlogHer senior editor Rita Arens, Thea James of The Book Smugglers, and Sarah Pitre of Forever Young Adult; we’ll all be fielding questions from Scott Fox, the author of Click Millionaires, a handbook for creating “Internet lifestyle businesses” designed to draw upon your passions and expertise so you can start working more for yourself. I’ve just started digging into it, but I’m looking forward to talking about his ideas while we’re all on the stage.

Then on Tuesday, June 5, I’ll be introducing everyone who swings by the Downtown Stage at 11:00 a.m. to four of the authors of this year’s buzz titles: novelists Antoine Wilson, Rachel Joyce, and Vaddey Ratner, plus memoirist Susannah Cahalan. This is rather a short session, so I’m planning on staying out of the way and letting these writers tell you about the books they’ve got coming out later this year, and why you should keep an eye out for them. (I’m starting to get my advance copies in the mail, and I’m looking forward to digging into them next week!)

Oh! And on Monday night, you should totally swing by Lady Jane’s Salon, the monthly reading series dedicated to romance fiction I helped launch three-and-a-half years ago. Our guests that evening are Cara Elliot, Taryn Rose, Mari Mancusi, Diana Peterfreund, and Beatriz Williams—and we’re hoping that a lot of romance fans who are coming to New York City for the BookExpo will drop by and introduce themselves! At the end of the year, the net proceeds from our $5 cover are donated to a local women’s charity, so you’ll be supporting a good cause as well as having a good time.

Then, of course, there’s all the wandering around the Javits Convention Center I’m likely to do while BookExpo is in full swing: catching up with publishers from outside New York, taking notes at industry panels, standing in line to get autographed books… If there’s any decent cell-phone reception, which is unfortunately never a given at the Javits, I’ll be tweeting some highlights, so keep an eye out!

21 May 2012 | events |

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