Intervista con amore

Grazie a Amneris Di Cesare per l’intervista! (Translation in English below.) Hetherington

Lori Hetherington: come traduco la parola “amore”

Today we have the opportunity to meet Lori Hetherington, a familiar figure at EWWA events and the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera. Amneris Di Cesare conducts the interview.

  1. How did you become a translator? When did you decide to enter this profession? I got started more than twenty years ago when I began doing linguistic revision of scientific articles for some professors from the University of Florence and, a short time later, other professors asked if I could translate their works for publication in international journals. For many years I worked primarily in the scientific field, but I almost never got a chance to use interesting adjectives! My parents were both journalists and I have always loved writing and reading almost anything I can get my hands on. After many—I think probably thousands—of pages about scientific discoveries and experiments, I began to approach fiction and creative nonfiction translation and now the majority of my work is of this type.
  2. Do you work for a particular publisher? No, my translations are from Italian to English and I work mostly with independent authors who want to reach English language readers.
  3. What sort of qualities does a person need to be a translator? Is it necessary to have a university degree or special qualifications? I’d say there are two essential qualities: you need to be able to write your native language well and you need to read a lot. A university degree or other professional certificates may be requested by a publisher or editor or can help you have greater knowledge about the tools used in the profession, but they’re not mandatory in order to translate well.
  4. What kind of books do you translate? Do you focus on one particular genre? I like to translate the genres that I love to read, in other words women’s and literary fiction, historical novels, creative nonfiction, and a bit of romance.
  5. Is there a standard method for translation or does each translator develop their own personal approach? How do you approach a translation? Each translator has their own. It’s the final result that counts! When I’m presented with a new project, I first read the text several times from various points of view in order to enter into a sort of synergy with the voice of the author. Then I create an initial draft of the translated text, staying as close to the original as possible, giving very little attention to the structure of the sentences. In this way I transfer the original author’s precise words into English. And finally, I turn my attention to revision, working in layers until I’m satisfied with the new English version.
  6. Who was the first author you translated? In the beginning I translated authors’ proposals for publishers or literary agents—the standard “first three chapters plus synopsis” requested by most of them for submission. It was a great way to understand better what works (or doesn’t) in the English-language market.
  7. What translation project have you enjoyed the most? That’s like asking a parent which of their children they love the most! I have loved every project in a different way. If I didn’t feel close to them, I wouldn’t take them on in the first place.
  8. In order to translate a literary work, does a translator need to have the skills of a writer? The job of the translator is to rewrite the book in another language: the original author creates the story, the characters, and the setting but only in one language. The translator is driven by the author, but the translator has to choose what path to take.
  9. What elements come into play in determining the quality of a translation? The translated text needs to seem as if it were “born” in that language but the original author needs to be able to recognize it as his or her own child, at least in theory since the author is not always proficient in the language of the translation. The reader should be unaware of the hand of the translator.
  10. Is it more important for a professional translator to know the source language or the target language? One of the rules of the profession is that you translate toward your mother tongue. In other words, you translate a foreign text into your own language. I may be able to write more or less correctly in Italian but, even though I’ve lived in Italy for thirty years, I will never have the fluency that I have in English. In addition, by living in the country where my target language is spoken, that language is an integral part of my being on a daily basis, which helps my understanding of the nuances runs deep.
  11. When you are faced with a text to translate that is lacking in quality, what do you do? Have you ever refused a work for this reason? A good translator refuses a project that they feel they’re unable to do well. It may be because it’s a genre for which they don’t have affinity, a project that requires more skill than they have, or a text or author they don’t completely believe in. The quality of the source text is important because translation brings every tiny defect in a manuscript to the surface. The translation phase is not the most suitable moment to do major editing.
  12. Is it possible to make a living as a translator in Italy? Most of the translators I know translate a wide range of texts: websites, publicity or technical texts, magazine articles, books. A person can make a living in this profession by diversifying the types of texts they work on but, at the same time, creating specialization in terms of areas of expertise.
  13. Do you have interaction with the authors you translate? Do you ever ask an author to clarify aspects of his or her text? That’s when I do my best work! I like to work as part of a team and so when I consider taking on a project one of the questions I ask myself is whether I’d be able to work well with the author. For some translators the act of translation is solitary and they do their best work mostly on their own. I prefer it to be a collaboration.
  14. What book are you translating now? As usual I’m working on several projects, although each one is in a different phase. I’m working on the final production phase of a self-published book with authors Elena and Michela Martignoni entitled ‘The Lustful Youth of Rodrigo Borgia’. I’m nearly finished with the first draft of the first title in a romance series by Elisabetta Flumeri & Gabriella Giacometti, and I’m about to start on a project with an Italian chef who lives in the USA and has started a foundation to help disadvantaged children and families. This latter project is quite unique as it will require me to do translating, editing, and ghostwriting.
  15. Are there specific things an aspiring translator should do if they want to break into the field? What advice would you give them? I would advise them, first of all, to consider themselves an entrepreneur and to jump in with both feet. Attend workshops, book presentations, go to libraries and bookshops, enroll and actively participate in associations, such as EWWA, travel abroad. Practice every day like an athlete who’s training for a competition. Read constantly, join authors’, translators’ and/or readers’ groups on Facebook. When you have a passion—and to be a good translator you have to be passionate about your work—everything you do is linked, in some way, to that passion.
  16. With the advent of self-publishing, amateur or “do it yourself” translation is becoming more widespread. What do you think of translation platforms such as Babelcube and nonprofessional translations? Self-publishing does not necessarily mean “do it yourself”. It’s important to make one thing clear. With the tools available, anyone can self-publish any text and if the final product satisfies them, great. However, professional self-publishing of professional writers means engaging other professionals in order to offer a high quality product. There are extremely few authors (in other words, practically none) who are able to do everything—editing, cover design, formatting, promotion—themselves and in a professional way. Most indie authors identify where they are weakest and invest their resources appropriately since the help of professionals can be expensive. An I’ll-do-it-all-myself approach generally doesn’t give optimal results. With regard to platforms such as Babelcube, I think they can satisfy the needs of the first group of people I mention above.
  17. Thanks to both ebooks and self-publishing, increasing numbers of readers in Italy are looking to get their hands on foreign titles translated into Italian. Many small Italian publishing houses are, as a result, forced to turn to translators to get published novels onto the market as quickly as possible. However, it’s a costly endeavor and sometimes the smaller houses can’t afford it. What do you think about the increasing number of amateur and/or part-time translators who work with small publishers for quick translations? And, in your opinion, how will this phenomenon evolve over time? You’ve pushed one of my buttons! I know experienced translators who have been approached by publishers offering shameful contracts. Translators do not live on air alone and they have to pay their bills and buy diapers for their children just like everyone else. I believe that if a publishing house wants to give readers a quality product, they have to recognize the professionalism of translators: in economic terms including a percentage of royalties when appropriate, with adequate recognition and attribution, and by providing sufficient time to do a good job. Furthermore, if readers find translated texts that are poorly executed and/or the translator’s name does not appear on the title page, in my opinion they should stop buying that publisher’s books. I understand the difficulties faced by small publishers but the entire industry is undergoing great evolution and I think they need to be willing to make changes if they want to survive.

Thank you, Lori. Thank you for your stimulating questions. I hope that I have offered your readers a new way of seeing my profession.

Riassunto del 2015 / 2015 in review


Secondo il report del fine anno, mandatami dal WordPress, “Un trolley a San Francisco può contenere circa 60 passeggeri. Suo blog è stato visto circa 1500 volte nel 2015. Se il blog fosse un trolley, ci vorrebbero 25 viaggi per trasportare tutti.” (Per leggere tutto il report, vede il link in fondo del post.)

Ringrazio tutti che hanno dimostrato interesse alle miei attività nel 2015. Nel complessivo, l’anno è stato positivo e sono soddisfatta per quello che sono riuscita a fare. Ecco un riassunto:

  • Ho tradotto tre libri
  • Sono andata al Women’s Fiction Festival di Matera dove ho incontrato editori, agenti, e autori. Il Festival è un’opportunità eccezionale per conoscere degli esperti nel settore, confrontarsi in termini di esperienze e aspettative, e parlare di e trovare nuovi progetti.
  • Ho partecipato a cinque workshop di EWWA e, come la referente EWWA per la regione toscana, ho aiutato ad organizzare l’assemblea annuale di EWWA a Le Murate a Firenze. Al workshop sul auto-pubblicazione tenuto a Roma, sono intervenuta sul tema della traduzione.
  • Sono stata la moderatrice di una serata sulla poesia in traduzione, con la partecipazione di Elisa Biagini, Brenda Porster, e Andrea Sirotti al St. Mark’s Cultural Association a Firenze.
  • Ho revisionato circa 500 pagine di articoli scientifici per pubblicazione in riviste di alto livello, scritti da autori che non sono di madrelingua inglese.
  • Sono stata la consulente linguistica per l’organizzazione e durante i giorni di convegno del 53° TIAFT Meeting a Firenze.
  • Ho letto estratti delle mie traduzioni letterarie durante sei serate di ‘Open Mic’ a Tasso Hostel a Firenze.
  • Quasi ogni settimana, ho partecipato ad un gruppo di scrittori per affinare le mie capacità e ho dato sostengo agli altri scrittori del gruppo che vogliono fare lo stesso.
  • E in fine, ho trascorso tante, tante ore piacevoli a leggere manoscritti e libri sia in italiano che inglese.

Guardo avanti a 2016 con la speranza di altri 12 mesi di lavoro stimolante, e faccio i miei auguri che tutti possano godere pace, salute, e prosperità.

According to the year-end report sent to me by WordPress, “A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.”

Thanks to all of you who showed in interest in my services in 2015. Overall, it was a good year and I’m satisfied for what I’ve achieved. Here’s a summary:

  • I translated three books
  • I attended the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera Italy where I met with publishers, agents, and authors. The Festival offers exceptional opportunities to connect with experts in the field, compare experiences and expectations, and discuss and find upcoming projects.
  • I participated in five EWWA workshops and, as the Tuscan organizer for EWWA, helped organize the annual EWWA assembly at Le Murate in Florence. At the workshop in Rome on self-publishing, I spoke about translation.
  • I moderated a panel discussion between Elisa Biagini, Brenda Porster, and Andrea Sirotti on the translation of poetry, hosted by St. Mark’s Cultural Association in Florence.
  • I revised approximately 500 pages of scientific texts written by non-English speaking authors for publication in top-level journals.
  • I acted as linguistic consultant during the organization phase and duration of the 53rd annual TIAFT meeting held in Florence.
  • I participated in six ‘Open Mic’ events at Tasso Hostel in Florence, reading extracts from my translated works.
  • I participated, almost every week, in a writer’s group to hone my skills and help other writers do the same.
  • And finally, I spent many, many pleasurable hours reading manuscripts and books in both Italian and English.

I look forward to another stimulating year and wish everyone peace, good health, and prosperity. 

Click here to see the complete report.


Ovunque guardi, mi sembra di notare un altro libro tradotto in inglese che scala le classifiche o che ottiene una recensione favorevole. Ho appena dato un’occhiata alla lista dei 100 titoli del 2015 del New York Times Book Review. Nella categoria narrativa e poesia, nove titoli su cinquanta sono in traduzione; cinque fra quelli di saggistica sono in traduzione. In altre parole, da questo campione, il 14% dei titoli selezionati dal New York Times si presentano orgogliosamente come traduzioni. Siamo ben oltre quel mero 3% di libri tradotti che secondo molti riescono a raggiungere il mercato  americano.

Non è la mia intenzione di criticare i risultati delle stime altrui; voglio solo suggerire che le traduzioni di qualità, da qualsiasi lingua, stanno diventando sempre più accettate e rispettate.

Per quanto riguarda i titoli tradotti dall’italiano, sulla copertina del New York Times Book Review del 27 novembre 2015 compare la recensione di “The Complete Works of Primo Levi” curato e in parte tradotto da Ann Goldstein. Lo stesso numero del Book Review, inoltre, contiene una recensione di “Like Family” (“Il nero e l’argento”) di Paolo Giordano, tradotto da Anne Milano Appel. Per la seconda volta in tre mesi che la recensione di copertina è di un libro tradotto dall’italiano. Ad agosto, al centro dell’attenzione era “The Story of the Lost Child” (“Storia della bambina perduta”) di Elena Ferrante, sempre tradotto da Ann Goldstein. Senza dubbio, questi libri si collocano nella categoria ‘letteratura’ ma, a mio parere, esiste le condizioni per una proliferazione di traduzioni dall’italiano per tutti i generi.

NYT 100Notables 2015


It seems that everywhere I turn, I read about another book in translation hitting a bestseller list or being favorably reviewed. I’ve just perused the New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable books of 2015. On the fiction and poetry list, nine out of the fifty titles are translations, and five titles in the nonfiction category list a translator. In other words, from this sampling 14% are proudly announcing that they are translations. Well above the frequently quoted three percent figure.

Now, I’m not criticizing anyone’s calculations but I do want to suggest that quality translations are becoming increasingly accepted and respected, no matter what the original language.

With regard to Italian titles, on November 27, 2015 the New York Times Book Review’s cover review is of “The Complete Works of Primo Levi” edited and in part translated by Ann Goldstein, and the same issue features a review of Paolo Giordano’s “Like Family” translated by Anne Milano Appel. According to the editor of the NYT Book Review, this is the second time in this season that a cover review has focused on a book translated from the Italian. The other was just three months ago when Rachel Cusk reviewed Elena Ferrante’s “The Story of the Lost Child” also translated by Ann Goldstein. While these titles definitely fit into the literature category, I do believe there is a swelling wave growing offshore for all genres of Italian books.


Complimenti alla traduttrice Anne Milano Appel come vincitrice del premio Italian Prose in Translation Award (IPTA) 2015 per la sua traduzione del libro “Blindly” di Claudio Magris. Il primo anno per l’assegnazione di questo importante premio ($5000), è un piacere vedere riconosciuta la Sig.ra Appel, una traduttrice di qualità da quasi vent’anni.

I premi letterari possono attirare molta attenzione a un genere o, come in questo caso, a titoli tradotti da una lingua particolare. Ci sono alcune persone che criticano i principali premi letterari perché, secondo loro, sono sempre i soliti vincitori. Mi pare, però, che la giuria abbia fatto un’ottima scelta dalla lista dei cinque candidati.

E’ la mia speranza che questo nuovo premio porti maggiore riguardo per tutti i generi di libri tradotti dall’italiano all’inglese.


Congratulations to translator Anne Milano Appel as winner of the Italian Prose in Translation Award (IPTA) 2015 for her translation of “Blindly” by Claudio Magris. This is the first year the prize ($5000) has been awarded and it is a pleasure to see it go to Ms. Appel who has been a quality translator for nearly twenty years.

Literary prizes can attract considerable attention to a genre or, in this case, to titles translated from a particular language. Some people criticize major literary prizes because they believe they are awarded to the same small group of authors or translators year after year. Considering the shortlist for this award, it would seem that the jury made an excellent choice.

It is my hope that this new award will help shine even more light on books of all genres translated from Italian into English.


E’ un grande piacere annunciare che Cristiano Gentili, autore del romanzo ‘Ombra Bianca’ (‘Then She Was Born’ in inglese) ha firmato un contratto per rappresentanza con l’agente letteraria americana, April Eberhardt. Cristiano ed io abbiamo lavorato nell’invero 2014-2015 sulla traduzione di questa toccante storia che gira intorno ad una bambina albina, basata su eventi reali che l’autore ha saputo mentre era un funzionario internazionale per l’ONU in Africa e durante un suo viaggio in Tanzania.

In concomitanza con il libro, Cristiano ha creato un progetto innovativo: un Social Audio Book (S.A.B.) in grado di unire le voci di magliaie di persone per creare una sorte di collage per narrare la storia. Papa Francesco è stato il primo a donare la sua voce, e poco dopo undici premio Nobel per la pace hanno seguito il suo esempio. Chiunque può partecipare. Basta visitare il sito Help African Albinos. E’ un modo per dare voce a chi non ce l’ha.



sign contract


It is my great pleasure to announce that Cristiano Gentili, author of the novel ‘Then She Was Born’, has signed with American literary agent April Eberhardt. Cristiano and I worked over the winter of 2014-2015 on the translation of his deeply touching account of an albino girl, a story based on real events he witnessed as a UN operative in Africa and during a fact-finding trip to Tanzania.

In conjunction with the novel, Cristiano has created an innovative Social Audio Book (S.A.B.) project that combines the voices of thousands of people to form a sort of collage to narrate the story. The first person to lend his voice was Pope Francis, and his gesture was followed by eleven Nobel peace laureates. Anyone can participate by going to the Help African Albinos website. It’s a great way to show your support for those whose voices are unheeded.




Revisione di un testo / Revising a text

Ogni traduttore ha il proprio modo di lavorare, però ci sono praticamente sempre gli stessi passaggi: lettura, prima stesura, e revisione. Fra questi tre, la revisione è sempre quello che richiede più tempo e attenzione. Infatti, sono quasi sempre necessari più revisioni per trovare quella giusta combinazione di voce, ambientazione e sensazioni.

Spesso, durante la revisione di una traduzione, vengono fuori delle sorprese: ogni piccolo difetto in un’opera viene ampliato con la traduzione. Come quel testo venisse esaminato sotto un microscopio. Questo succede perche la traduzione offre la possibilità di vedere il lavoro da un altro punto di osservazione, portando a galla problemi nascosti. Per esempio, se tu stampi il file del tuo manoscritto – controllato già tante volte per errori di ortografia e contenuto – cosa trovi? Errori! Cambiando la forma permette di vederlo con occhi nuovi.

Quando fai tradurre il tuo libro, possono emergere problemi di punteggiatura o sintassi, problemi con il punto di vista o la narrazione, debolezze nella trama o la costruzione dei personaggi. Anche agli scrittori più esperti sfuggono piccole dettagli. Risolvere questi problemi in un modo che rispetti l’intenzione dell’autore richiede un rapporto scrittore-traduttore forte e collaborativo.

Certamente non suggerisco di rivolgersi ad un traduttore esclusivamente per portare in superficie i difetti nel tuo testo, ma la traduzione dà una opportunità di rendere il tuo libro ancora più forte.


Every translator has his or her own way of working. However, there are essentially three standard steps: read, rough draft, revision. And among these, revision always takes the most time and attention, in large part because numerous revision steps are typical in order to find the right combination of voice, setting, and emotion.

Surprises often appear during the revision of a translation. Every little defect in a text gets magnified with the translation process, as if the pages are put under a microscope. This happens because translation offers the chance to see the work from another observation point, bringing hidden problems into the open. For example, if you print the file containing your manuscript (the manuscript you’ve checked and rechecked for spelling mistakes and content errors), what will you find? Mistakes! Changing the format allows you to see the text with new eyes.

When you have your book translated, all sorts of complications may appear: errors in punctuation and syntax, difficulties with point of view or story arc, weaknesses in the plot or in the characters. Even with the most experienced writers there are little details that slip through the cracks. Resolving these problems in a way that respects the author’s original intent requires a good, strong relationship between author and translator.

Of course I’m not suggesting you should turn to a translator only to bring the defects in your text to the surface, but translation does offer an opportunity to make your book even stronger.


Sembra che le possibilità per auto pubblicarsi crescono da giorno in giorno, ma uno dei punti fermi e di qualità rimane sempre quello di Kobo Writing Life e recentemente ho avuto il piacere di intervistare per EWWA Camille Mofidi, il Manager Europeo per questa piattaforma.

Ho conosciuto Camille al Women’s Fiction Festival a Matera nel 2014 e sono contenta che ci sarà di nuovo all’edizione 2015. La sua esperienza nel settore e la sua disponibilità sono eccezionali: Camille è, secondo me, un esempio molto positivo della nuova generazione di esperti che sono al servizio degli autori indipendenti.

Di nuovo, grazie Camille e buona lettura a tutti.

Camille Mofidi, European Manager Kobo Writing Life

Camille Mofidi, European Manager Kobo Writing Life


It sometimes seems as if the opportunities for self-publishing grow day by day, but one of the quality reference points continues to be Kobo Writing Life. Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Camille Mofidi, the European Manager for the platform, for the EWWA  website.

I met Camille at the 2014 edition of the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera and I am very pleased to see that she will again be present at this year’s event. She is exceptional in terms of her experience in the field and her availability and, in my opinion, she is a positive example of the new generation of experts working to support independent authors.

Thank you again, Camille, and I hope my readers find the interview of interest.

Intervista con un’autrice bestseller / Interview with a bestselling author

Recentemente ho avuto il piacere di intervistare l’autrice bestseller Tina Folsom per il sito di EWWA. Tina è stata molto disponibile nel rispondere alle mie domande e ha rivelato che la sua serie ‘Phoenix Code’ scritto insieme a Lara Adrian sarà presto in italiano.

Per chi non conosce Tina Folsom, è una buon’esempio di un autrice indipendente che sa utilizzare gli strumenti disponibile al suo favore, e in modo internazionale. Per ora, ha pubblicato indipendentemente (cioè in auto-pubblicazione) più di venticinque libri in quattro lingue e molti titoli anche in forma audiolibro.

Personalmente, trovo la sua storia di grande interesse perché ha avuto il coraggio di tentare cose nuove e di avventurarsi nei mercati in altre lingue. Sicuramente non è stato facile, ma ci credeva e perseverava, e ora è una dei big nel genere ‘romance’.


Tina Folsom

Tina Folsom

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing bestselling author Tina Folsom for the EWWA website. Tina graciously answered my questions and also revealed that her ‘Phoenix Code’ series, written together with Lara Adrian, will soon be available in Italian.

For those who are unfamiliar with Tina Folsom, she is an exceptional example of an independent writer who knows how to use the tools available and apply them internationally. For now, she has independently published more than twenty-five books in four languages and she has a number of titles in audiobook format as well.

Personally, I find her story incredibly interesting because she has been courageous in trying new things and venturing into markets in other languages. Without a doubt it has not been easy for Tina, but she has believed in what she is doing and persevered, and she has become one of the major authors in the romance genre.

Buone notizie / Good news

Negli ultimi mesi, ci sono stati alcuni segnali incoraggianti dal mondo dell’editoria per quanto riguarda le traduzioni.

L’evento più importante negli Stati Uniti per il settore dell’editoria è BookExpo America, appuntamento che si tiene tutti gli anni verso la fine di maggio. Una delle sue parti, il Global Market Forum, è sempre seguita con grande attenzione da esperti e professionisti alla ricerca di nuove tendenze. Quest’anno, il forum è stato dedicato alle traduzioni.

Durante un dibattito (come riferito dal Publishing Perspectives), la literary scout Maria Campbell ha detto, “Per entrare nel mercato dei testi in lingua inglese, gli autori devono partecipare attivamente alla ricerca del traduttore giusto.” Infatti, come come spiega l’articolo, il rapporto tra autore e traduttore èfondamentale , perché il traduttore può fare la differenza fra un libro che trovasia una casa editrice, sia un pubblico di lettori, e una storia maldestra che non sarà letta da nessuno.

Il fatto che BookExpo America abbia dedicato tanta attenzione alla traduzione è promettente, perché potrebbe incoraggiare le case editrici ad aprirsi sempre di più verso la ricchezza e l’innovazione che caratterizzano la letteratura disponibile fuori da Nord America, narrativa e saggistica incluse. Inoltre, potrebbe attirare un maggiore interesse dei lettori per i libri tradotti.

Per fortuna, questa apertura verso la traduzione non è limitata solo al mercato americano. Un articolo intitolato ‘British Readers Lost in Translations as Foreign Literature Sales Boom’ (I lettori britannici si perdono nelle traduzioni con il boom nelle vendite di titoli stranieri) è apparso in The Observer verso la fine di agosto. La prima frase dell’articolo è significativa: “I lettori britannici stanno divorando romanzi stranieri ad un livello record, segnando un piccolo boom nei titoli tradotti, come dimostrato dal successo di autori scandinavi quali Jo Nesbø.” L’aspetto interessante è che agenti, editor e venditori di libri dimostrano grande entusiasmo per i titoli in traduzione, che spesso riescono a vendere migliaia di copie (e qui non stiamo parlando dei bestseller degli autori più noti). Finalmente queste opere cominciano ad essere viste ,innanzi tutto, come dei bei libri, e solo dopo come libri tradotti.. E non vice versa.


In recent months there have been several encouraging signals from the publishing industry with regard to translations.

The most important event in the USA is BookExpo America and it’s held every year around the end of May: its Global Market Forum is always carefully followed by experts in the field and professionals looking for the latest trends. This year the forum focused on the topic of translation.

During a panel discussion (as reported in Publishing Perspectives), literary scout Maria Campbell said that “To get into English you have to participate in finding the right translator.” Indeed, as she explained in the PP article, the relationship between author and translator is key as the translator can make the difference between a book that first finds a publisher and then a following, and an awkwardly worded story that doesn’t get read.

The fact that BookExpo America put the spotlight on translation is promising as it may help the publishing industry open up more to the wealth and innovation of literature – both fiction and nonfiction – available from outside North America, as well as lead to greater interest in books in translation on the part of readers.

Fortunately the opening toward translation is not limited to just the North American market. An article entitled ‘British Readers Lost in Translations as Foreign Literature Sales Boom’ appeared in The Observer the end of August. The lead sentence reads, “British readers are devouring foreign fiction in record numbers amid a mini-boom in translated novels, inspired by the success of Scandinavian authors such as Jo Nesbø.” What’s interesting is that agents, editors and booksellers are enthusiastic about the titles in translation that are selling thousands of books, not just the million-copy blockbusters. Finally these books are beginning to be seen first as great books and, second, as translations. And not the other way around.

Intervista Collettivo Idra / Interview

Recentemente, Christina B. Assouad mi ha intervistato sul mestiere di traduttrice. Christina cura la rubrica Beauty Case per il Collettivo Idra, un grande contenitore dove le protagoniste sono le donne e ciò che nella letteratura le riguarda. Inoltre alla sua grande passione per la scrittura e il cioccolato fondente, Christina, insieme al Collettivo Idra, ha firmato i romanzi collaborativi “Social Singles” e “Tutto il resto è rasta: cinque ragazze in Giamaica.”

Recently, Christina B. Assouad interviewed me for her column Beauty Case, as part of the Collettivo Idra website, about my work as a literary translator. According to the site, Collettivo Idra is “a place for women and all things dealing with literature in its feminine form.” In addition to Christina’s great passion for writing and dark chocolate, she is one of the authors, in conjunction with Collettivo Idra, of the collaborative novels Social Singles and Tutto il resto è rasta: cinque ragazze in Giamaica. The following is a translation of the interview.

Hello Lori and welcome to Beauty Case.

Hi Christina, thanks for inviting me.

 To start, I’d like you to tell us something about how a person becomes a literary translator. Is there a well defined path to follow or is it a job that comes out of being fluent in a language and having a great passion for books? What has been your experience?

There are essentially two ways to become a literary translator: the academic route, with a degree in foreign language and literature followed by specialization courses in translation, and of course supported by periods abroad; or ‘by chance’ after having gotten a good start in another field. Translators coming from these two paths approach the profession differently but, in my opinion, both can be equally valid. Personally, I belong to the latter group.

I grew up in a journalistic family and love the subtleties that can be expressed with a language. I came to Italy in 1986 and after a few years began working with scientific translations (and I still do), but I realized I missed using adjectives!

Whichever way a person becomes a translator, I’d say the defining factor is having a good feeling about what you translate.

Can you tell us three characteristics a person needs if they want to be a translator? Of course, if there are more than three, don’t hesitate to share them…

The first and, as far as I’m concerned, most important to translate successfully in any field is to write well. A person can learn to write and can improve their skills, but a gift from Mother Nature is important from the start.

In addition, a translator needs to be a perfectionist and well organized. Generally I have a number of projects going simultaneously: for example I may be reading a manuscript in preparation to start translating while I’m revising another text I’ve just translated, and meanwhile an author may need my urgent help with a synopsis to send to an agent, and still another has made changes that need to be woven into an already completed work. And all this needs to be done with maximum precision!

Like in any field it’s also necessary to be professional, which means respecting deadlines, knowing how to listen and being flexible.

When you’re working on a translation, have you ever thought “I would have written this paragraph differently” or “I would have made the protagonist more…”?

It’s inevitable! There are lots of ways to transmit ideas and sensations and a translator considers the alternatives.

In any case, the way I face this dilemma is through direct contact with the author. Working with a writer—for example to prepare a text for self-publication or to submit the first chapters to a foreign agent or publisher for evaluation—I try to encourage him/her to have a critical eye. First of all, I’m a reader and if something doesn’t make sense to me, I talk with the author. Make no mistake, I’m not a literary critic but I do ask questions in an attempt to close up any holes. In fact, translation tends to bring defects in a manuscript to the surface, offering an opportunity to improve the overall work.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that readers in other countries often have different tastes about what they read and I think it’s part of my job to help the author understand this. For example, American readers generally want there to be a hook in a story right from the beginning; too much explanation or backstory can bore the reader. I think it’s my duty to express my opinions in hopes of finding successful solutions.

 It’s a delicate job making words travel from one language to another. How difficult is it to translate [in Italian tradurre] without betrayal [tradire]?

You’re right, it is a real challenge. In fact, this is why I prefer to collaborate with an author whenever possible. I like to hear her voice (not only on the page), see how she moves, hear her laugh, and talk about what’s behind the story. The other thing that helps me is to read the text I’m translating at least three times. The first time so that it leaves me with an impression, the second time I read it in greater depth and pay attention to the details, and finally I read it with an eye toward the dynamics between the various parts. I want to feel the story has worked its way inside me. And then I do more or less the same thing with the translated text. It’s a good thing I like to read!

When you’ve finished a project, have you ever gotten so hooked on it that you feel a bit like a coauthor?

 More than coauthor, I feel like the midwife. For an author, that book is her baby, and I work to bring about its (re)birth so that it’s healthy and strong in translation. Usually a literary translator works either for a publisher, for herself on texts from the public domain, or for the author. In the first case, the translator has to stick to the original text as closely as possible since contact with the author is minimal or nonexistent. In the second case, since the author is generally no longer living the translator is free to interpret the text, and in the last case it’s a matter of collaboration. Personally, I like teamwork, but each translator has his/her preferences and strengths.

Do you have a website or can you suggest any for further information about your profession?

I’ve got a site at, and readers can find a wealth of information about literary translation and translators at