Recently the Los Angeles Review of Books has been running an excellent series of interviews with literary translators, or “multilingual wordsmiths” as the editors rightly call them. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Don Bartlett, the translator of the Norwegian novel My Struggle, that rings very true.
Liesl Schillinger: What traits do you think translators have in common, if any?
Bartlett: I suppose we all like our own company. You’re alone, but words do something for you; words have a special value for you, so if you spend a whole day in a room away from anybody else, the words themselves have a magic that gives you a feeling the day is still worthwhile. When I meet other translators at book fairs and so on, we’re all over each other, keen to talk; and that night when you go back to wherever you’re sleeping, your brain is flooded with impressions, because suddenly so many things from the real world have impinged on yours.