A Picture Is Worth 1,000 (Foreign) Words

The third issue of Slice Magazine, a literary journal edited by New York book editors Maria Gagliano and Celia Johnson, has the theme of “In Translation.” The mag’s interpretation is a pretty loose one (“our lives are constantly in translation,” says the editors’ note), which leads to the occasional awkward question. (To Kathryn Harrison: “How would you, as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, describe the process of [or state of being in] translation?”). And despite including a few brief interviews with translators (including Natasha Wimmer, who’s worked on Roberto Bolano‘s books), none of the fiction in the issue is translated from another language.

Still, there’s lots to like, and in the heart of the issue is an interview with Andrew Sean Greer that addresses the matter of translation head-on. (The online version is only an excerpt of the interview in the print issue.) He discusses providing a visual aid for translators of his latest book, The Story of a Marriage (reviewed):

I actually write a note to translators, when (and if) they contact me. I tell them to feel absolutely free to go with their own sense of voice and poetry and not go for a literal translation. It is more important to me that the tone and spirit of the book translate than the actual words. That’s a harder job for them, actually. I send them photographs and things so they get the sense of the book as I wrote it. [I] have a number of photographs of Playland by the Sea in San Francisco, which is in the book, but also one particular photograph of a woman with an umbrella sitting by a roaring ocean. That one is not literally in the book, but is in tune with the tone of it. Tells them what I was seeing, as a writer.

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