The Art and Passion of Translation via Natalia Ginzburg, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Goldstein, Giovanna Calvino, Alessandra Ginzburg, Ann Goldstein, Lynn Schwarz, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, and myself

Ginzburg panel
Left to Right: Alessandra Ginzburg, Giovanna Calvino, Jenny McPhee, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Goldstein, and Lynne Sharon Schwartz

An extraordinary panel of translators and writers celebrated my new translation of Natalia Ginzburg’s novel, Family Lexicon, at NYU’s Casa Italiana recently. The panel, composed entirely of women, was moderated by historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, and featured Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Goldstein, Giovanni Calvino, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, and myself. As a surprise guest, and a total gift for me, Natalia Ginzburg’s daughter, Alessandra Ginzburg, also joined the discussion.

Natalia Ginzburg’s stories of her family were woven throughout our wonderfully collaborative discussion about the art and science of translation. Among the many ideas explored were Jhumpa Lahiri’s vivid descriptions of climbing into the basement of the novel to examine the mechanics of a writer’s language; Giovanna Calvino spoke of the challenges she faces dealing with the translations of her father’s work; Alessandra Ginzburg talked about her mother’s relationship to translation; and Lynne Schwartz described Ginzburg’s writing as deceptively simple in style but extraordinarily complex in meaning, using uncomplicated language to reveal layers of meaning.

Casa Italiana had a full house with an overflow room to accommodate as many guests as possible–Viva translation!!!! Viva women in translation!!! The stories we told to illuminate our relationship with writing and language and our conversation about how we mine the depths of another’s writing when translating were riveting for me and I think also for the audience. The serendipitous timing of my translation of Family Lexicon was not lost on the panel, or the audience, given its relevance to our current political climate.

Click here to see a video of this event

And for those who read Italian here is a great write up from La Voce di New York: Natalia Ginzburg: a joyful writer a cavallo tra due mondi

And here are a couple of lovely reviews from the LA Review of Books and Bookforum

I also spent the day recently at Princeton University visiting Jhumpa Lahiri’s translation class, speaking with faculty and graduate students, the day culminating in a bilingual reading with the wonderful Sara Teardo of the Italian Department. The Trenton Times even wrote about it! Read here.

And last, but by no means least, I came across this 15-minute podcast essay by the translator Daniel Hahn, part of the BBC Radio 4 series How to Write a Book. It is quite simply sublime and just about sums up what it is to be a writer. Reader, Writer, Translator, you will love it, I promise: On Writing Don Quixote

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Art and Passion of Translation via Natalia Ginzburg, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Goldstein, Giovanna Calvino, Alessandra Ginzburg, Ann Goldstein, Lynn Schwarz, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, and myself

  1. May I recommend essay “Found in Translation,” by Piotr Florczyk, in American Scholar, Spring 2017: “I’ve come to realize that some of the difficulties I encounter while first reading and translating a poem should be left untouched in the translation, which should be ruled by some of the same laws that apply to revision — mainly, that too much revising may produce a patchwork of smooth but spiritless parts, rather than the real thing.”

  2. Joan Sullivan

    How cool! I wish I lived closer.

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