If when you read a work of fiction you are never alone, since you can hear the voice of the author, then when you read in translation, you’re in sort of a threesome. The translator, as Cervantes is said to have said, is there at the edge of the frame, revealing the other side of the tapestry. Susan Bernofsky has been translating from German into English for decades, focusing on the writers Robert Walser, Yoko Tawada, and Jenny Erpenbeck. Her latest book is a biography of Walser, Clairvoyant of the Small, and she is now translating Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, a (very) brief excerpt of which we published earlier this year. Bernofsky directs the literary translation program at Columbia’s School of the Arts. She joins us on the podcast to talk about the joys and struggles of bringing another writer’s words into English.
Go beyond the episode:
- Susan Bernofsky’s latest book is Clairvoyant of the Small, a biography of Robert Walser
- You can find her translations on her website and on her long-running blog, Translationista
- Subscribe to the magazine to read an excerpt from The Magic Mountain
- The Bible was translated, too: listen to our interview with Robert Alter
- It took until 2017 for a novel in Malagasy or a short story collection in Tibetan to be translated into English—and we talked to both translators
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.
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