Drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested*
28 novembro 2010
Writers, including Saramago's translator, choose their favourite translations
Tim Parks, novelist and translator
On a small, damp farm in northern Holland, after 30 years of tending cows and sheep against his will, Helmer Van Wonderen decides to take control of his life. Quietly melodramatic, intimate, tender and ruthless, Gerbrand Bakker's The Twin is one of the strangest and finest novels I have come across in many years.
People tend to be rather snooty about Constance Garnett these days and yet when I was old enough to have tickets to the adult lending library, it was in her words that I read all the great Russians. I still remember reading with astonishment her translation of Dostoevsky'sThe Idiot.
Jo Nesbø, novelist
Hunger by Knut Hamsun. I read it when I was 17 and it suited my illusion of the romantic, suffering artist perfectly. The main character is wandering the streets of Oslo, madly in love, with no money, struggling to maintain some dignity. It's fascinating, heartbreaking and wildly funny. And it made me want to write.
Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac. In his telling of this bitter domestic drama, Balzac curbed his natural exuberance of style and aimed at restraint. Because French demands more words to express things than English, the challenge for any translator is to restrain this restraint still further, so that the language remains purged of all excess. Marion Crawford's translation feels very adroit in this respect, her search for economy of means apparent from the first paragraph, where a phrase describing the solid houses of Saumur – "la vie et le mouvement y sont si tranquilles" - is elegantly rendered as "life makes so little stir in them".
Xiaolu Guo, author of A Concise Chinese‑English Dictionary for Lovers, right
Some of the most poetic and imaginative sentences I've ever read are from Italo Calvino's novels, especially Invisible Cities, as well as Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. I think those works have reshaped and enriched our vision of history and reality.
Anthea Bell, translator of WG Sebald
The King James Bible, 400 years old, is a masterpiece of English literature – and a translation. I have been captivated since childhood by its dramatic narrative and resonant language. As a non-believer, I can't call it a spiritual companion, but it has been a favourite literary companion all my life.