Iglika Vassileva - The Art of Translation

When did you start translating?
My first translation came out in 1983, which means twenty six years ago.

What was the first literary work you translated?
Changing by Liv Ullmann.

What are the most common difficulties in your work as a translator?
There is no common denominator for all the different kinds of difficulties a translator encounters, because these depend on the different authors. As a whole the difficulties of a translation depend on the author, not on the translator. The specific problems with translating Joyce are not the same as those with translating Paul Auster, for example.

But if I have to give one specific answer, the difficulties stem mostly from the ability to interpret the text correctly, which means that the author has to get under the translatorís skin, and the latter has to obey the former without allowing herself to be enslaved in the process. This may be achieved only through a lot of preliminary work on every single author, the authorís language and the peculiarities of his style. Which, in its own turn, means that with every author you are back at the beginning. No doubt you accumulate experience, but more in terms of techniques than in terms of creative approaches.

Could you tell us something about the influence an author, an editor or a publisher can exert over your translation?
I can only say that working with an author, no matter how difficult he or she may be, is still easier than working with an editor or a publisher. For various reasons. I have to admit, however, that Iíve been very lucky and have had great editors, which I canít say for many of the publishers I have worked with. Some of them lack knowledge of literature, others seem incapable of understanding the difficulties of the work of the translator, yet others approach the whole process selectively and pay more to the pushier translators, and not to those with more talent. These have been my impressions so far.

What makes a good translation?
Faithfulness to the original, given that the original is good.

What were your greatest challenges with the translation which won the award? (The Sea by John Banville)
Re-creating, not merely translating, the depth of psychological insight and the virtuoso style of John Banville. His prose uses the capabilities of language to a full extent-- no, to an extreme. The recreation of emotions, relationships and images, so minutely nuanced, they seem to be seen through the microscope of a great psychologist.

Does translating inspire you to write yourself?
All the time, but the big authors I have translated so far tend to discourage me with their linguistic perfection.