Giuliana Zeuli lives in Dublin. She has translated many works of contemporary fiction into Italian, including novels by Roddy Doyle—from the Barrytown Trilogy to The Deportees—Catherine Dunne, Bernard MacLaverty, Irvine Welsh and David Peace. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Irish Translators’ and Interpreters’ Association (ITIA) and has represented the ITIA on the European Council of Literary Translators’ Associations (CEATL) and on the board of Ireland Literature Exchange.
Why is literature in translation important?
Just think of what one would have missed without literary translation, from the Bible to Goethe to Cervantes to the Nordic thrillers of recent years…
What do you think is the most important aspect of a good translation?
I always think of myself as the servant of three masters when I am translating a work of literary fiction: I have to be faithful to the original author, give the reader of ‘my’ text the same pleasure and emotions that the reader of the original text enjoys, and deliver to the commissioning publisher a text suitable for the target market. Between the three masters, probably the pleasure of the reader should ultimately prevail.
How would you describe your relationship with the author after you get involved in the translation?
Apart from being faithful to the original work, as I said above, my approach is that I am primarily working on the text contained between the book covers—biographical issues or other details around the writing of the text take second place. When I have completed the second draft, if I have some doubts of interpretation that cannot be easily solved I approach the author, usually through their agent, editor or publisher, and try and get some answers.
Have you encountered any particular difficulties or challenges when translating texts written in Hiberno-English?
Not particularly. Having lived in Ireland for over thirty years, I have a good advantage on this. But I have frequently helped colleagues in understanding some expressions they found peculiar or mysterious. ‘Fond of the soup’ is one of those I remember, or ‘little cement men’, which were in fact garden gnomes.
What is your reaction to the term ‘untranslatable’?
Any translator worth their salt likes a challenge. In literary fiction, which is the genre I translate, there are a lot of apparent ‘untranslatables’ that can ultimately be rendered by taking a step back and applying some lateral thinking and imagination. Translator’s notes can help, although they are best avoided or kept to the bare minimum.