The Three Rs in translation: Nick Caistor

May 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

How did you learn your source language?

I translate from French, Spanish and Portuguese, and learnt each of them in very different ways. I studied French through school (the only foreign language taught) and then through university and as a post-graduate: so I had a lot of formal teaching. I learnt Spanish by going to live in Argentina, and so learnt it ‘on the hoof’ ( or ‘sobre el pucho’ as they say in Argentina). I started translating from Portuguese when I suddenly found I had to translate a soap opera from Brazil for television in Britain.

How did you come to translation in general, and literary translation in particular?

After living in Argentina during the dictatorship, when I returned to Britain I was involved in human rights work on Argentina, Chile, El Salvador and other Latin American countries. This involved a lot of translation work, and that led on to translating Latin American writers forced to live in exile.

An Englishman in Madrid by Eduardo Mendoza

What does your day look like while you’re translating a novel?

I try to leave at least half a day completely free so that I can concentrate on my translation, and set aside another hour to read what I have done the day before.

What are your favourite contemporary books in the source language?

Anything by Javier Marias (translated by Margaret Jull Costa);

An Englishman in Madrid by Eduardo Mendoza (which I translated)

What have you read recently in English that you loved?

The Emperor’s Tomb by Joseph Roth, translated by Michael Hofmann.

What novel have you translated most recently?

If I Close my Eyes Now, by the Brazilian author Edney Sylvestre.

What were its particular interests and challenges?

The main challenge was the way the book talked about race and its problems in Brazil in the 1960s in a quite oblique but convincing way.

Which is your favourite novel of the ones you’ve translated, and why?

Invidious to say.

Do you write (fiction or non-fiction)?

I write non-fiction based on the journalism I have done on Latin America. My latest book is CASTRO–A CRITICAL LIFE, with Reaktion Books, London.

What’s your third R, and why?

Gardening.

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