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Nadezdha Radulova: A translation should not resemble a washed window.

Nadezhda Radulova in Sofia, May 2012. Photo by Svoboda Tzekova

Nadezhda Radulova is part of young generation of Bulgarian authors. She writes poetry, edits and translates from English. She is akready known for her translations of Philip Roth (The Human Stain), J. M. Coetzee (Life and Times of Michael K), Jean Rhys (Wide Sargasso Sea) and Jackie Kay (Trumpet). She thinks that the weaker a text is, the harder it is to translate. Therefore, good literature is both a challenge and a gift for the translator.

Anton Staykov: Are they “crimes” in translation? Where are the limits in terms of a translator’s fidelity toward the original text?

Nadezhda Radulova: The translator is not a co-author. He or she more closely resembles an actor or musition who interprets or acts-out the text without going beyond its boundaries. Theories on translation are not always useful when one is face to face with something that was written by somebody else in a foreign language with a different linguistic consciousness. I do not want my translations to resemble a washed window – a metaphor used quite often for a successful translation, but which is misleading, as if there was no translation at all, that the original language and the target language are the same. Some fingerprints must be left on the window from that which is foreign as well as that which is untranslatable.

A.S. Whom do you think about more while working on a translation – the author or the reader?

N.R. About the author, but I believe that thinking about the author is the best way to think about the reader. A good translation should not misjudge the readers by “adapting” the foreign text in order to help them. A good translation needs to be provocative.

A.S. Which literary period do you feel the most affinity for? What would you choose for your next project if it was your choice?

N.R. Anglo-American Modernism, as well as many pieces of British literature from the 1970s until the end of the twentieth century. I would definitely translate more poetry. For reasons that are easy to understand, however, that latter would more likely be a personal project.

A.S. Is there anything that reduces the time you spend translating literature.

N.R. Yes, the vanishing connection with the editor, the most function of the editor… because a text that has been translated needs to be reviewed by a third party. The complex relationship, the battle between  the translator and the author, the crises in this special partnership; these are all managed by the editor. A good editor is like a matchmaker.

A.S. Has the work of the translator changed during the last decade?

N.R. The appearance of the internet has been critical… I am from the spoiled (and I would day lazy) generation of instant references, But I like to read old translations made without the crutches of new technologies. They often have more life in them.

Sofia, 16.04.2012
Photo: Svoboda Tzekova.