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Maureen Freely: like Orhan Pamuk’s twin, or even exactly the same

September 28, 2011

Maureen Freely is a winner of this year’s best “Fiction in Translation” award (given by The Financial Times), and she’s also made the shortlist for the “2011 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.”  Another of her wonderful translations of another of Orhan Pamuk‘s novels (The Museum of Innocence) is the reason for these prestigious recognitions.

Last year, Freely shared with The Guardian, a bit more of her own story:  “How I got lost in translation and found my true calling.”  Particularly intriguing is what she thinks of her true calling as translator.  She sees it as part and parcel of her additional efforts to bring about social justice — for example, the necessity “to write in Orhan’s defence in the media here and elsewhere.”  Freely likewise views her work as a translator as in no way in conflict with her work as novelist, as a journalist, as a university lecturer, and as a mother.   When she discusses translation, she speaks of it as encouraging complex patterns cross-fertilization of world literature.  “An up-and-coming Colombian novelist might be inspired not just by Borges, Conrad and Faulkner, but by contemporary novelists from Asia, Africa and Europe; his literary response to their work will go on to influence what his contemporaries on the other side of the world write next.”  And that’s all because of someone’s willingness, somebody’s abilities, to translate.

It’s really worthwhile that you read Freely for yourself.  And when you do, I’ll add, it’s worth paying attention to what she says she becomes, when she translates.  As a hint, let me just show the shadow of Freely translating Pamuk:

[W]hat I want to do most is capture the music of his language as I hear it. Accuracy is important, but a lot of what I need to be accurate about lies deep below the surface. After consultation with the author, the first sentence of The Black Book became: “Rüya was lying face down on the bed, lost to the sweet, warm darkness beneath the billowing folds of the blue-checked quilt.” The first sentence of Istanbul was: “From a very young age, I suspected there was more to my world than I could see: somewhere in the streets of Istanbul, in a house resembling ours, there lived another Orhan so much like me that he could pass for my twin, even my double.” I can see, even as I type these sentences, how ephemeral they are.  Other translators will find their own ways to capture what they see and hear in the text.

Now go see what more Freely sees and hearsListen here to her speaking of Pamuk’s works and of her own work in translation of them.

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