On Thursday, March 19, Elena Ferrante’s translator Ann Goldstein and her editor Michael Reynolds of Europa Editions graced Two Lines Offices with their presence and conversation. Ann is currently in the midst of translating the fourth and last volume of Ferrante’s acclaimed Neapolitan Novels, and she is also almost done editing (and partially translating) the complete works of Primo Levi. She is an editor at The New Yorker and a recipient of the PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Award. Author and editor Michael Reynolds has himself translated Carlo Lucarelli’s De Luca series, children’s fiction by Wolf Erlbruch and Altan, and Daniele Mastrogiacomo’s Days of Fear.
The conversation between Michael, Ann, moderator Scott Esposito and Salon attendees includes first experiences of Ferrante’s work, translator invisibility, and a discussion on dialectics and the translation process. Tune in to hear personal insights about Neapolitan culture, history, and Ann and Michael’s experiences with working on the famed series.
00:00 Introductions & opening discussion question—what have you all been reading in translation?
05:15 Ann Goldstein’s Primo Levi translation and editing project
07:28 The role of the the Neapolitan dialect in Ferrante’s work, and translation questions
14:38 Ferrante as an “Italian author”
18:55 Ferrante’s style, dialect, and questions of accessibility
21:33 Michael’s and Ann’s first experiences with Ferrante’s work
26:35 How was the four-book series format conceived? Was it a whole novel to begin with or did Ferrante present it as four novels?
28:28 There’s a cliffhanger aspect to the end of each volume. Is that something Ferrante worked on with her Italian publisher?
29:53 The role of Naples as a place in Ferrante’s writing
33:04 Ann’s choice to leave the Italian word stradone in the original
37:15 Discussing the ideas of Naples as a metropolis that anticipates decline, and the feeling of being trapped in a place
41:10 Do you think Ferrante’s a writer of place? Are her other books big on place and the role that plays in the evolution of an individual?
43:31 The translator’s invisibility/visibility, with regards to Ferrante’s wish to be invisible herself
48:12 How the author is often not the best person to ask about their work
53:33 Ann’s approach to translating
56:02 With a writer like Ferrante, whom you’ve [Ann] translated a lot, do you feel like you’ve developed a certain relationship to the style?
56:39 Michael’s role in the process of translation
59:30 Differences between the feel of Ferrante in Italian and in English, and risks Ann has taken as a translator of these books
1:06:50 The role of the Aeneid in the Neapolitan Novels and Ferrante’s engagement with the classics
1:11:00 What do you think of the rumors about her books being written by men?
1:15:15 Have you two interacted with Ferrante?
1:15:30 How have the books been received in Naples and in Italy?
1:19:50 What’s the impact of the book on people in Naples?
1:20:20 Is Ferrante working on anything new?
1:21:01 Could you talk about some of your favorite moments from the books?
1:26:18 Can I get an idea of the kind of research and consultants that you might call upon for some local details about Naples?
1:28:16 What Europa looks for in books, and how Ferrante fits into this