WITH VICTORIA HOLBROOK, AUTHOR, ACADEMIC, AND ORHAN PAMUK'S TRANSLATOR - JANUARY 18, 2024
January 18, 2024
Julieta Rodrigues: "You translated into English Orhan Pamuk's novel The White Castle, a translation that won the inaugural Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Could you describe how you met him?"
Victoria Holbrook: "I met him when his wife attended a class I taught at Columbia University in the mid-1980s, and the three of us became friends."
Julieta Rodrigues: "You are also responsible for the masterly translation of Beauty and Love, the long poem by Shaikh Galib/Şeyh Galıp (1757–1799), published in 1782. This is a narrative poem in rhyming couplets. A close friend of his, Galib is said to have influenced Sultan Selim III's reforms. Can you tell us a bit more about the concepts of Beauty and Love in Gabib's work?"
Victoria Holbrook: "In Galip's work, Beauty and Love function both as divine qualities and as a young woman and a young man. Beauty as a divine quality is that which is loved, but that does not mean understood. At first, the character Love is immature, and the journey he takes represents a progressive development in his experience of the divine quality of beauty."
Julieta Rodrigues: "Besides your own academic work, your translations are famous. I would like to ask: what in your view is the most important aspect of translation? What authors write in one language can be equally good in another? How are you able to express the author's voice, something that completely transcends words?"
Victoria Holbrook: "Translation is an art. I can no more explain it than a pianist can explain how to interpret a classical piece. Many things come together to make a kind of magic. One has to be good with words. I can say that I always take the author seriously. If I don't understand something, I do not think to myself, "Oh, s/he didn't mean to say that, s/he actually meant to say such-and-such." I keep trying to understand. As for writing in another language, it is known to be very rare for authors who grow up speaking one language to write well in another. Joseph Conrad is the great example."