Jimmy Guterman's blog

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“Just the right word”: What translators can teach writers

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I’m more familiar with Lydia Davis’s work as a translator than I am with her fiction, a deficiency I intend to remedy shortly. In an interview with The Economist’s Intelligent Life promoting her new collection of short stories, Davis talks about what she learned as a writer from translating Proust (her Swann’s Way is the strongest of the Penguin series a few years back):

She considered each sentence a “little puzzle”, and strove to stay true to Proust’s sounds, rhythms and word choices … “Translating makes me much more acutely aware of shades of meaning,” she explains. “You have a set problem and you can’t get around it by avoiding it. You have to pick just the right word.”

Written by guterman

October 18, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Posted in proust, writing

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  1. […] outed myself as a Proust nut on this blog (1, 2, 3, 4) and people occasionally ask me how they might best enter that big and forbidding-to-some book. […]

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