By Benjamin Grove || Layout Assistant
Che figata! This common Italian phrase, loosely translated to mean “what a cool thing!”, is precisely how some might describe learning a new language. For Ann Goldstein, an acclaimed editor and translator who came to speak at Franklin & Marshall on Wednesday, February 8th, learning Italian was a strong desire of hers for a years, first inspired by reading Dante’s Inferno.
Ms. Goldstein, a graduate of Bennington College in Vermont and University College London, is currently a full-time editor for the New Yorker. After becoming situated in her career, she decided to explore the language of Italian, wanting to read Dante’s works in their original form. Ann convinced her colleagues at the New Yorker to learn Italian with her as a sort of language study group, and she soon fell deeper in love with the language. As she stated on Wednesday during her talk at the Green Room Theatre, Italian is “the most beautiful language” to her. This love for Italian brought Goldstein into the world of literature translation.
As someone who has always valued and loved reading, Goldstein came to believe that translating is yet another way to—in her words—“get intimate with the text.” Her first published translation was that of an Italian author by the name of Buzzi. A Wall Street Journal article about Goldstein states that after being asked by a colleague to look into Buzzi’s piece, “She read it, liked it, and decided to try her hand at translating it.” Ms. Goldstein fell into the art of translating by chance, and her career started with the work of a little-known author. However, her translation work did not end there.
After reading Dante in its original Italian and translating Buzzi’s writing, Ann wanted to do more. Her love for Italian fueled a passion for translation. She continued to translate smaller pieces like magazines and short books, but her big break came when she was urged to write translations for Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, a famous Italian book series. She released one book translation each year, chronologically keeping up with the original author’s publications.
Although many translators do not attain fame from their translations, Goldstein was one of the lucky few that has. According to the Wall Street Journal, her translations “have sold more than a million copies in North America, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.” Goldstein is one of the most sought after Italian translators today. However, this does mean her career is perfect or easy. When asked if there are ever any troubles in translating, Goldstein mentioned that “not everything is translatable.” She went on to say that there are some words in Italian that simply do not translate to English, and in that case she had to find an alternative. And while alternatives do exist, they are not perfect substitutes, and Goldstein has found that there is nothing quite like Italian’s “intensity.”
After the question-and-answer session between Ms. Goldstein and two F&M professors, the audience was able to ask Ms. Goldstein questions. One person asked about how style translates from one author to the next. Goldstein explained that translating style is made possibly by “linguistic sensibility” and “being close to the text.” When prodded about translating humor, Goldstein stated that “humor is one of the hardest things to translate and the easiest to lose.”
While translating Italian into English is not everybody’s forte, it is certainly the strong suit of Ann Goldstein: a woman who fell so deeply in love with Italian that she turned it into a remarkable career.
First-year Benjamin Grove is a layout assistant. His email is email@example.com.