Lauren Levitt’s translation of “Las Cartas de Gerardo” won the Senior Prize in Literary Translation! We interviewed Lauren about her experience translating this short story.
Briefly describe the short story you translated.
La isla de los conejos [Rabbit Island] is a collection of short stories by the distinguished Spanish author, Elvira Navarro, published in January 2019. I translated the first short story in the text, “Las cartas de Gerardo,” which centers on the long-awaited fallout of a young couple, Natalia and Gerardo, while they take a trip around their native country of Spain. Much of the story’s setting is within Natalia’s mind, as her questions about her relationship with Gerardo, past feelings, memories, and confusion consume her during the trip.
Why did you choose to translate this particular short story?
I chose to translate this short story out of the collection due to its cultural similarities to young American adults’ quests, in terms of relationships, growth, and self-exploration. Aligning with many American interests of romantic betrayal and a questioning sense of self, the translation of this text allows Navarro’s craft and narrative to be enjoyed across the Atlantic, an audience I perceive as one to appreciate this text, both as entertainment and as an intellectual pursuit.
What sort of challenges did you come across while translating?
My priorities when translating this text were fidelity to the source text and readability of the target text, a coexistence that required me to overcome multiple challenges. Achieving fidelity to the original text in my translation involved retaining Navarro’s elegant yet succinct use of prose to convey the emotional turbulence of her characters. Doing so would provide American readers with the same sense of discomfort and disorientation provided to Spanish of the original text. However, this aim interacted aggressively with the additional objective of readability. The original text could be argued to lack readability because of the confusing nature of its style, but it is important to note that this complexity is not the result of a cultural disconnect. I was resultantly charged with the task of creating a linguistically legible and intelligible text that maintained the story’s sense of confusion, while meticulously doing so not through cultural differences, but rather through style.
How did the Minor in Translation Studies prepare you for translating this story?
This process required careful consideration and took much of what I learned about translation theory in my classes into account in order to solve issues that presented themselves throughout the process. In my coursework for the Minor in Translation Studies, I learned about a multitude of phenomena and methods to employ and consider while translating. I used many of these including literary estrangement, dynamic equivalence and domestication/ foreignization. This toolkit allowed me to successfully translate not only the words in the text, but all of the meaning behind it as well.
What do you like most about translation?
I enjoyed translating this text, as it required me to be creative and try to find different solutions to convey metaphors and emotions from one language to another. I was able to use some creative writing techniques in re-creating these literary devices, which added an artistic element to the work of translating. Additionally, I enjoyed reading and dissecting Navarro’s text, as I found many experiences in the narrative similar to my experience studying abroad in Spain. I was able to draw real-life connections between my experiences in Spain to those in the US, and I thought it was super interesting that Navarro studied at the same university I did when abroad, la Universidad Complutense de Madrid!
Congratulations to Lauren and thank you to all of the seniors who submitted their translation to the contest this year.