There are many surprises in becoming a published writer: suddenly one has an intense relationship with readers, bookstore clerks, editors. But the relationship with a translator is the most intimate of all. A translator really knows your words, has lived and wrestled with them for months, has had to dig deep to recreate your world into the words of another culture, another history. This is akin to magic.
I recently got a very moving letter from Hana Brezakova, the woman who translates my work into Czech for Talpress in Prague. She has given me permission to quote from it here:
Accept my warmest greetings and my deepest admiration. My name is Hana Brezakova, I’m from the Czech Republic, and for almost 18 years I’ve been working as a translator for the publishing house Talpress from Prague. It could actually be said I’m their “Court translator.” There have been many beautiful books I translated during those years, and some of them thoroughly enraptured my heart. I don’t dare to compare the work of a writer and a translator, but in some ways it’s similar, as I give the story, the novel and its characters a new life in quite a different language, and in doing so, I more often than not have a deep relationship with some characters and their fates.
One of my favourite “heroines” was Josephine, Napoleon‘s wife, and truthfully, I consider The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe and The Last Great Dance on Earth the best ones I’ve done so far. It was a happy period of my life when I was translating your books.
By the way, the Josephine B. Trilogy was very well accepted in the Czech Republic, and met with great success. A friend of mine has read them three times; they have become her favourite ones….
At the moment I’m translating another book of yours—Mistress of the Sun—another enchanting and breathtaking story that thoroughly enchanted me.
My life has changed a bit since Josephine, and whilst then I lived in a little village not far from Prague, now I’m working on my translation practically on the bank of the Okanagan Lake in Canadian Kelowna, BC, where I’m with my Czech-Canadian friend for a couple of months. Life can turn upside down now and then, but I’m happy all in all, and living through the fate of lovely Petite when I work on my translation for several hours a day helps me a lot.
With best wishes, your admirer and translator of your books for Czech readers,
It’s awkward to follow-up such a moving letter with details of day-to-day life, but I do want to mention that yesterday I also received a book ordered from France: Madame de Montespan et la Légende des Poisons by Jean Lemoine, a French historian I admire greatly. I inhaled this book, eager to know his thesis—his verdict regarding the guilt or innocence of Athénaïs with respect to dealings in Black Magic, Spanish Fly, infanticide. The plot of The Next Novel hinges on this crucial question: was she guilty? I’ll be posting more on this on my research blog: here.