The translator’s art
What’s lost—or gained
Congratulations to J.T. Mahany, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and the French author who writes under the name Antoine Volodine. The $10,000 Albertine Prize has just been shared by Mr. Mahany and M. Volodine. It’s a bilingual, trans-national award that recognizes the vital role played by the author and the translator in presenting a work to the world. And when the translation rises above the original, it’s an occasion and accomplishment to be celebrated.
Dorothy Stephens, chairman of the English department at UA, has at least a couple of reasons to celebrate this occasion and achievement. As she puts it, “We’re tremendously proud of J.T.’s accomplishment and excited for the spotlight that it shines on literary translation.”
The 27-year-old Mr. Mahany notes that, when he was growing up, he spoke only English at home. But he began studying French in high school before going off to the University of Rochester in New York, where he worked as an intern for Open Letter, a part of the university that publishes translations of Antoine Volodine’s work, among that of others. To quote Chad Post, Open Letter’s publisher, on J.T Mahany’s work as a translator: “He’s very talented and has an ear for the language.” What more could one hope for in a translator?
Lest we forget, translations from other languages can become classics of the mother tongue — the way the King James Bible became a foundation stone of English literature. So here’s to all the talented translators out there, notable among them Arkansas’ own J.T. Mahany.