Ever since Elena Ferrante told her publisher, in 1991, that she refused to do ‘anything that might involve the public engagement of me personally’, intrigue around the Italian novelist’s true identity has run hot. As the English-language translator of all of Ferrante’s work, including the four bestselling Neapolitan Novels, Ann Goldstein occupies a unique position – that of a translator who is more visible than the author of the work itself.
Unlike Ferrante, Goldstein is happy under the limelight, and is using her newfound prominence as Ferrante’s ‘representative in the world’ to direct attention to the craft of literary translation. For English-speaking readers, one of the pleasures of reading Ferrante’s work in translation is the recognition that Goldstein’s voice is also present – but how much of the work is really altered in translation, and what tricks does Goldstein employ to ensure that Ferrante’s personality is preserved?
Goldstein has also translated Jhumpa Lahiri and Primo Levi, which makes it all the more surprising that translation is only Goldstein’s side project. Her day job – as head of the New Yorker’s copy department – fuels her obsession with language, and is ‘part of the reason that I have the patience to translate’, she says.
Ann Goldstein joins Robert Dessaix for a discussion of her relationship with language, her extensive career at the New Yorker and the surprising spread of ‘Ferrante Fever’.
Ann Goldstein has translated all of Elena Ferrante’s work as well as a diverse range of authors including Alessandro Baricco, Jhumpa Lahiri and Primo Levi. She is a former editor at the New Yorker and a recipient of the PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Prize.
Robert Dessaix is a writer, translator, broadcaster and occasional essayist.