One of the most exciting parts of publishing a book is seeing it go out into the world in different languages. Knowing that cultures completely different from my own are reading my stories, is so thrilling. I also have a deep respect and admiration for translators. My mother was a conference interpreter and simultaneous translator in Paris, bouncing between five languages with grace and skill. Occasionally, I get to know one of my translators and this was the case with the wonderful Agnieszka Myśliwy who translated The Return of Norah Wells into Polish. Here’s a little insight into her life and work.
My name is Agnieszka Myśliwy. I live in Krakow, Poland. After I finished language and literature studies, I worked in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, then an import/export company and an IR agency. But none of these quite satisfied. One day, I decided that I wanted to be a literary translator. And I did it.
I’m currently working with the biggest Polish publishers such as Prószyński i S-ka and ZNAK Literanova, translating books of Lisa Kleypas, Mary Alice Monroe, Jill Shalvis, Paula McLain, Jojo Moyes, Danielle Steel, Anna Todd and others.
Which three words best describe you?
What do you love most about being a translator?
Working with books (I lack talent for writing them, but at least I can translate them) and having freedom (I work freelance, wherever and whenever I want ).
What do you find hardest about your being a translator – and maybe what’s the hardest book you’ve had to translate?
The hardest thing about being a translator for me? That it’s a solitary work. It’s more the circumstances than the job itself – I love every book I’ve translated so far, even if some of them presented challenges.
What kind of child were you?
I was shy (I always made my younger sister to strike up friendships for me) and a bit of a clever-clogs: I always knew better.
Where do you like to work?
I work at home, generally. Not because I like it most, but because I need peace and quiet to concentrate. I don’t think I could work at a café or in a park for example.
What book do you wish you had been given to translate?
Are there any writing tics that really frustrate you?
Repeating same word over and over. It makes me want to buy a thesaurus and send it to the author.
What’s been the highlight of your career as a translator so far?
Well, it’s not easy to support yourself with literary translations in Poland and I’ve been able to do this for seven years now. It’s my great joy and a source of pride. J
What’s your favourite word (in any language)?
Kuuöö. A moonlit night in Estonian.
If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be?
Henryk Sienkiewicz. Polish novelist and the Nobel Prize laureate, best remembered for his historical novels. He wrote my favourite book Pan Wołodyjowski (translated to English as Fire in the Steppe).
What are you reading for pleasure at the moment?
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes.
What translation project are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I am translating one of Lisa Kleypas’s books.
What is it about a novel that makes you want to translate it?
Most of the time editors I’m cooperating with make choices for me. But I’m lucky, because I get well-written books generally. A well-written book is a pleasure to work with.
What did you particularly enjoy about translating The Return of Norah Wells?
First of all, it was well-written. No repeating words, an original narrative – first person, present tense, multiple points of view. And the story was interesting and moving.
Did translating The Return of Norah Wells confront you with any particular challenges as a translator?
First person, present tense narrative is generally more challenging than a more popular third person, past tense narrative. An interesting experience. J
Which point of view did you most enjoy translating in The Return of Norah Wells?
Willa’s, of course. Children see the world very differently than adults, and we forget about that as we grow up. It was a nice reminder.
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
The sun will always come out tomorrow.
Do you have a translator who has inspired you?
Piotr W. Cholewa and Stanisław Barańczak. Very different (Cholewa translated Pratchett and Barańczak translated Shakespeare), but both genuine masters of words.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I watch TV series, travel, do yoga and pilates to unwind.
If you could give three tips to an aspiring literary translator, what would they be?
- Be stubborn.
- Don’t give up.
- Read a lot to improve your knowledge of the language you translate to.