Virtual Memories Show 368:
Tess Lewis

“Oblivion works its way through the world.”

Translator Tess Lewis joins the show to talk about co-curating the 2020 (now 2021) edition of Festival Neue Literatur, why editing a bad translation is much tougher than just translating it yourself, the book she’s proudest of translating (Maja Haderlap’s Angel of Oblivion), and the project that is the most difficult (Ludwig Hohl’s Notizen), how the business and culture has changed, her dream project of translating Montaigne (swoon!), and how literature — especially in translation — can disrupt the familiar and familiarize what seems strange. This episode was intended to promote the Festival Neue Literatur, which was to be held April 23-26, 2020 but has been postponed along with everything else; I decided to keep it all to remind us of The Before Times. Give it a listen! And go check out some of Tess’ translations!

“A constant discussion among translators: what is the right tone, how close should you be, how much should you reinvent?”

“Montaigne is one of those writers who never ages, but his translations do.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Tess Lewis is a writer and translator from French and German. Her translations include works by Peter Handke, Walter Benjamin, Klaus Merz, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Christine Angot, Pascal Bruckner and Jean-Luc Benoziglio. She has been awarded grants from PEN USA, PEN UK, and the NEA, a Max Geilinger Translation Grant for her translation of Philippe Jaccottet, the ACFNY Translation Prize and the 2017 PEN Translation Prize for her translation of the novel Angel of Oblivion by the Austrian writer Maja Haderlap, and most recently a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. She is Co-chair of the PEN Translation Committee and Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review. Her essays and reviews have appeared in a number of journals and newspapers including Bookforum, Partisan Review, The Hudson Review, World Literature Today, The Wall Street Journal and The American Scholar.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Tess’ home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Tess by me. It’s on my instagram.

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