An Interview with Chris Andrews
August 16, 2010
Chris Andrews is the main translator of Bolaño’s smaller works into english (by which I mean most everything except 2666 and The Savage Detectives).
Scott Bryan Wilson: When I read Roberto Bolaño I never feel like or notice that I’m reading a translation. Same for writers like César Aira, Javier Marias, Thomas Bernhard, Raymond Queneau. Is it that these authors inspire enthusiastic translators or do their voices just burst through no matter what?
Chris Andrews: I think the second explanation is right. All the authors you mention have very strong and distinctive voices, and in the cases of Bolaño and Aira, they are also quite robust, which is not to say that they’re easy to translate, but that, as long as the translator doesn’t get in the way too much, the voices will come through loud and clear. I’m glad you feel that way about Queneau too; he’s one of my favorites!
SBW: What do you mean by the translator getting in the way too much?
CA: I mean producing a translation that is unduly distracting, which I guess can happen if it isn’t quite complete, so that the syntactic patterns of the source language creep into the target language a bit too much and make the translation more syntactically odd than the original, or if the translation goes over the top and becomes showy. But I don’t much like pronouncing on this sort of thing because I’m no doubt guilty of under- and over-translating myself, and the whole business of translation studies can be a distraction from the works themselves, which are way more interesting in the end.