CULTURE

A. Chrysostomidis – Antonio Tabucchi

Antaios Chrysostomidis, who translates Antonio Tabucchi, is also a friend of the author. So far he has translated eight of Tabucchi’s books and another is due out soon. Last year he won the State Translation Prize for «Einai arga, olo kai pio arga.» «When an Italian friend who is a scholar of Greek literature told me about Tabucchi, I was hoping to fall in love again, as I had with my Calvino, my great love. The first book of his I translated was ‘Pereira declarea’ for Psychogios. That’s when I realized how close I felt to his writing. That’s why I decided to keep going and later to meet him. At first it wasn’t at all easy, but gradually our acquaintance developed into a very friendly relationship.» What did meeting the writer add to or take away from your image of him? It took away the ability to see his literary work without understanding the human factors. This is both a gain and a loss. It wasn’t at all easy at first. It didn’t deprive me of the pleasure of reading, but of its mythic aspect. On the other hand, knowing him has added knowledge, and that helps me with the translation. You seem to create exclusive relationships through translations. I try to translate books that I like. That has been by luck and choice. Even at a time when I could live comfortably from journalism, I used to go home and translate. I believe translation must be connected with desire. It isn’t well paid; it is never finished and it isn’t recognized. It’s very detailed work. If you aren’t something of a devotee, you won’t make a good translator. Isn’t there an inequality in the relationship you describe between the writer and translator? The relationship between writer and translator is one of familiarity. But there is also embarrassment. Knowing someone from their prose, you know what is probably the innermost part of them, but not the person himself. Conversely, the author realizes that his book is recreated in each language into which it is translated. By its very nature, it is an unequal relationship where the creator has precedence, not to overlook a slight dependence on his translator. I have the pleasure of having been chosen as a translator by writers whose work I love, both Italo Calvino and Antonio Tabucchi. Can you reveal some of the secrets of his writing? He always keeps something secret; he allows the reader to imagine certain things. And he is a wonderful mixture, since what he loves – Cavafy, Pessoa – are in his phrases without him making any specific reference to them.