Translating their favorite authors and sharing experience of creation

Translators and writers do not come together purely by luck but through their shared love of books. «A translator needs instinct, hard work and a certain daring,» says Aris Berlis, head of the English department at the European Translation Center (EKEMEL). «A translator is the writer’s ideal reader, receptive and dedicated to the writer’s work.» The following four interviews introduce the writers Claude Simon, Toni Morrison, Umberto Eco and Antonio Tabucchi through their Greek alter egos, their translators. Skassis – Simon Thomas Skassis – lawyer, writer, translator – won the State Translation Prize this year for his rendition of Claude Simon’s «Tram.» How did your relationship with this writer start? I started out by reading «Flanders Road» and «Luxury Hotel.» I was impressed by his particular style: long sentences, new images constantly coming in, the associative eye. Though difficult, his style is charming, and doubly difficult for the translator. Some years ago, when Estia suggested I translate three of his books, I accepted, but with great trepidation. I took it on, however, because I thought the themes important and well written. There’s amazing power in the way he renders lived experience; that’s why he won the Nobel. Does the translator work alongside the writer? I’d say he is absorbed by him, especially by someone as intense as Simon. Such writers don’t let you rest. While I was translating him, I couldn’t write anything of my own. His style had such a grip on me. If the writer is the creator of the book, what is his translator? This brings up the famous question of what liberties the translator can take. Naturally the translator’s aim is to render a text into perfect Greek. The challenge is not to betray the style of the original. Simon’s singularity is that, with his long sentences and sequence of images, it is as if he puts you on train lines. It is both easy and difficult, as he doesn’t allow you to digress. You feel like his happy slave. But are you interested in the person behind the text? I know what he looks like and that he is married to a Greek woman, the famous Rhea, to whom he dedicates his books. I would love to be in touch with him. In fact, I took the liberty of asking for a signed copy of one of his books. This request has not yet been met but I have heard that he is very old. I’ll wait.