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2017 Man Booker International Prize Q&A—Eliza Marciniak

By Eric M. B. Becker


Eliza Marciniak is longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize for her translation of Wioletta Greg’s Swallowing Mercury.

Words Without Borders (WWB): What drew you to the work of your writer?

Eliza Marciniak: I loved the unsentimental, matter-of-fact and yet highly poetic way in which Wioletta Greg describes childhood and adolescence in Swallowing Mercury—and how what emerges out of this very specific, meticulously described world is universal. But what first attracted me to the book was the time and place in which it was set, not least because I also grew up in Poland in the late 1970s and 1980s, albeit in very different circumstances from the narrator.

WWB: What was unique about this translation compared to others you’d done?

Eliza Marciniak: In addition to being a prose writer, Wioletta Greg is a poet, which is evident in the original text of the book. Her language is very concrete and specific, but at the same time there is a poetic rhythm and flow. I spent a lot of time triple-checking meanings of words, ensuring that repetitions and echoes were preserved, and reading bits out loud over and over again, until I was reasonably satisfied with the translation. It was a time-consuming process but a very aesthetically rich and satisfying experience.

WWB: What are you reading now, or which writers from the language and literary tradition you translate do you think readers ought to pay attention to as potential future MBI winners?

Eliza Marciniak: I just finished reading the latest novel by Magnus Mills, The Forensic Records Society—I’m a huge admirer of his work. In terms of writers from Poland, Jacek Dehnel is definitely one to watch. I really hope that his beautiful first novel Lala, originally published in 2006 and forthcoming from Oneworld in Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translation, will get the attention it deserves.

Read more interviews with 2017 Man Booker International Prize-nominated writers and translators


Published Apr 19, 2017   Copyright 2017 Eric M. B. Becker

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