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2015 Man Booker International Prize Questionnaire: Richard Philcox

By Eric M. B. Becker

Richard Philcox is the translator of 2015 Man Booker Prize International finalist Maryse Condé and Franz Fanon.

Words without Borders: It must be gratifying to see the writer you translate honored as a finalist for the Man Booker. What is it that drew you, as a translator, to the writer's work?

Richard Philcox: It started as a labor of love and then developed into a translation of our travels in Africa, the Caribbean, and the US.

WWB: Can you tell us about a particular challenge/problem you've come across translating your writer's work and how you resolved it? Alternately, what's something you learned from translating this writer [that has stuck with you to this day]?

RP: One of the greatest challenges for a translator is to find the voice and the music of the original author. I have sometimes found an equivalent effect in English: for example, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse has a similar theme and music as Maryse Condé’s Crossing the Mangrove; likewise Bruce Chatwin’s The Viceroy of Ouidah is similar in style and tone to Maryse Condé’s The Last of the African Kings. I am also fortunate to be able to listen to my author’s voice every day and travel with her to her places of inspiration.

WWB: What trends or recurring themes do you see in the literature you translate?

RP: I was eager to retranslate Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin White Masks because he theorized the themes of alienation, colonization, gender, and giving voice to the voiceless which can be found in the novels of Maryse Condé.

More interviews with 2015 Man Booker International Prize finalists

Published May 14, 2015   Copyright 2015 Eric M. B. Becker

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