June 2019. I was honored to help Bernard-Henri Lévy present his play, Looking for Europe, in English in Amsterdam, Prague, Copenhagen, and Dublin, as part of a tour of 22 European cities. That behind me, I’m looking forward to a summer of editorial projects for the World Bank, Campus France, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the International Renewable Energy Agency—and to swimming in the Long Island Sound.
What can I do for you?
My fascination with translation began in college with Baudelaire and Rimbaud. In what sense, I wondered, were the English renditions "the same" as the originals? Four decades later, I still don't know. In much of my work the question is moot—the translation works if it accomplishes the same purpose as the original. With literature, art, philosophy, and rhetoric, however, the question is not moot at all; it haunts and fascinates. In a deep sense, translation, like acting, is a sort of subordinated creativity—bounded by the fact that one must operate within the bounds of the script.
Henry Holt published my translation of Bernard-Henri Lévy's The Empire and the Five Kings in February; an excerpt appeared in The Atlantic in January, and the book made the New York Times’ best-sellers list in March. My translation of Lévy’s Genius of Judaism was published by Random House in 2017. These were preceded by a catalogue for a major exhibition of the works of Jan Fabre and Félicien Rops at the Musée Félicien Rops in Namur, Belgium, in 2015 and a catalog and signage for an exhibition entitled "The Adventures of Truth: Painting and Philosophy" at the Fondation Maeght (2013). Other projects include regular work for Campus France, the French national agency responsible for promoting higher education in France.
Today, particularly in institutional settings, texts often are assembled rather than written. What gets left out in the process, in addition, obviously, to the author's voice and attention to the reader's eyes and ears, is the concern for elegance, brevity, sequence, rhythm, connection, and flow. I fix that. I pare text to its essentials, and match it to its audience. I help authors who speak other languages recognize themselves—in English. I impart consistency and an even voice to texts by multiple authors who write and think in different registers and with different vocabularies.
A decade as a successful association publications director taught me to apply the publisher’s and the reader’s perspectives simultaneously in all my projects. Often I serve as writer-editor and project manager (recruiting and supervising translators, copyeditors, designers, and printers). Knowledge of the entire publishing process improves coherence, speeds delivery, and adds value.
Most—not all—of my writing is an extension of my editing work. I supply summaries, segues, intros, signposts, shortcuts, links, and transitions that authors, in their zeal, sometimes leave out. I'm good at speaking plainly about complex subjects. I'm logical. I choose verbs and nouns that make adverbs and adjectives unnecessary.