Open VISIONS Forum: Espresso
“The Art of Translation”
Presented with the College of Arts & Sciences: ‘FESTA ITALIANA’ #2 program – in affiliation with the Italian Studies Program and the Department of Modern Languages & Literature
Renowned translator and Italophile Ann Goldstein will speak about her translations into English of important Italian works by Elena Ferrante including the Neapolitan quartet and The Lying Life of Adults (Ferrante’s latest work), Primo Levi, Elsa Morante, Giacomo Leopardi and Pier Paolo Pasolini. She has also translated Jhumpa Lahiri’s first work in Italian, In altre parole/In Other Words (2015), into English.
Goldstein, who found Dante enchanting when she was in college, learned Italian with her colleagues at The New Yorker later in life in order to read the poet’s work in the original form. The group spent a year on each of the three canticles, “Inferno,” “Purgatory” and “Paradise.” Those Italian lessons brought Ann Goldstein to the art of translation, which she practiced at night and on weekends until she retired from The New Yorker in 2017. Her collaboration with Ferrante began in 2004 when she translated The Days of Abandonment.
She became a translator by accident, though it was clear from childhood that she had a deep affinity for languages.
She grew up in Maplewood, N.J., and began studying French and Latin in grade school. At Bennington College in Vermont, she took up ancient Greek, wanting to read Homer and Aeschylus. In 1973, she took her first job as a proofreader for Esquire. She moved to The New Yorker the following year, and worked her way up through the copy department, becoming its chief in the late 1980s. She has edited writers including John Updike, Ian Frazier, and Adam Gopnik. At the magazine, she earned a reputation as a master of English grammar who helped writers polish their sentences until they shined.
“She’s like a diamond cutter,” said New Yorker editor David Remnick. “It’s just an accumulation of refinement after refinement… that makes you a better you.”
She didn’t begin studying Italian — or even visit Italy — until her late 30s. In 1986, she and some of her New Yorker colleagues invited an Italian instructor to teach a class once a week at their office. Ms. Goldstein had always wanted to read Dante in the original language. Together, over the next couple of years, she and her colleagues read the entire “Divina Commedia.”