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Die, My Love interview

Die, My Love interview

Ariana Harwicz expresses her joy at being longlisted for the Man Booker International prize for her debut novel, Die, My Love, and translators Carolina Orloff and Sarah Moses let us know what it was like translating this "superb, unique, phenomenal" book as a team.

This is part of our series of Man Booker International Prize 2018 longlist interviews.

 

Ariana Harwicz, author of Die, My Love

What has it been like to be longlisted?  

A dream, a kind of lyrical revenge, a confirmation of faith. All this and much more. In order to truly write, and therefore in order to truly translate, the only thing that matters is that battle against death that is fought on the text. It is a timeless duel and no concessions can be made, nor is there room for any interest beyond that duel. That is how I wrote Die, My Love, and with that same spirit, it was translated. For me, this amazement and utter happiness of being longlisted for the Man Booker International are intrinsically linked to the endless nights that I spent up in the French countryside, isolated. I would receive the questions from the – also sleepless – translators, their doubts, their questions on their doubts, and my text would come back to me full of in-depth analysis, about a word, a comma, a certain tone. I felt like one of those painters, going over their artwork over and over again, perfecting it. If we were to curate the text, we would be able to trace the myriad of layers on which the translation was created. Charco Press is a new, independent publisher, and my novel is a disruptive novel, categorised by some as ‘experimental’. Thus, all of us always worked from the margins, which makes being longlisted among such renowned authors, an even greater achievement.

Can you give us a taste of your longlisted novel Die, My Love?

Die, My Love is born from the desperation of a woman that no longer is. She feels she is nothing: neither mother, nor wife, nor writer, not even a foreigner. She is a caricature. She has become the language of others, she is spoken by others. She exists according to how the others – her neighbours, in-laws, husband, lover, baby, even reader – see her and categorise her. To prove herself whether or not she can be someone again, she has to go towards freedom. And freedom does not come free. Die, My Love is a literary attempt to axe words and phrases down, like in Glenn Gould’s piano accelerations. Its duration is that of a desperate, nocturnal cry.

After studying screenwriting and drama at University, writing two plays, and directing a documentary, what was the experience of writing your first novel like? 

It was a total liberation. I could not find my way to create what I wanted through scripts, theatre or making documentaries. In a way, I always felt uncomfortable with formats, as if I was outside genres or at fault with the respective laws of composition. In the novel, however, within this type of writing, I found the chance to say everything, to stretch the limits, to explore and experiment, to think about prose from poetry, to write cinema, create a scene from theatre, to structure ideas from music and to have painting as a reference. Die, My Love looks like a novel, but I am not sure what it really is.

 

Carolina Orloff, translator of Die, My Love  

What has it been like to be longlisted?

Simply extraordinary. I could say that this is a dream come true, but to be candid, being longlisted for the Man Booker International was way beyond my dreams. It is true that as a translator, but also as the main editor and co-founder of Charco Press, everything I do is based on a certain poetics of belief. I wanted to publish this book and translate it into English because I believed it was superb, unique, phenomenal. I believed this book, with its visceral crudeness, its lyrical brutality, its shattering honesty, would get to readers in ways that not many books do. So, in that sense, I am utterly elated, overjoyed and also humbled that my conviction, my vision, my efforts are being recognised by the most prestigious prize there is for translated fiction in the English-speaking world.

What did you most like about translating Die, My Love?

Being constantly challenged, at every possible level. Discovering the multidimensional depth of every single word, comma, space in the novel. Allowing myself to be pulled up and down in a roller-coaster of extreme emotions. Unravelling the mind of a talented writer and the essence of an extremely complex text. Above all, I cherished the opportunity of getting to know Ariana Harwicz through the unique experience that is reinventing her universe with new music, new poetry, new nuances. The idea that translators – like editors and proof readers – are those minds creating from the invisible margins is a notion that is finally changing. Books like Kate Briggs’ This Little Art are key to this shift, but also, needless to say, prizes such as the Man Booker International. In addition to this, and in my experience of translating Die, My Love, it was also the author who not only allowed me to feel completely at the centre – and not at the margins – of the novel, but what is more she encouraged me to zealously own and let myself be completely inspired by the incomparably beautiful, delicate and political act of transferring someone’s work into another language.

This is the first time you and fellow translator, Sarah Moses, have worked together. What was the experience like?

The experience of working closely together with another translator was new to me, and I found it extremely valuable, especially when it came to a text that has the complexities of Die, My Love. The challenges to render the work, not only on a semantic level, but in terms of its metric, tone, musicality, punctuation and so forth, are substantial. Sarah was an ideal partner in tackling these challenges, as we were both able to bring our individual views and experience to bear, without conflict. The experience of working with Sarah, and also with our copyeditor Annie McDermott – who was also crucial in the final rendition of the translation – was intense, arduous, dynamic. Overall, it was incredibly enriching for myself as a translator and undoubtedly for the text itself.

 

Sarah Moses, translator of Die, My Love  

What has it been like to be longlisted?

Die, My Love is Ariana Harwicz’s first novel and the first of her novels to be translated into English; it’s my first book-length translation; and it was one of the first titles Charco Press published. So it’s been incredibly rewarding to find ourselves on the longlist with such talented and experienced authors and translators.

What did you most like about translating Die, My Love?

Die, My Love is written in fragments and when I first read the novel I was in awe of the beauty and intensity of Ariana’s prose, of the way she plays with syntax and sound; I’d never read anything like it. What I liked most about translating Die, My Love was working on certain fragments – often those that were very visceral and visual, for example scenes set in the woods, or that described the narrator’s desire. I found the challenge of recreating these fragments, of finding ways in English to do what Ariana does in Spanish, very rewarding.

This is the first time you and fellow translator, Carolina Orloff, have worked together. What was the experience like?

The translation of Die, My Love was very much a team effort. Carolina and I have quite complementary skills and experiences. She’s a native Spanish speaker from Argentina, who’s lived and worked in English for many years. So she was able to pick up on the subtleties of the idiomatic Spanish in the novel. And as I’m a native English speaker from Canada who primarily lives in Argentina, I was able to focus on polishing and playing with the prose in English. Copyeditor Annie McDermott was also involved in the process, coming up with creative solutions to tricky problems and fine-tuning the translation.