“Italian sustains repetitions more easily than English. So you can use the same word a bunch of times in an Italian text, where in English it sounds awkward. Also, Italian has all those suffixes that change the nuance of a word: for example, la strada (the big street) and la stradina (the little street). If you keep saying “the big street” in English it sounds a little funny. A little childish.”—Ann Goldstein
Ann Goldstein, the acclaimed translator of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, as well as numerous other works of Italian literature, offers a fascinating glimpse into her creative process in this piece, which includes an interview with Esopus editor Tod Lippy as well as facsimile reproductions of three drafts of her translation of Primo Levi’s short story “Hydrogen.”
Based in New York City, Ann Goldstein has translated works by, among others, Primo Levi, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Elena Ferrante, and Alessandro Baricco, and she is the editor of The Complete Works of Primo Levi in English. Goldstein, who was the head copy editor at The New Yorker for 30 years, is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and awards from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2016, her translation of Elena Ferrante’s The Story of the Lost Child was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize.