I find myself in a moment of change. The bookcases are empty, the books packed in boxes stacked high in our living room that will be shipped overseas in a few hours. Save a dictionary or two and a few books I need with me for work, for the first time in years my life as a reader is invisible, intangible; no books covering every surface of my home (to my husband’s chagrin).
Because this small flat, steps away from the river and steeped in light all day long, isn’t to be home for much longer. Both my books and I will shortly be swapping this little peninsula jutting into the Thames for another larger one, travelling across the continent, me on a plane and my books in an anonymous van on a slow but inexorable journey south. This plan to emigrate has been in motion for months, but only now, as the quasi-umbilical cord between my books and I is about to snap, is the move finally becoming real.
As a translator – one might argue a reader by profession – home has always been where my books are, and so this temporary homelessness and enforced separation is somewhat daunting. For while we stay with family the books are nestled in boxes in storage and there they will remain, as we busy ourselves house-hunting: seeking a house in which to lay our heads, with spaces for work and rest and working and living. A home for us, and crucially, a home for the books.
It strikes me that there are some parallels between this search for a house to live in and the search for a publishing home for a book. Both require determination, meticulous research, endless amounts of planning and no small measure of luck. Sometimes you seem to be inching closer and closer to the perfect place to lay your head or pitch your book, thinking that finally, this is the one. You’re already mentally installing bookshelves, or imagining yourself winning the International Booker for your dazzling translation, when suddenly the process judders to a halt. You lose out to a higher bidder. Someone else is chosen to translate the book you pitched so brilliantly. The house of cards comes tumbling down.
When this happens, it’s hard not to feel disheartened. Maybe a little bruised, a little truculent. I didn’t want that house/translation anyway! The ideal house that sold before we even got to view it, the book that still hasn’t found a publisher in English despite being a much-loved bestseller, despite my impassioned pitches… But we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and launch ourselves back into the search once more. This time my books and I might find somewhere to call home. This time my book pitch might reach the right ear.
The stars might align, this time.
Laura McGloughlin has been a freelance translator from Catalan and Spanish since completing a Masters in literary translation at the University of East Anglia. She was awarded the inaugural British Centre for Literary Translation Catalan-English Translation Mentorship in 2011. Among others she has translated work by Llüisa Cunillé, Maria Barbal, Flavia Company, Toni Hill Gumbao, and Joan Brossa, as well as for director Carlos Saura, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and the Association of Writers in Catalan (AELC). Her most recent publication is a translation of Wilder Winds by Bel Olid. During the residency, she plans to explore the extra-lingual factors affecting literary translation, especially the Anglophone literary tradition.