Jordan Stump was longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for his translation of Marie NDiaye's Ladivine. Jordan's has translated many authors from French, including Marie Redonnet, Eric Chevillard, and Honoré de Balzaz. His translation of Claude Simon's The Jardin des Plantes won the 2001 French-American Foundatin translation prize.
Words Without Borders (WWB): What drew you to Marie NDiaye's work?
Jordan Stump (JS): I’ve been reading and marvelling at Marie NDiaye’s books since the early 90s, both for their fascinating, entirely unique style and for their jarringly dissonant stories, at once perfectly clear and weirdly elusive. And also, now that I think of it, for the teasing friction between that very precise (but never simple) writing and those somewhat uncertain stories. NDiaye moves and confuses me at the same time, and although there are many contemporary French writers I love, no one quite thrills me like she does.
WWB: What was unique about this translation compared to others you'd done?
JS: Oh, every translation is unique. I’d already translated a couple of NDiaye’s shorter works, but this was the first full-length novel, and it was quite a while before I could really see it as a unified whole (rather than a succession of sequences). Among other things, translating is a particularly intense form of reading, and it was a profound pleasure to be able to read Ladivine with that intensity—and to reread it again and again, as I revised—and so to begin, at least, to grasp its workings in a way I hadn’t before.
WWB: What are you reading now, or which writers from the language and literary tradition you translate do you think readers ought to pay attention to as potential future MBI winners?
JS: I don’t feel qualified to suggest future MBI winners, but I can tell you that a recent writer I like a lot is Hugues Jallon (see Le début de quelque chose or La conquête des coeurs et des esprits)—another very distinctive voice, and a kind of lateral approach to plot that I really love.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: WWB's Interview with Jordan Stump (Dispatches blog, 2014)