John Hodgson was longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize for his translation of Ismail Kadare’s The Traitor’s Niche.
Words Without Borders (WWB): What drew you to the work of your writer?
John Hodgson: I started reading Ismail Kadare to learn about the mysterious country of Albania, at that time still under communism. In fact, reading Kadare does not dispel this mystery, but only deepens it.
WWB: What was unique about this translation compared to others you’d done?
John Hodgson: This is the first of Kadare’s novels set in the Ottoman Empire that I have done. He writes about the Ottoman past with repulsion but also a subtle enthrallment, and it was fascinating to explore this ambiguity.
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?
John Hodgson: I am reading Fatos Lubonja’s prison stories, which are still being written. The author was in prison under communism for seventeen years. Each story tells the history of a fellow prisoner. They are stories of survival strategies—some of them very strange—psychologically very searching and unbearably moving.