What drew you to Words Without Borders (and literature in translation more generally)? What is your personal relationship to language and translation?
Literature in translation was a meaningful part of my college experience. It began the summer before my first year, reading Emily Wilson’s translation of the Odyssey, and continued into the semester with cherished editions of Virgil and Plato. I remember looking through different translations of Kafka’s Metamorphosis on a dreary day in the library and being struck by the varied translations of that first sentence. How fascinating that the translator’s choice between “insect” and “vermin” could change the entire way we read that novel!
My interest expanded when introduced to African literature, and I spent the latter half of my college years thinking about writers who translated from their indigenous languages into English (like Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o), and writers who pulled from their oral storytelling histories to weave together tales in English that still bared the souls of their nations. If we think of the novel as a colonial import on the continent, the ways authors and translators have kept local cultures, traditions, and customs intact despite working in another tongue is powerful.
Words Without Borders is a special place to work because I am reminded of these themes that sparked intellectual inquiry for me back then, and I encounter writers and translators doing this important work daily. I’ve also been introduced to writing from all over the world, which really puts into perspective how vital this shared language of poetry and fiction is. Working at WWB reminds me that we’re all connected, and that we all have a deep commitment to each other.
Could you share some of your favorite books and/or writers? What do you look for in a great book?
I can’t go any length of time talking about books without mentioning James Baldwin. His novels, Go Tell It on the Mountain in particular, are the reason I picked up a pen, and have ushered me through many different phases of life—including the chaos of early adulthood. Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary remains the most poetic work of fiction at the sentence level I’ve read. For truth-telling: Kiese Laymon and Ta-Nehisi Coates. For weird and strange: Kafka and Ottessa Moshfegh. For wit: Zadie Smith and Flannery O’Connor. I know I’ve just categorized, but truthfully my favorite books and writers defy category. They are timeless, and at their core grapple with this thing we call the human condition.
Are there languages, themes, or genres that you’re eager to see more of in English translation?
Coming-of-age novels and children’s literature from the global Black diaspora!
You’re a recent graduate from Yale University, where you studied English and creative writing and wrote for the Yale Daily News. Could you tell us about your past experiences as a writer and how they inform your work at WWB? And are you working on any creative writing projects now?
I’m grateful for my writing professors and Yale’s undergraduate literary community for cultivating my love of fiction, but a lot of the experiences that shaped my creative practice happened off campus. My time as an apprentice at One Story magazine was invaluable for many reasons, most especially because it drew back the curtain on the literary world, and the role a literary magazine has in shaping it. This has definitely informed my work at WWB, where I am happy to be alongside an equally brilliant team that has just as much care for and commitment to our contributors, and sees the power in writers sharing and uplifting the work of other writers.
As for my own work, I’m currently revising and expanding short stories from my creative thesis, a linked coming-of-age collection. Although I’m inclined to become a novelist and narrative journalist, I secretly wish I was a poet, and often find myself poring over lines written by my college poet-friends and WWB contributors. They are a source of inspiration.
Beyond literature and translation, what are your passions and interests?
I love curating Spotify playlists and learning new choreography at dance workshops, or creating my own!
Zaporah Price is the administrative and development assistant at Words Without Borders. She is a recent graduate of Yale University, where she studied English and wrote short stories. Originally from Chicago, Zaporah is currently based in DC, where the wind reminds her of home.
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