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Interviews

Left, the Romanian cover of Mircea Cartarescu's Solenoid; center, translator Sean Cotter; right,...
Romanian Translation’s Johnny Appleseed: An Interview with Sean Cotter
By Clara Burghelea
Clara Burghelea talks with Sean Cotter about his recently published translation of Mircea Cărtărescu’s novel Solenoid.
Portrait of writer Deniz Dağdelen Düzgün
The City and the Writer: In Izmir with Deniz Dağdelen Düzgün
By Nathalie Handal
Deniz Dağdelen Düzgün talks with Nathalie Handal about the 8,000-year history of Izmir, the city’s rich blend of cultures, and the invention of parchment.
A portrait of Ko Ko Thett in red suspenders standing in front of a field of yellow flowers
Picking Off New Shoots Will Not Stop the Spring: An Interview with ko ko thett
By Eric M. B. Becker
Eric M. B. Becker speaks with ko ko thett, coeditor of the anthology Picking Off New Shoots Will Not Stop the Spring, about witness poetry and writers’ resistance to government persecution in Myanmar.
A black and white portrait of writer and editor Khairani Barokka holding a pen
Photo: Derrick Kakembo
“Curiosity and Excitement”: An Interview with Khairani Barokka
By Samantha Schnee
Samantha Schnee speaks with Khairani Barokka, the new editor of Modern Poetry in Translation, about her goals for the publication’s future.
Photo of author Bianca Bellová
“The Aral Sea was Calling for Attention”: An Interview with Bianca Bellová
By Sal Robinson
As a writer, the only fidelity you swear is to the text: the text is king and you have to be careful not to frighten it away with your preconceptions and expectations.
Monique Ilboudo, left, and Yarri Kamara
“I Want Others to Be Able to Read This”
By Monique Ilboudo & Yarri Kamara
Once a book is published, the story no longer belongs to me.
Translated from French by Yarri Kamara
Portraits of Jason Grunebaum and Pia Sawhney
A New Translation Prize: The Armory Square Prize for South Asian Literature in Translation
We want to showcase the best translations from South Asia, and help make visible authors, translators, and literature that are still largely invisible outside of South Asia.
Portrait of writer Felipe Restrepo Pombo
Photo copyright © R. Trejo
The Paradox of Unrestrained Power
By Ezra E. Fitz
It’s always struck me how many rich people in our countries end up hiring their own private armies: a very Colombian phenomenon.
Left, author Shariar Mandanipour; right, translator Sara Khalili
Left, Shariar Mandanipour, photo © Danial Mondanipour; right, Sara Khalili, photo © Miriam Berkley
The National Book Award Interviews: Shahriar Mandanipour and Sara Khalili
By the Editors
“There have been times when we have spent hours discussing a single phrase and how to give it the same life and soul in English.”
Left: Mohammed Hasan Alwan; Right: William M. Hutchins
The National Book Award Interviews: Mohammed Hasan Alwan & William M. Hutchins
By the Editors
I thought he was in search for something meaningful and, thus, he was exposing himself to conditions he hoped would light the way for a coming revelation.
Portraits of Jon Fosse and Damion Searls
Left: Jon Fosse, photo by Tom Kolstad Samlaget; Right: Damion Searls, photo by Beowulf Sheehan
The National Book Award Interviews: Jon Fosse & Damion Searls
By the Editors
“To me writing is an act of listening. And if I am writing well then what I write will necessarily be new to me as well. Writing is a journey into the unknown.”
Portraits of Yoko Tawada and Margaret Mitsutani
The National Book Award Interviews: Yoko Tawada & Margaret Mitsutani
By the Editors
We’re living in a world where both languages and people are constantly in flux. In this novel, I wanted to focus on a small group of people making their way through that world.
Portraits of Olga Ravn and Martin Aitken
Left: Olga Ravn, photo credit: Lærke Posselt; Right: Martin Aitken
The National Book Award Interviews: Olga Ravn & Martin Aitken
By the Editors
I think my task was less linguistic than it was a matter of representing the environment in my mind and sensing its moods emotionally, entering that strange atmosphere so it could seep through into the translation.
Portraits of Saša Stanišić and Damion Searls
Left: Saša Stanišić, photo by Katja Sämann; Right: Damion Searls, photo by Beowulf Sheehan
The National Book Award Interviews: Saša Stanišić & Damion Searls
By the Editors
I started working on [the book] in 2016 when my grandmother was showing the first serious signs of dementia. I wanted to create an archive of sorts, in which her life was told in stories.
Portraits of Mónica Ojeda and Sarah Booker
The National Book Award Interviews: Mónica Ojeda & Sarah Booker
By the Editors
I always say to myself that Jawbone came to me as a nightmare, a vision full of fear and desire, but I really can’t remember how it started.
Portraits of Samanta Schweblin and Megan McDowell
Left: Samanta Schweblin, photo by Alejandra Lopez; Right: Megan McDowell, photo by Camila Valdés
The National Book Award Interviews: Samanta Schweblin & Megan McDowell
By the Editors
I’m always a little amazed at the subtlety of Samanta’s language, how much she can convey in so few words—that hasn’t changed over all the books of hers I’ve translated.
At left face of French language translator Mark Polizzotti and at right face of French Rwandan...
The National Book Award Interviews: Scholastique Mukasonga & Mark Polizzotti
By the Editors
“One thing that makes 'Kibogo' such a compelling work is the critical distance it maintains from all the power structures it describes.”
The cover of Mithu Sanyal's Identitti alongside a portrait of translator Alta L. Price
Photo credit: Donnelly Marks
Translating Identity Politics
By Jaeyeon Yoo
When I first read Identitti, I thought, “Is the author using this in earnest or is this meant to be funny?”
Portraits of Bibiana Mas and Aina Marti
Bibiana Mas (left); Aina Marti
An Interview with Two New Publishers of Women in Translation
By the Editors
I thought I could create a space for sharing women’s global experiences through literary fiction. 
Mara Faye Lethem alongside the Catalan and English covers of Learning to Talk to Plants
Birthing a Translation: The Author as Midwife
By Samantha Schnee
I’ve always felt that my commitment is to the text, not the author, but it is wonderful to be able to ask for and receive permission.
New Yorker critic Merve Emre and WWB Books Editor Adam Dalva
The Act of Persuasion: A Conversation with Merve Emre
By Merve Emre & Adam Dalva
New Yorker critic Merve Emre and WWB Books Editor Adam Dalva talk about the 2022 International Booker Prize, recognition for translators, and her journey as a critic.
Multimedia
Portrait of Arinze Ifeakandu and Book Cover
Photo copyright © Bec Stupak Diop for Black Rock Senegal
A Complicated Relationship with Home
By Ucheoma Onwutuebe
Homophobia is everywhere. I didn't realize I would grapple with it upon leaving Nigeria.
May-2022-City-and-Writer-Deepak-Unnikrishnan-Featured
Deepak Unnikrishnan. Photo © Philip Cheung.
The City and the Writer: In Abu Dhabi with Deepak Unnikrishnan
By Nathalie Handal
If there is one constant about this place, it is this, that the people on the move (here) all rely on a different set of lies to proceed with their truth(s).
Portrait of writer Marta Orriols
Photo copyright © Ariana Arnes
Writing the Universal
By Samantha Schnee
I think that people rediscovered reading in that period of calm when everything was standing still, and no one could go out or do anything.
Translated from Spanish by the author
A portrait of writer Miguel Syjuco
The City and the Writer: In Manila with Miguel Syjuco
By Nathalie Handal
Architectural gems crumble on street corners, shrouded in grit till they’re decreed too ugly to save.
April-2022-Arabic-Kid-Lit-Interview-Feature-Image
From left to right: Salwa Shakhshir, Miranda Beshara, and Mohamed Nabulsi.
The Present and Future of Arabic Kid Lit: A Conversation
By M. Lynx Qualey
There are many great Arabic children’s books that haven’t reached their young readers yet.
Portrait of writer and translator Nisha Susan
“Women with Highly Irregular Minds”
By Suhasini Patni
In all these years that I’ve spent writing in English, I’ve always felt that my leaning toward literariness was informed by Malayalam.
Transcending the Human Viewpoint
By Madeleine Feeny
I allowed myself to be very playful and unafraid, and to try everything.
March-2022-Triangle-Square-Interview-Ruth-Weiner-Featured
Ruth Weiner, publisher of Triangle Square Books for Young Readers. Photo © Eva Sotomayor.
Children’s Literature in Translation: Triangle Square Books for Young Readers
By the Editors of Words Without Borders
Answers aren’t always easy to come by in the real world when you’re a kid.
February-2022-Kristian-Sendon-Cordero-Interview-Kristian-Sendon-Cordero-Featured
Kristian Sendon Cordero. Photo copyright © Boyet Abrenica.
“The Varied Temperaments of Languages”
By Soleil Davíd
Not so many people think of the local languages as literary languages.
Febrary-2022-City-and-Writer-Fiona-Sampson
Fiona Sampson. Photo copyright © Ekaterina Voskresenskaya.
The City and the Writer: In London with Fiona Sampson
By Nathalie Handal
London, which seems all sprawl and braggadocio, is at the same time self-contained and fiercely defended.
Left, the book cover of Velorio. Right, a portrait of author Xavier Navarro Aquino.
Xavier Navarro Aquino. Photo copyright © Jayleen Santiago Díaz.
Breaking Language Open: Xavier Navarro Aquino on Writing Hurricane Maria in His Debut Novel
By Jacqui Cornetta
A multivoiced narrative was essential for the telling of the storm.
“The Joy of Cultural Mixing”: Daljit Nagra on Retelling the Classic Ramayana in Punglish
By Samantha Schnee
Humor was essential for my Ramayana.
Twelve Years Later, Kettly Mars Reflects on the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti and the Novels It Inspired
By Nathan H. Dize
The earthquake opened new sociopolitical avenues to be addressed in literary fiction.
Translated from French by the author
Becoming a “Second-Career” Translator: A Conversation with Aneesa Abbas Higgins
By Samantha Schnee
The experiences gained from a lifetime of reading and pursuing other professions are invaluable assets.
Mike Fu and Jenna Tang on Mentorship, Taiwanese Literature, and Translating Trauma
By Mike Fu & Jenna Tang
In 2021, Mike Fu and Jenna Tang worked together through the Emerging Translator Mentorship Program of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), with a focus on prose from Taiwan. Fu had published…
Spanish-language Writing in New York, Then and Now: An Interview with Esther Allen & Ulises Gonzales
By Words Without Borders Editors
While many Latinx writers work in English, there is a longstanding tradition of writers born or raised in this country who work in Spanish.
Telling the Stories of China’s “Illegal Children”: Shen Yang and Roseann Lake in Conversation
By Shen Yang & Roseann Lake
“Excess-birth” or “illegal” children (usually girls) were those born to a family who already had a child during the years when China’s one-child policy, in force from the…
Portrait of Meena Kandasamy
Image Copyright © Varun Vasudevan
The Poetry of Radical Female Fighters
By Suhasini Patni
When you are not held back by any fear, you can write songs of liberation.
The Privilege of Language: Manon Steffan Ros on Self-translation, Welsh Literature, and Her New Book
By Casi Dylan
Manon Steffan Ros was nervous about presenting Llyfr Glas Nebo to the world. Before it won the 2018 National Eisteddfod Prose Medal and the 2019 Wales Book of the Year, before it became a best seller,…
Children’s Literature in Translation: Gecko Press
By Words Without Borders
In recent years, a proliferation of books in translation for children and young adults has brought imaginative stories from around the world to new readers. We’re speaking with some of the extraordinary…
Carl de Souza on Mauritian History, Multilingualism, and the Events that Inspired “Kaya Days”
By Jeffrey Zuckerman
In the weeks after riots shook the seemingly tranquil island of Mauritius in 1999, the novelist Carl de Souza began writing a short, dense text that would become a nearly real-time depiction of that unreal…
Doves Wailing in the Same Great Tree: An Interview with Khalid al-Maaly, Founder of al-Kamel Verlag
By Safwan Khatib
Born in 1956, Khalid al-Maaly is an Iraqi poet, publisher, and translator. After leaving Iraq in 1979, in the wake of the Ba'ath regime's crackdown on leftists and intellectuals, he spent time…
Translated by Safwan Khatib
The Translator Relay: Jayme Costa Pinto
By Words Without Borders
WWB’s Translator Relay features an interview with a different translator every few months. The current month’s translator will choose the next interviewee, adding a different, sixth…
“The Wellspring That Relieves My Thirst”: Kim Bi on Writing Queer Literature
By Victoria Caudle
Kim Bi is one of South Korea's most prominent queer writers. She has published eight books, though only two of her stories, “Tree of Kisses” and “Transgender Basketball Club,”…
Translated by Victoria Caudle
“You Belong Nowhere”: Leïla Slimani on the Trauma of Colonialism and Her Forthcoming Novel
By Madeleine Feeny
Leïla Slimani is an international literary star, a poster-woman of French multiculturalism and a leading voice on human rights. Born in 1981 to a surgeon mother and economist father in Rabat, she…
Cabo Verdean President Jorge Carlos Fonseca: Poetry Is the Only Instrument of Radical Change
One of the surprising pleasures of the early pandemic was the development of my friendship with the Cabo Verdean writer Jorge Carlos Fonseca. In addition to being one of Lusophone Africa’s most…
“Language Is a Code”: Ali Feruz on Prison Literature, Exile, and the Power of Journalism
By José Vergara
During the January 2021 pro-Navalny demonstrations that swept Russia, hundreds of protestors were rounded up, brutalized, and jailed. Some of them ended up in the Sakharovo Detention Center for Foreign…
On Fantasy and the Poetry of the Past: An Interview with Sofia Samatar
By Safwan Khatib
Born in a small town in northern Indiana in 1971, Sofia Samatar is the author of the forthcoming memoir The White Mosque (Catapult Books, 2022). Her first novel, A Stranger in Olondria, for which she…
The Translator Relay: Karen Sherwood Sotelino
By Words Without Borders
WWB’s Translator Relay features an interview with a different translator every few months. The current month’s translator will choose the next interviewee, adding a different, sixth…
Power Resides within It: Louise Law Lok-Man and Jennifer Feeley on Hong Kong Literature
By Jennifer Feeley & Louise Law Lok-Man
In the wake of the anti-extradition protests in 2019 and the implementation of the National Security Law in June 2020, Hong Kong—and, consequently, its literature—has increasingly been in…
Portrait of writer Sinan Antoon
Photo © Koutaiba al-Janabi
The City and the Writer: In Baghdad with Sinan Antoon
By Nathalie Handal
I don’t live (t)here, but it lives in me still.
Subverting Gendered Language: Hannah Kauders on Translating Iván Monalisa Ojeda’s “Las Biuty Queens”
By Shoshana Akabas
In 2019, translator Hannah Kauders stumbled on a copy of Las Biuty Queens, the second book of short stories by Chilean writer Iván Monalisa Ojeda, and fell in love. Kauders immediately set out…
A Call to Break Boundaries: An Interview with the Editors of the Bilingual Indian Journal “Hakara”
By Varun Nayar
Among the many online literary and arts journals published in India, हाकारा । hākārā occupies a rather unique position, embedded in a strong linguistic…
Children’s Literature in Translation: Epigram Books
By Words Without Borders
In recent years, a proliferation of books in translation for children and young adults has brought imaginative stories from around the world to new readers. We’re speaking with some of the extraordinary…
Translating the World Undone: An Interview with Translator Nicholas Glastonbury
By Anton Hur
Last month, literary translator Nicholas Glastonbury, who translates from Turkish and Kurdish, posted a Twitter thread about the failings of the publishing industry when it comes to translated literature.…
A Poetry Revival: Three Poets on Ethiopia’s Thriving Amharic Poetry Scene
By Linda Yohannes
There were always spies coming to attend our events.
Translating Hong Kong and Taiwan: A Conversation between May Huang and Jenna Tang
By May Huang & Jenna Tang
In this interview, translators Jenna Tang and May Huang discuss their experiences translating contemporary literature in Chinese from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Their conversation touches on the diversity…
The Translator Relay: Adam Morris
By Words Without Borders
WWB’s Translator Relay features an interview with a different translator every few months. The current month’s translator will choose the next interviewee, adding a different, sixth…
Children’s Literature in Translation: Groundwood Books
By Words Without Borders
In recent years, a proliferation of books in translation for children and young adults has brought imaginative stories from around the world to new readers. We’re speaking with some of the extraordinary…