My interview with translator Charlotte Mandell is posted at The Millions (link). Charlotte Mandell translated Compass, by Mathias Enard. The novel was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International prize, which is co-awarded to translator and author.
Charlotte and I met years ago on a Buddhist retreat. I had no idea she was a translator, but we got to talking about books, and she mentioned she’d just finished the one-sentence novel Zone, by Mathias Enard. Aside from a few other conversations, we’ve talked very little with each other over the years. Our shared retreats are silent, or with minimal talking. If I may speak for her, we’ve always found each other’s company congenial and just right for the circumstances. Both of us enjoy conversation, especially about books, but we also enjoy and respect the richness of silence. I cherish the recollection of the walks we took, after long sitting sessions, in easy silence. When Compass was short-listed, I emailed Charlotte to congratulate her, and asked for this interview. It turned out to be the longest conversation we’ve ever had in one stretch.
In addition to the questions in The Millions interview, I also asked Charlotte what her work space is like. She answered with the photos and captions featured here. Like many writers, Charlotte has a somewhat fetishistic relationship to objects, as if their presence will bring inspiration, diligence, security — as if they will ease the struggle of creating. Most of the things Charlotte keeps close by have little apparent value, but much emotional weight — stones picked up at a beach, souvenirs brought by friends near and far, little chunks of crystal, and of course, books and paper. Lots and lots of paper.
I love stones and crystals, and tend to accumulate far too many of both. Most of the stones here are from Cuttyhunk Island, where we have a summer cottage and where I grew up and learned to sail. I have a special connection to cardinals—I used to feed by hand a cardinal on Cuttyhunk—so there’s a cardinal feather in with the stones and shells, along with a blue jay feather. The icon in the back is from Westminster Abbey—I got it on my last trip to London for the Man Booker International (2017) festivities. There’s also a painted rock from Donegal hiding in there, from when Robert and I stayed at the Poet’s House in Falcarragh back in 1999. The postcard is a Van Gogh (one of my favorite painters) from my friend Ellen Eylers. There’s also a bone letter-opener peeking out from behind the postcard that I brought back from India, from one of several trips I took there back in the late ‘90s and early aughts.