Committed to providing a voice to those who are oppressed, Julia Sherwood often teams with husband Peter Sherwood to translate literary fiction as well as film scripts, essays, journalism and academic texts from various Eastern European languages. She also works for the international journal, Asymptote, and serves on the board of NGO Rights in Russia, actively calling attention to the voices of human rights advocates from the country by bringing their works before an international audience. Her most recent translation out this year is of Tony Judt’s The Memory Chalet, Penzión spomienok, from the English into Slovak. We caught up with Julia Sherwood and asked her to give us Just the Facts.
WHO are you currently thinking of most?
It’s not a single person but the thousands of refugees coming to Europe from Syria and other parts of the world, fleeing conflict or simply hoping to live a normal dignified life.
WHAT language currently fascinates you?
I never cease to be fascinated by Polish. I have loved the sound of this language since I was very young. Fellow aficionados will appreciate this fun guide to the jungle of Polish alphabet, which comprises 32 letters, nine of which are unique, including several digraphs and even one trigraph.
WHERE do you find your best inspiration?
In conversations with friends.
WHY did you choose to translate the title of Jana Juráňová’s novel as Ilona: My Life with the Bard?
I had long discussions about this with Peter, my husband and co-translator. The closest translation of the original title Žila som s Hviezdoslavom would be My Life with Hviezdoslav, echoing My Life with Picasso. However, as the Slovak poet was hardly a household name in the Anglophone world and most readers would not know how to pronounce it, we were concerned this would put them off the book. So we decided to put the spotlight on the narrator, the poet’s wife Ilona, adding My Life with the Bard to reflect the book’s delicate and playful irony
WHEN do you get your best ideas?
In the shower in the morning.
HOW do you want your writing to change the world?
It would be wonderful if our translations could get more people interested in Slovak literature.