A man who has as many tricks up his sleeve as the author he most recently translated, Tadzio Koelb has successfully sieved André Gide’s Paludes (1895) from the French original into his eloquently transported English translation, Morasses. We caught up with the talented artist, writer, and translator Tadzio to ask him “Just the Facts.”
1. WHO are you currently thinking of most?
I am working on a novel, and when I write fiction I often try to think about those writers who made their weaknesses into strengths: William Faulkner or I. Compton-Burnett or Lawrence Durrell. They would never have achieved what they did by suppressing their “worst” instincts. The narrator in Morasses is so pitiful precisely because he never manages to be himself.
2. WHAT language currently fascinates you?
The language of the Voynich Manuscript. I am impressed by and envious of its insularity. Whoever wrote it didn’t care for the needs of any audience. To an artist working in the era of the book-as-unit, there’s no more liberating idea.
3. WHERE do you find your best inspiration?
Work is the best inspiration. I discover more about what I want to write while writing than at any other time. The writers in Morasses never write… they just talk about writing. That’s why we can look down on them as we do.
4. WHY did you title your book “Morasses”?
“Morass” is most often used in America to describe a man-made problem with no easy solutions (“the regulatory morass”), and that seems to describe the narrator’s world (and the narrator himself) pretty succinctly.
5. WHEN do you get your best ideas?
An idea is only good in the right context. That’s one of Gide’s jokes in Morasses: the narrator is always jotting down ideas that are painfully trite out of context.
6. HOW do you want your writing to change the world?
The only world I can imagine changing is one reader’s individual world, as mine has sometimes been changed by an encounter with a book. Change enough of them, and the effect might be cumulative, I guess.
Tadzio Koelb‘s fiction and poetry have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, >kill author, The Madison Review, The Brooklyner, and Sakura Review, among others. Tadzio regularly reviews fiction, non-fiction, and art for a number of publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Guardian, and his short critical biography of Lawrence Durrell appeared in Scribner’s Sons’ British Writers series. He is deputy managing editor of The Brooklyn Quarterly and teaches creative writing at Rutgers.