PIIRS Features Conversation with Translators in Residence Hanna Leliv and Daisy Rockwell

February 21, 2024

Each semester, the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication (PTIC) hosts a visiting translator in residence who shares their real-world experiences of life and work with the program’s students and the broader Princeton University community. The Translator in Residence is co-sponsored by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), the Humanities Council, and the Lewis Center for the Arts.

This year’s translators in residence, Hanna Leliv and Daisy Rockwell, discussed their inspirations, their individual processes, and the importance of literary translation in a story on the PIIRS homepage.

Leliv, a native of Lviv, Ukraine, works as a freelance translator. She was PTIC’s Fall 2023 Translator in Residence, and her tenure has been extended through the end of the academic year as part of Princeton’s scholars at risk network.

Leliv, on the importance of translation: In times like these, when we have not just wars going on in the world, but also so much othering and fearmongering, translation is crucial to promote understanding. Through translations, you see human stories. And the moment you see a human in someone, not just a migrant, a refugee, or anyone else with some label, then it becomes much harder to judge this person, to dismiss this person, to be biased against them. Translation builds empathy and understanding of the human condition.

Rockwell, the Spring 2024 Translator in Residence, translates from Hindi and Urdu into English and focuses on women’s writing.

Rockwell, on her process. I like to say that every translation should have at least 10 drafts. It’s a journey from the initial draft to the final published version. A journey can be particularly rugged or long because you have two languages that are linguistically dissimilar. Or it can be a journey over time — like if you’re translating something medieval. Every time I start a translation, the first draft is rough and I do it by hand. I have pretty notebooks and nice colored pens. I don’t make a choice between five words; I’ll write down all five words. I use many question marks. Then, I type it; that’s another draft. Part of going on this journey is getting to know the book, so even if I have questions for the author or for other people with expertise I don’t have, I tend not to ask them for two or three drafts because I’m trying to inhabit the book. After that, I ask for help. It’s a slow process of refinement. Eventually, you say goodbye to the original, because now you’re working on an English text.

Read the full interview on the PIIRS website.

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