Remembering Nancy Festinger

I was shocked when I heard last week that my translator colleague Nancy Festinger had died – she was young (only 57), and I didn’t realize she had been battling breast cancer and its recurrences. I didn’t know her well. We met when (in what now seems a typical act of generosity for her) she wrote to the general American Literary Translators Association mailing list, offering a ride from New York to Philadelphia to fellow translators attending the 2010 ALTA Conference. I enjoyed a delightful couple of hours of shop talk with her and Mark Weiss on the trip down. And now this. Our last communications concerned the PEN/Edward and Lily Tuck Award for Paraguayan Literature. I’d asked her to serve as a judge, not knowing she was ill; and she accepted, not mentioning it. It seems that helping out was such a reflex for her that she didn’t know how to stop.

Besides being a literary translator, Nancy was the chief interpreter at the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and editor of Proteus, the newsletter of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. The New York Times published a brief obituary a few days ago. I wanted to mark Nancy’s passing and the loss to the translation community with more than my own sparse memories, so I asked Esther Allen and Jim Kates, both of whom knew Nancy much better than I did, to write a few words about her.  You will find their remembrances here and here.

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