So it’s been about a year now since I started working on my new translation of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, but more than half the intervening months were taken up with other matters, so I’m still working on the book’s first 10%. Given the enormous size of this novel (not to mention its density), I find I’ve been working in a different rhythm than with the shorter books I’m used to, which I translated in a series of passes (rough draft, second draft, etc.) For MM, I’m using a more recursive model in which I revise previously translated sections of the book in between working on my first draft of other passages. This approach is helping me deal with the incredibly thorny prose of the long, nostalgic second chapter, detailing Hans Castorp’s childhood.
I’ve been speaking about my work on the book publicly as well, as a Fall 2020 Berlin Prize Fellow “at” the American Academy in Berlin. The scare quotes are because I’m still in NYC (thanks, Covid-19), but have been very much enjoying the opportunity to interact virtually with my fellow fellows in Berlin and elsewhere. If you’re interested in reading more about my thoughts on The Magic Mountain and the work of translating it, let me refer you to:
- “Fresh Air: Thomas Mann and the Literature of Contagion,” a brief article I recently published in The Berlin Journal.
- “The Importance of Being Thomas Mann,” a recorded half-hour conversation with the brilliant Veronika Fuechtner, who’s in the middle of writing a book about Mann’s Brazilian mother and the traces of this legacy throughout Mann’s work.
- “Translation as Storytelling,” a lecture I just gave at the Academy about my approach to translating classic works in general and this novel in particular. An article based on this talk is forthcoming in the anthology This is a Classic that Regina Galasso is editing for Bloomsbury. (I believe it’s due out in early 2022.) A more essayistic, abbreviated version will be published sooner, in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of frieze, so keep an eye out if you’re interested!
Meanwhile the next of my self-imposed internal deadlines is rapidly approaching, so I’d better get back to work. Thanks so much for dropping by!