The protagonist of Idra Novey’s debut novel Ways to Disappear is a translator of Brazilian literature named Emma, who lives in Pittsburgh with her rather boring boyfriend. When Beatriz Yagoda, the author Emma has spent her career translating, disappears, Emma takes the next flight to Brazil to contend with loan sharks, washed-up literary agents, and the unfinished draft of Beatriz’ latest book to search for the missing novelist.
Novey, a lecturer in creative writing, is the author of two books of poetry, including Exit, Civilian, which was a National Poetry Series winner, and a translator of Spanish and Portuguese authors. She teaches translation at Princeton. Novey spoke with PAW about the art of translation, loan sharks, and surviving a monsoon.
The novel deals with the art of translating and Emma’s complicated relationship to her author. How much do these relationships draw on your own experience?
I translated a novel by a Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, who died long before I translated her, which meant I couldn’t ask her any of the questions I had about her work. As a result, she became a kind of phantom voice in my head. Continue reading