Margaret immersed herself in her work and the translations that emerged reflected the original authors written in Spanish complex tragicomedies made accessible to readers of English. She captured the essence of sorrow and death, history and ancestry in vivid poetry. Margaret taught that you have to scrape off the words, get down to an under-level, that’s where the meaning is, below the words. Her translated characters speak as they would have had they been born to English and their authors likewise acquire a style in their transformed tongue that is true to what they say or are trying to say.
Ms. Peden’s methods included:
- Rewrite five to 10 pages of a work in Spanish at a time
- using a combination of both Spanish and English
- Return to the beginning and revise
- look up words not understood
- Revises again
By the time each book is published, she has pored over it numerous times.
Aphorism: You can’t commit the sin of improvement. If it’s a bad book, it has to be a bad book!
Translating a work is a constant solving of puzzles.
She does as much as or more research than academic writers and critics for the works because she must learn about:
- the book’s historical and cultural contexts
- the way the Spanish language is used in those contexts
- the specific vocabulary and voice of each author
- the voices of all the author’s characters
Peden is today the most accomplished active translator of Spanish-language literature into English.
Peden mused that our Western civilization came to us in translation: the Greeks, the Bible, all these things. She has gained a greater tolerance for elements of other cultures she might have felt impatient with before. But Peden added perhaps the best part of her journey has been the relationships she has gained — with her authors, with translators and with other readers who love and respect good literature as much as she. “I’m lucky, the people I’ve met,” she said.
Extracted from The UncarvedBlog by Ken Chawlin.