“A Short, Sharp Punch to the Face”: Alia Trabucco Zerán and Sophie Hughes Talk Translation

Alia Trabucco Zerán, award-winning author of The Remainder (La Resta) and Women Who Kill (Las Homicidas), and Sophie Hughes, Alia’s translator and finalist for the International Booker Prize, talk with Novel Dialogue host Chris Holmes about a novel that has shaped their lives as writers and thinkers: The Hole by José Revueltas. Sophie and Alia discuss how The Hole, written while Revueltas was held in the infamous Lecumberri prison, purposefully makes readers feel lost in a small, confined space. Reading a section from her co-translation of The Hole, published in 1969 as El Apando, Sophie considers how the novel’s intense feelings of confinement and limitation prompt a contemplation of what exactly defines freedom.

The conversation turns on how the novel does not spare you from having “been victim of a violent book yourself,” and that literature which confronts our shared inhumanity toward prisoners should make you feel uncomfortable. In a series of thoughtful exchanges, the novelist and her translator confront the difficulties of preserving the immersiveness of the novel’s affect while being attuned to the precise choices and sacrifices of drawing out the novel in English. The episode ends with our season’s signature question, and a wonderful example of untranslatable Chilean Spanish from Alia.



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View a transcript of the episode here.


Mentioned in this Episode