Readers of Jose Saramago’s recent works will have noticed that he works exclusively with the award-winning translator, Margeret Jull Costa. She is sometimes referred to as ‘Saramago’s English Translator’. She made the following remarks at a celebration of Saramago’s Nobel Prize:
“Any Saramago novel requires a high degree of alertness from the ordinary reader and, since a translation involves the closest possible reading of a text, it requires an even higher degree of alertness and nimbleness from the translator. The sheer density of the words on the page can prove exhausting. It’s very easy to get lost not just in the long sentences, but also in the page itself.
Ms. Costa has also translated the works of several old masters and contemporary Spanish and Portuguese writers. For those of us who love world literature and lesser-known but brilliant international authors, following the works of an accomplished translator, such as Costa, invariably leads us to some wonderful authors. Here is a list (but by no means exhaustive) of authors whose work Ms. Costa has translated:
- Javier Marias – his novel, A Heart So White, won the 1997 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (the largest money prize for fiction. It’s also good for the diversity and breadth of novels on its longlists). Costa is the translator of Marias’ Your Face Tomorrow series.
- Jose Maria Eca de Queiros – he is generally considered the greatest Portuguese writer. Costa’s translation of The Maias won two translation prizes.
- Fernando Pessoa – a very interesting Portuguese writer and poet who developed the literary concept of heteronym, which is one or more imaginary characters created by an author to write in different styles. One of his heteronyms, Ricardo Reis is a main character in Jose Saramago’s 1986 novel The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. Costa translated Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet among others.
- Bernardo Atxaga – contemporary Basque writer. His works include The Accordionist’s Son and The Lone Woman
- Teolinda Gersao – Portuguese writer. Her book, Tree of Words, set in Mozambique
- Angela Vallvey – contemporary Spanish writer. Her book, Hunting the Last Wild Man, was translated by Costa.
- Arturo Perez-Reverte – Spanish writer. A number of his books, including The Flanders Panel, are translated by Costa.
As a reader of Saramago and other Iberian authors, I certainly appreciate the work of Margaret Jull Costa.