Jessica Knauss’s translation of Lidia Falcón’s Camino sin retorno -- the harrowing tale of the Spanish transition to democracy from the pen of Spain’s leading feminist -- has just been released by Loose Leaves Publishing.
Jessica KnaussJessica grew up in Northern California and began studying Spanish as soon as she could. She translates amazing stories she could never have written herself because they come from authors from different parts of the world who live in completely different conditions. She loves to bring these stories into English, where they can find the wide audience they richly deserve. Jessica graduated from the University of Iowa with an MFA in literary translation. She blogs at jessicaknauss.blogspot.com and would be happy to send you free No Turning Back bookmarks!Q: A standard question to ask an author is “When did you begin writing?” In this case, perhaps you could talk about what first interested you in translation.A: My experience has been that most Americans never learn any language beyond English. When I began to read stories in Spanish, I was disappointed that I couldn’t share them with everyone I knew. It became apparent that the easiest way for people from different cultures to get to know each other was through translation. It was a major advantage to translate into English, which is now the most international language.Q: Is translation easy?A: No. Although it’s easier for me than teaching foreign languages, translation has turned out not to be the simple transference of meaning from one set of sounds or writing to another. The main problem is that “meaning” is so contextual and subjective. We hardly ever realize it, but when we speak our mother tongue, each word carries with it centuries of history and connotation, and I’ve yet to find a single word that can transmit exactly the same load of meaning in another language as the original concept does.Q: How did you find Camino sin retorno? Were there any special issues with its translation?A: I now feel as if I’ve known the works of Lidia Falcón my entire life. But I came across her work randomly in the stacks at the University of Iowa library. As soon as I picked up Camino sin retorno, I knew it should be translated. It’s an incredibly important book. It was the first to really speak out about prison conditions during the Franco dictatorship and the first to openly criticize the leftist groups who resisted Franco because of their machismo and lack of respect for women’s contributions.It was a difficult book to put into English for many reasons. First, I had to learn about the political context in Spain before I was born, and then I had to sympathize with the characters enough to figure out what kind of voice to give each of them in English. Also, the book is kind of experimental because it’s told from the point of view of Elisa. She has PTSD from her time in prison. Perhaps Falcón chose to tell the story from such a point of view because she suspects that everyone who lived under the dictatorship suffers from some kind of shock. Elisa’s thoughts and emotions are jumbled and erratic. In the end, I’ve added some clues so the reader in English can keep better track of what’s going on. By the end of the book, it makes so much sense, there doesn’t seem to be any other way it could have been written. I hope readers will love it as much as I do! Because as well as dealing with these important issues, No Turning Back is full of memorable characters.