In tribute to the great translator George Craig, who died in March of this year, Music & Literature is publishing the following excerpt from Writing Beckett’s Letters, Craig’s reflections on the process of translating Samuel Beckett’s letters from French into English for Cambridge University Press. Writing Beckett’s Letters was originally published as no. 16 of The Cahiers Series (Sylph Editions, 2011).
A feature by Maria Dimitrova
What was the translation process like?
I wanted translation, or the impossibility of translation, to be an intrinsic part of the text. Because of that, its starting point was the untranslatability of the Bulgarian тъга (“taga”: sorrow, melancholy), the concept as well as the word itself. The text is made of various personal notes which take their structure from the notebooks I travel around with. I always have one with me, I am now probably on volume 67 or so.
Do you have it with you currently?
Yes, I always have the latest one. Though I travel a lot and carry at least the last fifteen with me.
Do you ever write on a computer?
Yes, but it all starts from the notebooks: the ideas, the phrases. I develop these further on a computer of course, and I do write prose on it, but poetry I can only write on paper. I am an analog poet. Poetry on a computer is a different genre altogether...