Friday, September 4, 2009

Dumitru Tsepeneag on Translation: “My words had to die so I could survive”

I just read Dumitru Tsepeneag's Pigeon Post (Dalkey 2008, translated from the French by Jane Kuntz) and, much to my delight, discovered the transcript of a June 2008 interview of Tsepeneag included with the novel. Tsepeneag, a Romanian, was living in exile in Paris when he wrote Pigeon Post. Although Tsepeneag wrote his early works in Romanian, his native language, he switched to writing in French sometime towards the end of the 1970s. Here’s an excerpt from the interview in which he explains the switch:

Why did I start writing in French? Well, to be perfectly honest, I switched to French to please my French publisher, who told me that my books did not sell well and translations were very costly.
Sound familiar? During the same interview Tsepeneag also explained his discomfort with translation:

[W]hat worried me in the process of translation was that my Romanian words were serving the only purpose of finding French equivalents for them—my translator’s words, the only ones that would be visible in the end. My words were mere passageways, humble and ephemeral ones, condemned to complete anonymity, buried at the bottom of a drawer. In any event, I couldn’t publish my books in Romania, they were forbidden there because I was an opponent of the communist regime. In such conditions, writing had become a sort of mortal execution: my words had to die so that I, the writer, could survive as an author.
After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, Tsepeneag began writing in Romanian again as a kind of revenge.

See the full interview here.

1 comment:

Zibilee said...

Tsepeneag sounds like a very eloquent man.