Lydia Davis masters the art of translating without a dictionary

‘Read slowly, word by word, if you wish to understand what I am saying.’ Despite appearing in Essays Two, the latest non-fiction collection from Lydia Davis, this exhortation is by the Norwegian author Dag Solstad; yet the approach is apt for Davis’s work. This is not because Davis, a feted translator and writer who won the Man Booker International Prize in 2013, is incomprehensible but because her work is often so short — a couple of lines or a couple of pages. It demands to be savoured slowly. Even when she writes at length, as she does in this hefty volume spanning 19 essays, her thoughts on literature and language