A web of rivalries: The Extinction of Irena Rey, by Jennifer Croft, reviewed

Jennifer Croft is a translator of uncommon energy. In 2018 she won the International Booker Prize for her rendering of Flights by Olga Tokarczuk. In 2021, she took on Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob, a great big historical epic. Now she’s written a satirical page-turner set over what one character calls ‘seven toxic, harrowing, oddly arousing, extremely fruitful weeks’. Like members of some ancient mystery cult, eight translators fetch up in a house near a primeval forest in Poland on the Belarus border. The year is 2017. ‘Bedraggled and ecstatic’, they’ve come to translate Szara eminencja (Grey Eminence), a novel about art and mass extinction, by the Stockholm-worthy woman of

A translator’s responsibilities are as formidable as a transplant surgeon’s

When asked what it is we do, translators often resort to metaphors. We liken the act of translation to performing a piece of music, taking on a role in a play, kissing a bride through a veil or building bridges between cultures. But as the peerless Norwegian translator Damion Searls has said, when we sit down to work ‘there’s no metaphor at all really. The metaphors are just for interviews, or for talking with people about what translators do’. In this series of passionate, thoughtful essays, Jhumpa Lahiri uses metaphors, and more especially Ovid’s Metamorphoses, to explore the nebulous, almost ineffable nature of living between languages. The book is also

Dangerous liaisons: Bad Eminence, by James Greer, reviewed

Vanessa Salomon is an internationally successful translator. Clever, beautiful, privileged – ‘born in a trilingual household: French, English and money’ – she can indulge herself professionally with obscure, neglected books. About to embark on a forgotten nouveau roman by Alain Robbe-Grillet, she’s offered an irresistible assignment. A bestselling French novelist who is definitely not Michel Houellebecq wants to pay her an extravagant fee to translate his next book – before he’s written it. Vanessa accepts, and her life free-falls into a nightmare of dangerous, sadistic games, involving two possible Not-Houellebecqs, but which is the imposter? She herself is a very unreliable narrator. Bad Eminence is the American writer and musician