Ensconced in the Payne Whitney mansion (a monument to American capitalism) at the corner of 79th and 5th Avenue is a new bookshop of French ideas, the Albertine. A project of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Albertine houses over 14,000 French and English books.
The Albertine has a full calendar of events including panels, workshops, talks and a book club. On a recent rainy night in December, the book shop hosted French author Julia Deck and the translator of her latest work Linda Coverdale. The crux of the conversation was on the intimate nature of translating a work. The best translation leave light footprints while having a strong enough hand to make the changes that in the end keep the spirit of the book.
Deck's novel is about a young women who is suffering from partial amnesia, unable to recall events on the night her analyst was murdered. Her life is unraveling and so is her mind. Deck said she had always been fascinated by the toll of mental illness, and how little we still really know about how the mind works (or doesn't).
Coverdale is very confident in her abilities. Her appreciation of Deck's work focused on the taut prose and linear style of the story. She said that France's reverence of authors often means that books are published without editing. "The mistakes are part of the verity of the text," she said. This would certainly make a tricky process even more complicated.
The setting offers a heady atmosphere. Par exemple, je ai achete le roman en francais!