The Translator, A Novel
By Nina Schuyler
Narrated by Kirsten Potter
9 hours 18 minutes
Published July 2nd 2013 by AudioGO
This audio version of The Translator was provided to this reviewer by AudioGO for an honest review.
This book wonderfully translated into audio. The narrator captures Hanne Schubert’s character. Not an easy task considering the number of languages that she had to use. There were a few times during these passages in which there might have been some carefulness in the speech. Yet these were few and far between and not enough to diminish the enjoyment of Kirsten Potter’s performance. The director and producer are to be commended for the quality of the performance and the audio presentation.
Hanne Schubert is a fifty something woman who is translating the greatest work of a well known Japanese author. Language is Hanne’s passion, she speaks several. We observe her as she painstakingly thinks through all the interpretations of the Japanese words and phrases and the appropriate English translation. Hanne is absorbed by the work and she has clearly developed a fondness for the main character.
After finishing the work and sending it off to the publisher Hanne has an accident, falling down the stairs. She wakes up in the hospital where she discovers she’s lost the ability to speak all languages except Japanese. Released from the hospital she finds herself lost, disconnected with the people around her, unable to communicate with them. She accepts an offer to give a presentation in Japan and hopes to meet the author she spent over a year translating. To her horror, she meets the honored author when he shows up at her talk and confronts her in front of the audience, accusing her of ruining his work. His work was inspired by the great Noh actor and she has dishonored him by her translation. Hanne, embarrassed and angry decides to try and meet this actor and see if he indeed was like the character she so admired in her translation.
Hanne moves through the rest of the book on a transformative journey. Meeting the great actor who is all spirit and emotion, living in the present, Hanne is bewildered by him. She doesn’t understand him but she is also drawn to him. She revisits her own memories of growing up as well as memories of her marriage and raising her two children. She shares stories of her daughter, Brigitte, a bright and sensitive girl with a talent for languages whom Hanne tried so hard to nurture, while trying to teach her resilience. Brigitte who has refused to see her these last 6 years.
This book explores so many ideas. Do we really understand each other? Words can be so powerful and yet they can miss the true essence of a persons being. Do we use language to create the story we already know or the one that we want to tell? I found myself asking, “Am I hearing the meaning that this author was hoping to share or have I taken my experiences and applied it to her words and created the story that I know?” Are words a bridge between people or do they create a chasm of unplumbed experience? Everyone is a translator of their own and others in their lives. Nina Schuyler has created a beautiful meditation on language and relationships. Don’t miss its poignant message.