“Although Slovak authors do give interviews and appear in public, events where the author is represented by their translator are very rare.”
My Brilliant Friend is the 30th book to be published by INAQUE, a small independent publisher in Bratislava, and one of very few in Slovakia to specialise in translated literature. Elena Ferrante’s books appear in INAQUE’s Women’s Fiction series, which features stories by Jamie Quatro and Tessa Hadley, among others. Titles planned for 2016 include TheStory of a New Name, part two of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan saga,Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, Jenny Erpenbeck’s The End of Days and Kate Bolick’s Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, life stories of distinguished and unjustly forgotten women who lead a full and fascinating life without the need for fathers, brothers or husbands.
Julia Sherwood: Sometimes an encounter with a book or an author is almost a story in its own right. Where did your own stories intersect with those of Elena Ferrante’s novels?
Aňa Ostrihoňová: Sometime in 2006 in Villerupt in France, I went to see Days of Abandonment during a festival of Italian cinema. A friend was keen to see the movie because, like three other movies shown that day, it starred her favourite actor Luca Zingaretti. I was struck by one scene in particular, in which Olga, the protagonist, is talking to the editor of a publishing house who has asked her to translate a novel. The editor tells her that the manuscript she delivered is a great story but it’s not the book she was supposed to translate. Later I realized this was a ploy the scriptwriter used in order to include in the movie the story of La Poverella, which comes back to haunt Olga in hallucinations from her Naples childhood. The scene doesn’t occur in the book.
Gradually I worked my way through everything written by the enigmatic author hiding behind the wonderful pseudonym Elena Ferrante. I was captivated by the honesty of her storytelling, the sharp language and style, and naturally and quite predictably, what got me hooked was the fact that Olga, her protagonist, was a translator. By the time the English translation of My Brilliant Friend, the first part of the Neapolitan saga, appeared and was first noted by James Wood in the New Yorker a few months later, I’d been a publisher for two years.