Finnegans Wake, James Joyce, Translation

Interview with Marcelo Zabaloy, Spanish translator of James Joyce

A two-part interview by Derek Pyle with Marcelo Zabaloy, Spanish translator of Finnegans Wake and Ulysses. First published by the Massachusetts Review Blog (to read on their site: Part 1 and Part 2).

“If I did that shamething it was on pure poise”

Marcelo Zabaloy must be a remarkable man, with no shortage of literary ambition and ability. Having completed an unabridged translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (published in 2015 by el Cuenco de Plata in Buenos Aires), Zabaloy is in the final stages of his next translation. The book? James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

While Ulysses is a certainly a difficult book to read, it nonetheless retains a modicum of accessibility in its native tongue—the language may seem rather dialectically Irish, but at least it is more or less a form of English. We might imagine a dedicated translator working on Ulysses as his magnum opus. To translate Finnegans Wake, however, is much more difficult to imagine. How does one translate a book in which the original text already appears as some idiosyncratic kind of language? What inspires someone to even attempt such an undertaking?

In an attempt to answer these questions, I interviewed Marcelo Zabaloy over the course of numerous e-mail exchanges. We discussed his interest in Joyce; his translations of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake; his professional life, working for his son’s travel agency; and his collaboration with Edgardo Russo, the highly regarded late editor of el Cuento de Plata.

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