Patricia Worth has a Master of Translation Studies from the Australian National University. Her translation of George Sand’s Spiridion was published in 2015, and two bilingual short story books from New Caledonia were published in 2017 and 2018. A number of her translations have appeared in Australian, New Caledonian and US literary journals including Southerly Journal, Transnational Literature, The Brooklyn Rail and Delos Journal.
What drew you to translate 19th-century literature?
I’ve been reading 19th-century literature since my school days, so my first choice for literature to translate comes from this era. I enjoyed Jean Lorrain’s fantastical tales remembered from his childhood and wanted other English speakers to have access to them as there’s presently a revival of interest in French writing from the 1890s. The Brontë sisters are a never-ending source of inspiration, and I admire Constance Garnett’s translations of the now-famous Russian novels, but for Lorrain’s short stories I read fairy tales recorded by the Grimms, Perrault, and Andrew Langin’s Fairy Books, which were actually translated or retold by his wife, Mrs Lang.
Do you find your own life experiences represented in these stories?
In Stories to Read by Candlelight there were a few stories where I sympathised with the main character and recognised the difficulty he or she was facing. I understood Princess Mandosiane who wished to move about freely, and Madame Gorgibus who was a dowdy loner and therefore a target for bullies. And I’ve experienced the anticipation of entering a space described in the introduction of ‘Useless Virtue’ where ‘old things from centuries past were piled up under the dust’. The other stories were interesting simply for their unfamiliarity.
What is your biggest motivation for translating historical works?
Many great French stories from the 19th century have never been translated into English, and I know that if I love them, then other readers might be equally delighted and surprised by the creativity of the old French authors.
How many books have you written?
I’ve translated one novel, two small bilingual books, and two short story collections.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
On the day after I finished my Master’s degree I began reading George Sand’s Spiridion with the goal of translating it. Two years later I was fortunate to have my translation published by the State University of New York. I’ve since received good reviews, even an acknowledgement that this was a novel that needed to be translated. The reviews encouraged me to translate more works from this period of French literature.
What advice would you give a writer trying to get published?
Submit short stories to literary journals, over and over and over. Choose journals that don’t charge fees, and at first avoid journals that offer payment. Many of your earlier stories will be rejected but eventually your work will be accepted. As you have more and more pieces published, your confidence will grow and then you can send work to paying journals or larger works to book publishers.
What inspires you when you hit writer’s block?
Writer’s block is never a problem for a translator.
Describe your writing style in three words.
Clear. Concise. Descriptive.
Stories to Read by Candlelight contains eight stories first published in the 1890s by the French author, Jean Lorrain, translated here into English by Patricia Worth. Jean draws the reader back in time to his provincial childhood when his grandmother’s seamstress would tell him stories that gave him goose bumps and made him jump under the covers. Here he recounts these same stories, or invents new half-lived half-dreamed stories born of objects found in an attic or an old house. The characters have a mythical quality, whether they be fantastical beings who long to be real, like the embroidered Princess Mandosiane, or real people like Madame Gorgibus, accused of being a wicked fairy. The stories fall between legends and fairy tales, a genre favoured by a few Decadent authors protesting against realism and regretting technological progress.