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AVE HELEN

When I met Helen Hodgman many years ago, she was working on The Bad Policeman, which would become her last published novel. Her illness had already started and with time it would make writing more and more difficult, undermining the innate capacity she had to express thoughts and describe people and situations with a particular sharpness.

I read Blue Skies and Jack and Jill, her first and prized novels, not long before becoming interested in literary translation, and I remember deciding to begin my career with the translation into Italian of these two amazing works of art.

I enjoyed her writing, flowing and edgy at the same time, and smiled to myself at times, when the meaning of certain terms and expressions that seemed to be casually put in a sentence, bolted right out of the page. But this is the beauty of her style.

Then it turned out that to re-interpret this particular style and fully convey it in a different language was something that needed more than enthusiasm and nascent literary skills. It took me a lot effort, endless trial and error, some help from more experienced people and a very long time, before I was able to deliver an Italian edition of Blue Skies and of Jack and Jill that would live up to the originals. For it is not always so obvious (and in some cases not even possible) to re-create literature in another language without doing too much damage. I consider Helen’s books fine pieces of literature with a distinctive light, succinct prose, and a wry wit, and they are also the very tools that formed me as a translator. Thank you Helen for this.


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