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  • “No other book received so much care”: Interview with Martina Knápková, Translator of The Golden Apples from English to Czech
  • Hana Ulmanová

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Cover of Welty’s The Golden Apples / Zlatá Jablka. Published by Argo, Prague, in 2016.

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This interview was conducted on December 1, 2017, via e-mail in Czech and was translated by Hana Ulmanová.

Hana Ulmanová:

Who approached you with the offer to translate The Golden Apples, and how long did it take you to decide? Would that be your choice as well—or even a dream?

Martina Knápková:

I was approached by Martin Svoboda from Argo Press, who prepared the whole project with Marcel Arbeit from the English and American Studies Department in Olomouc [Palacký University]. As far as I can remember, I refused at first, because I did not feel professionally mature enough at that point. But finally, those gentlemen persuaded me. Through friendly pressure.


How long did it take you to translate the whole volume—as to both netto and brutto time [net and gross time]?


I am slightly ashamed to answer this question. Martin asked me in the year 2012 and The Golden Apples in Czech appeared four years later. So, very long indeed. Incidentally, I also stopped being a free-lance translator during that period and accepted a full-time job, which means that I translated in the evenings and during the weekends. How much actual time that took is hard to say, but I had to work on other translations as well.


The Czech text was edited by several people, which is quite unusual. Why, and who focused on what area?


The editors were Markéta Janebová and Marcel Arbeit from English and American Studies in Olomouc. Markéta got the text first, and she edited mainly the linguistic side. Then we spent two days together [End Page 5] discussing the unresolved and unresolvable spots, which was extremely exhausting and extremely entertaining at the same time. Afterward, the text was passed over to Marcel, who—as an expert on the South and southern literature—focused mainly on the pragmatic aspect. His task was to check the details concerning southern reality. Next to that, I also had advisors on terminology for music and the card game Rook. A few native speakers helped me decipher puzzling spots in the original. And Martin Svoboda did the final proofreading.

I have to say that we devoted a lot of time to editing. No other book I have translated received so much care—I myself read the translation before it went to print in various phases of development about ten times, and so did Markéta. As the Czech version was getting clearer and better, we were more and more falling in love with Apples, and singing praises for Welty. Any good translation is always the collaboration between the translator and the editor, and in this case, it was even more so. Without Markéta and Marcel, the Czech Golden Apples would not have been what it became—their help was invaluable.


Were you inspired by other Eudora Welty translations into Czech?


In 2007, I helped proofread the anthology Story-tellers of the American South (published by Paseka), where “Sir Rabbit” appeared in Michaela Weiss’s translation (she was still Náhlíková then). I remember that we all agreed it was the toughest story to translate. Once it was for sure that I would do Golden Apples, immediately at the beginning, I decided not to consult the other Czech translations, so that I would not be tempted to lazily accept the solutions from previous versions. [In addition to “Sir Rabbit,” in 1997, “June Recital” appeared in Hana Ulmanová’s translation, published by H&H.] I did read them again once my own translation was published, though—since I was understandably curious.


Was it your most difficult translation so far, and if so, what was that determined by on the level of the text?


Without any shade of doubt. It was a highly unique work. Golden Apples is not an easy read even for a native speaker...


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