An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine:
For most of my adult life, since I was twenty-two, I’ve begun a translation every January first. I do realize that this is a holiday and most choose to celebrate, most do not choose to work on New Year’s Day. Once, as I was leafing through the folio of Beethoven’s sonatas, I noticed that only the penultimate, the superb op. 110 in A-flat Major, was dated on the top right corner, as if the composer wanted us to know that he was busy working that Christmas Day in 1821. I too choose to keep busy during holidays.
Over these last fifty years I’ve translated fewer than forty books—thirty-seven, if I count correctly. Some books took longer than a year, others refused to be translated, and one or two bored me into submission—not the books themselves, but my translations of them. Books in and of themselves are rarely boring, except for memoirs of Americans presidents (No, No, Nixon)—well, memoirs of Americans in general. It’s the “I live in the richest country in the world yet pity me because I grew up with flat feet and a malodorous vagina but I triumph in the end” syndrome. Tfeh!
Books into boxes—boxes of paper, loose translated sheets. That’s my life.