The English text, published by Knopf
in 2001, however elegantly rendered by the head of Knopf
, Carol Brown Janeway
, was translated from the German version, with Janeway referring to the earlier French edition for support.
read no Hungarian
and, as a publisher, trusted none of the available translators.
That was what she
said in public at any rate.
Some suspected she
was none too sure of who they were.
Possibly there was no time to find one: the iron needed striking while it was hot.
There were fierce letters to The New York Times
and rumbles of protests in correspondence, but by then the book was a triumph in English.
Tragic and exemplary, Márai's Hungarian remained in the shadows.
The luminous triumph was the translation of a translation.
The faithfulness of the English version continues to be debated, but the name of Sándor Márai, however mispronounced, was pronounced frequently and with great respect.
came to me by way of Barbara Epler of New Directions, who had, I think, been praising my translation of Krasznahorkai to her.
I assume Janeway
went on to read The Melancholy of Resistance and became convinced I was the man for Márai
In any case I had a message to meet her at Claridges Hotel in London on 10 January 2003.
The night before, I gave a reading near Liverpool.
The reading was fine, if a little desolate, but nowhere near as desolate as the boarding house the organizers had found for me.
Everything was broken: there was flex hanging off the walls the door could not be locked the handle having been smashed, there was no hot water the toilet bowl leaked, there was a plastic incontinence sheet on the bed and a group of skinheads were partying down the hall.
I slept very little, couldn't shower or shave, and arrived at Claridges
the next day dirty, with rings under my eyes.
was crisp, tidy and businesslike.
quizzed me on Márai
and other Hungarian novelists, checked me out, then asked if I could undertake the next Márai novel as quickly as possible.