May 3, 2007
Lydia Davis is a contemporary American author and translator of French. From 1974 to 1978 she was married to Paul Auster, with whom she has a son. She has published six collections of short stories, including The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories (1976) and Break It Down (1986). Her most recent collection is not Samuel Johnson Is Indignant, but rather Varieties of Disturbance, published by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.
Her stories are acclaimed for their brevity, poetry, philosophy and humour. Many are only one or two sentences long. We talk here, at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival, about the role of the translator, her Swann’s Way, measuring rooms three inches at a time, becoming Proust as an actor might a character, dialogue being more of a translation challenge than description because speech is born of environment and times, and the goal of creating living language that’s timeless.