Author Carlos Fonseca and translator Megan McDowell were guests on Slate’s Working podcast to discuss their latest collaboration on the book Austral: A Novel. A story of mourning and return — to one’s native country, to one’s darkest memories, to oneself — Austral interrogates the obsessions and upheavals faced by survivors of a rapidly globalizing world. A treasure map of intertwined experiences, each cleaving its own path through time, the novel is a fascinating investigation into the disappearance of culture and memory and a charting of the furthest limits of what language can do.
Austral is just a wonderful book. It really spoke to me as someone who has somewhat recently returned to a place and a culture that I left several decades before. Not everyone will have that exact experience, but when you can, obviously that’s kind of a magical thing. –June Thomas
June Thomas interviewed Fonseca and McDowell to discuss why Fonseca wants his books to be translated, the relationship between authors and translators, and translating non-textual elements in a book. Thomas was later joined by co-host Nate Chinen in a conversation about the complexity within a collaborative project.
It gives another life to the book. You never know where people are going to read it in a different way where it was read. So there is a certain amount of hope and surprise and that’s exciting. –Carlos Fonseca
Austral has received positive reviews in The New York Times, Irish Times, The Guardian, Washington Independent Review of Books, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, On the Seawall, Rough Ghosts, Asymptote, and The Rumpus. There was an excerpt in the Brooklyn Rail and Fonseca spoke with his editor Ben Brooks for FSG’s Works in Progress. Fonseca also wrote a piece for LitHub.
Carlos Fonseca was born in Costa Rica, grew up in Puerto Rico, and studied in the United States. He was selected by the Hay Festival as part of the Bogotá39 group (2017), by Granta magazine as one of its twenty-five best young Spanish-language writers (2021), and by the Encyclopaedia Britannica as one of the twenty most promising writers in the world for its “Young Shapers of the Future” (2022). His previous novels are Colonel Lágrimas and Natural History, both translated by Megan McDowell. His work has been translated into more than ten languages. He is a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.
Megan McDowell has translated many of the most important Latin American writers working today. Her translations have won the National Book Award for Translated Literature, the English PEN award, the Premio Valle-Inclán, and two O. Henry Prizes, and have been nominated for the International Booker Prize (four times) and the Kirkus Prize. Her short story translations have been featured in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine, Tin House, McSweeney’s, and Granta, among others. In 2020 she won an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is from Richmond, KY and lives in Santiago, Chile.