Choosing a book to read


Who is your favorite translator of fiction?

Mine is Riina Jesmin.

I must confess, though, that I do not generally check and remember who is the translator of the books I read in Estonian translation.

But “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf was such a pleasure when I read it first time! I had read it in Estonian translation, but I looked up the original after enjoying translation so much. And something strange happened, something that had not happened to me before (and has not happened later): I did not enjoy the original words by Virginia Woolf as much, they flowed differently. So I learned my main pleasure had come from the Estonian words by Riina Jesmin.

And, to my surprise, I found that while I had thought I was fan of Robertson Davies (and in this case I DID enjoy the other books by same author in original also), what had got me initially hooked was Estonian translation of “What’s Bred in the Bone” by Riina Jesmin; while I enjoyed so much “Around the Globe in 20 Years : An Artist at Large in the Diplomatic World” by Irena Wiley, the translator was once again Riina Jesmin.

So, this time I just searched for books translated by Riina Jesmin and picked up “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed neither for the author nor for the topic, but simply for the reason that it has been translated to Estonian by Riina Jesmin.*

I do not regret so far. Even if reading about another mother dying from cancer so soon after death of my own mother from the same disease might have been tricky … As in such cases even “being lucky” can hurt – yes, Cheryl Strayed lost her mother at age 22, when I lost mine two weeks before turning 50; yes, my mother had less pain – something to be grateful for, but still …

Also, just as a random titbit to mention, in one place Cheryl Strayed wonders about someone describing her mother as “having crossed the river”. And this reminded me the story my aunt told at my mothers wake.

“As a child I asked my mother what happened to people, who had died. ‘They have crossed the Toonela** river,’ my mother told me. And her answer made sense to me, as I grew up next to the P√§rnu river and so the idea of having to cross a river to leave was something I could imagine and accept.”


* I was seeking for something in Estonian to send to my daughter, who works in Vietnam at the moment. But i wanted to read anything I send to her myself first

** Estonian equivalent of river Styx


2 responses to “Choosing a book to read

  1. I feel similarly about Margaret Jull Costa who translates from Portuguese and Spanish into English. If I know she has done the translation that by itself would make me want to pick up the book.

    • Thank you for your comment! Not only is it pleasant to know, that I am not an only one sometimes judging books by their translators, but I will also keep in mind name of Margaret Jull Costa and will check out some of her translations in future

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: