This is my final Lockdown Diary. I’ve been writing them for almost ten weeks now. This has been both one of the most difficult and also most creative periods of my life. Whilst I’ve experienced a huge amount of anxiety and isolation over the last few months and have, at times, found it really difficult to concentrate on writing, I’ve also enjoyed a certain amount of freedom from other obligations and relished the time to read, rest and begin to write again. Much has changed here in Belfast. The Lockdown is slowly lifting and I’ve been able to arrange socially distant meet ups with friends and family. However, I’m aware that we have a very long way to go before we’re back to normal. I’m still teaching creative writing classes online and staying close to home. I’m still thinking longingly of the festivals and events in other parts of the world which I won’t be able to attend this year. I wouldn’t want to repeat this season again but I’m still grateful for everything it’s taught me about myself and my writing. I thought I’d end my Diary on a hopeful note as I look to a future beyond Covid-19.
One of the best things to come out of winning the EU Prize for Literature for Ireland was undoubtedly the opportunity to see my work translated into various European languages. Thanks to incredible support from the EUPL and Literature Ireland, and the tireless, hard work of my agents Rachel Crawford and Kate Johnson at MacKenzie Wolf, The Fire Starters is set to be translated into around ten different languages with the first two of these translations appearing in the next couple of weeks: the Italian edition, L’incendiario published by Giulio Perrone Editore, and the Spanish language edition Los Incediarios published by Hoja de Lata Editorial and translated by Clara Ministral.
As a writer it was a really humbling and exciting process to watch my words filter through someone else’s mind and see how not only words, but also ideas, cultural practices and humour translates in a very different setting. The Fire Starters is so grounded in a very specific part of Northern Ireland, I was intrigued by how it would translate in a different country with readers who may or may not have previous experience of our cultural and political backdrop. I don’t mind admitting I got a real kick out of imagining people in Madrid and Rome and Zagreb picking up the book and trying to picture what life on the Beersbridge Road or round the Shipyards might be like.
The process of working with translators has been an absolute revelation to me. I’ve been particularly lucky to work very closely with the amazing Clara Ministral on this translation. There were emails. There were long chats over coffee. There were several hilarious attempts to pin down Belfast euphemisms and I’m grateful to have emerged from this process with not only a fantastic translation but a wonderful new friend. Clara went above and beyond in her work on The Fire Starters, championing the book from the very first read and working to secure a Spanish publisher. If you’d like to read a short interview with Clara you can follow this link to my blog, I can’t recommend her highly enough. I only wish my Spanish was good enough to properly appreciate her hard work.
The act of translating is a supremely creative act and I’m only just beginning to understand this. It is an incredibly generous thing to spend so much time and effort striving to capture the essence of someone else’s art and render it in a way which will captivate readers in a different language. It’s a constant juggling act between meaning, aesthetics and that indefinable thing which makes a sentence sing and I am grateful to have worked with some fantastic translators on this book. I trust their words are serving my words incredibly well as The Fire Starters goes off to find a host of new European readers. Thanks to everyone who has worked and is working on this book. It’s been a wonderful journey so far. I hope there are further adventures awaiting on the other side of Lockdown.