Pajaros en la Boca by Samanta Schweblin
Introduced by Emma Balch
Was anyone else at the Hay Festival event in 2014 when Samanta Schweblin (from Argentina) and Fflur Daffydd (from Wales) were in conversation with Dan Hahn? You would remember it, not only for the powerful stories exchanged, but also because the event was cut short. A man sitting (next to me) collapsed. Daniel had just read Samanta’s story ‘To Kill a Dog’. The event had to be abandoned to make way for paramedics.
Back at home I looked up ‘To Kill a Dog’ online and read it on screen. I looked online for a collection of her stories in translation to English, but turned up nothing. Plenty in Spanish, and rave reviews, but just that one story in English.
The following day, I was grabbing a coffee in the food hall on the festival site and I saw Samanta, sitting on her own, eating lunch. I introduced myself in my ugly Spanish – that I was in the event, what a shame it was cut short, that I had heard the man was recovering, and how much I’d enjoyed her story. I inquired why more of her work was not available in English. She explained the difficulty with her form of choice – that English-language publishers go for novels over short story collections.
Hay being Hay we bumped into each other again, and we exchanged contact details. Earlier this year a good friend from Argentina was heading to Berlin for a while, and I put them in touch – Silvie is a Spanish-English translator, and loves books, words, languages, I thought they would get on. Turned out Silvie had been thinking about moving into literary translation and Samanta was one of the young Argentine authors she would most like to translate. In their email exchanged they found that they had been neighbours in Buenos Aires, and now were living just a couple of streets away from each other in Berlin. So watch this space!
I am not yet able to introduce a book by Samanta Schweblin translated into English, but I hope I will be able to in the future. For now, I introduce a new edition of ‘Pajaros en la Boca’ (first published 2008), which I see has just arrived in bookshops in Buenos Aires. Perhaps it is a good time for me to start reading fiction in Spanish …
Read the English translation of To Kill a Dog here: