People say ‘I’m sorry’ all the time when it can mean both ‘I’m sorry I hurt you’ and ‘I’m sorry someone else did something I have nothing to do with’. It’s like the English language gave up on trying to find a word for sympathy which wasn’t also the word for guilt.
Swedish immigrant Kristin won’t talk about the Project growing inside her. Her Brazilian-born Scottish boyfriend Ciaran won’t speak English at all; he is trying to immerse himself in a Swedish
språkbad language bath,
to prepare for their future, whatever the fick that means. Their Edinburgh flat is starting to feel very small.
As this young couple is forced to confront the thing that they are both avoiding, they must reckon with the bigger questions of the world outside, and their places in it.
“How We Are Translated is the most contemporary of novels; set somehow both in the now and in the distant past; in one city that could be many cities, and in two different languages, though also in defiance of language, with as much focus on the silences between words as the words themselves. It’s a novel that maintains just the right balance of oddity, intimacy and illumination. It’s a novel that anyone interested in the future of the English novel needs to read!”
—Sara Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither
“One of the gentlest and most patient, humane, and quirky things I have read in a long time…Hugely original.”
—Niamh Campbell, author of This Happy
“How We Are Translated is a layered work about home, language, barriers, and belonging. Johannesson’s unusual and refreshing prose crackles with truth—burning along beautifully.”
—Alice Bishop, author of A Constant Hum
“Our bodies and languages are made new to us again through Jessica Gaitán Johannesson’s wild and playful novel. Laying bare the absurdity of the idea of a common tongue, she takes us on an adventure through private and public languages—those which ebb and flow between lovers or arise out of necessity in a workplace obsessed with authenticity. How We Are Translated gets at the heart of how language holds us, tears at us, and can bring us close in spite of, or because of, its inevitable imperfections.”
—Saskia Vogel, author of Permission
“With echoes of Ali Smith and George Saunders, How We Are Translated explores themes of identity and intimacy with admirable sensitivity and wit.”
—Julianne Pachico, author of The Anthill
- Desmond Elliott Prize