‘It’s all I ever wanted to do, sit with language’: Q&A with Translator in Residence Saskia Vogel

Dec. 7, 2022

Saskia Vogel, Princeton University's translator in residence (fall 2022), is a writer, screenwriter and translator from Swedish and German into English. In 2021, she received an English PEN Translates Award, and her novel “Girls Lost” was a PEN America Literary Award Finalist. Her debut novel, “Permission,” was published in five languages and longlisted for the Believer Award. She’s currently translating Linnea Axelsson’s epic poem “Ædnan,” which explores Sámi history as experienced by two Sámi families.

The Daily Princetonian: Since you’re currently teaching in Professor Sandra Bermann’s “Translation, Migration, and Culture” class, what are your goals in teaching translation?

Saskia Vogel: I love engaging with students. It’s necessary to hear other people thinking out loud, and Sandie is so good at creating that open environment. My goal here was to make my translation process visible to students. Making your decision processes visible to yourself and getting to know your own mind is important. It's also acknowledging your internal biases, you know?

DP: Does having the perspectives of both a writer and translator help you think about translation in a unique way?

SV: For sure. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot is how fluid a text is. The project that I'm working on right now is 760 pages.

DP: “Ædnan” by Linnea Axelsson, a novel in verse?

SV: Yeah, let me see if I can show you what it looks like on the page, it’s so much space. I feel like all that whitespace is a mirror of the northern tundra landscape, but I also interpret all that space as the author saying, this is not the definitive Sámi story. It’s more searching, and there’s so much more to be said.