When it comes to translating, Jordan Stump does it mostly on his own, and his wife helps by reading the translation to him while he follows along with the original book.
He does this whole process up to eight times.
“The entire process takes a lot of time, but it is very much worth it,” Stump said.
Stump, professor of French at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was awarded the 2020 National Translation Award in Prose for his translation of “The Cheffe: A Cook’s Novel” by Marie NDiaye.
Beating out over 250 contestants, the American Literary Translators Association awarded Stump $2,500. Along with the cash prize, he received recognition at the ALTA annual conference.
“When I found out, I thought to myself ‘it’s about time,’ but I have just tremendous gratitude,” Stump said.
Stump has worked at UNL since the fall of 1992, and he has translated over 33 books from French to English while at UNL.
According to Stump, the process of translating a book can be a long one. It took him over a year and a half to translate “The Cheffe: A Cook’s Novel.” He said he takes each translation page by page and creates a rough draft to go over.
“When translating, you don’t have to worry about if the first draft is good. The real work of translation is revising what I have and going back over it,” Stump said. “I have to ask myself if it sounds like the book, if it sounds like the character and if it sounds like the author. Sometimes I will go over the book from end to start.”
Nora Peterson, department chair and associate professor of French, said in an email she works closely with Stump.
“I was delighted to hear that Jordan had won, but not surprised at all,” Peterson said.
“This is long overdue, as he has an international presence and is frequently a finalist for these kinds of awards.”
Besides the usual translations he has done in the past, Stump said he just finished a project with Peterson.
“A few years ago we embarked on a collaborative endeavor for the MLA Texts and Translations series — translating and editing a volume of French fairy tales by women, first written in the 17th century,” Peterson said. “Even though this is not usually the kind of text that Jordan works on, he generously jumped on the project and agreed to collaborate. This project really embodies who Jordan is as a colleague and a scholar: generous and creative.”
Stump said he hopes to keep translating books by NDiaye, his favorite author.
“This book isn’t the easiest read. It isn’t meant to charm the reader, so the fact the people on the prize committee were able to see the beauty in it like how I see it was great,” Stump said. “I am just really grateful.”