Audrey Hall is a freelance translator and social science researcher studying the U.S. system of higher education on a grant from the Gates Foundation. Outside of work, she is contemplating MFA programs in literary translation and suspects that many ALTA conference attendees could furnish advice on the subject.
Growing up in small-town Pennsylvania and Ohio, Audrey owes her interest in foreign languages, literatures, and cultures to the books she read as a child and to her parents, who read and speak a half-dozen languages between them. She started Spanish in middle school but gave no thought to translation until she read the first eight chapters of Don Quixote in the original, exhausted her adolescent patience, and read Peter Motteux’s playful 18th-century translation instead. (The fact that later translators considered Motteux’s version to be “worse than worthless” did little to diminish her enjoyment of the text.)
At Princeton University, Audrey continued to study Spanish but lost her head and heart to Russian after reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment in the same year. She spent a summer at the Nevskii Institute in St. Petersburg and pursued a certificate in Russian & Eurasian Studies alongside her Comparative Literature major. She switched back to Spanish, however, after taking Natasha Wimmer’s seminar on Spanish to English translation and traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to work at the Villa Ocampo library under Ernesto Montequín. Her senior thesis was a translation of Sara Gallardo’s 1958 debut novel January and an accompanying set of short stories from The Land of Smoke (1977). With the help of her thesis advisors – translator Idra Novey, Professor Michael Wood, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon – Audrey earned the Francis LeMoyne Page Creative Writing Award for the effort.
Upon graduating magna cum laude from Princeton in 2013, Audrey spent just short of a year teaching Language Arts and ESL at an international school in Antigua, Guatemala. She then traveled back to Buenos Aires on a 2014 Fulbright grant, where she translated the short stories and poems of Silvina Ocampo, weaving the collection together with sparkling threads from Ocampo’s interviews, autobiographical essays, and letters.
While living in Buenos Aires, Audrey was fortunate enough to befriend a number of talented translators and scholars. She participated in a lively conference on children’s literature in translation, hosted by Fundación TyPA; and published several nonfiction translations, including Marcos Giralt Torrente’s essay “Making Reality Real” and a collection of essays on architecture for the international BIA-AR conference. Most recently, she translated Ramiro Sanchiz’s eerie short story “Trees at Night” for the Buenos Aires Review. Spending a collective two years in Latin America had near-fatal consequences for Audrey’s Russian skills, but she hopes to recover them in the not-too-distant future.
She now lives in West Philadelphia, where she is surrounded by lush vegetation, cats, and a host of inspiring artists and activists.