Christiana Hills is currently in her second year of the PhD program in Translation Studies at Binghamton University. She also holds a BA in French and English from Alma College in Michigan and an MA in Literary Translation (French-English) from NYU. She currently lives with her loving husband in upstate New York.
Like so many of us, she came to translation through a childhood love of reading and writing that remains strong to this day. French appealed to her in high school, when the new challenge of speaking strange words made subjects like trigonometry and economics pale in comparison. But she hadn’t lost her math skills when it came to choosing a career path based on her passions: reading + writing + French = translation (obviously). Now she just had to find a way to do it.
When she entered the MA program at NYU, she knew she had found exactly what she had been looking for. Studying under translators Emmanuelle Ertel and Alyson Waters, she finally had the opportunity to learn what literary translation was all about, right in the literary hub of New York City. For her master’s thesis, she translated Agnès Desarthe’s novel Une partie de chasse (A Hunting Party), an excerpt of which has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail.
It was also at NYU where she discovered the Oulipo, the Paris-based literary collective who use linguistic, mathematical, and scientific constraints to inspire their writing. When one of her professors presented the class with a page from La Disparition, Georges Perec’s novel written without the letter ‘e,’ along with the corresponding page from the published translation by Gilbert Adair—also incredibly ‘e’-less—her eyes were opened to translation’s full potential. There was no turning back.
Her current project, Cent vingt et un jours (One Hundred Twenty-One Days), is written by Oulipo member Michèle Audin and tells the story of four mathematicians and the women who love them over the course of the two world wars. The book’s eleven chapters are each presented in a different form, including a Kiplingesque tale, a nurse’s war diary, a series of newspaper articles, a transcribed interview, and even a list of numbers significant to the book. Her translation was awarded a French Voices grant earlier this year and will be published in 2016 by Deep Vellum.
In her dissertation, she will explore the question of the translator’s duty in translating a book like Audin’s with such a variety of styles and so many references to literature, history, culture, and in particular, mathematics, not to mention the list in the back that mentions 44 works of fiction, non-fiction, and music that are cited in the book’s various chapters. How should a translator treat such an intertextual landscape?
In addition to her work as a translator, Christiana teaches undergraduate translation workshops at Binghamton University. She is also a regular contributor for the Intralingo translation blog and manages her own blog, Ouviepo, which seeks to do with life what the Oulipo does with literature.