Born in southeastern Massachusetts, now a long-time resident of New York, Scott Shanahan writes fiction, and translates from Spanish and Catalan. He holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Fordham University, from which he graduated in 2011, when he was awarded a fellowship from the Government of Spain to teach primary school in Palma de Mallorca.
It was in Mallorca that he first heard Catalan. In his school, in city streets, at home in his apartment—Scott heard Catalan everywhere. So he began to learn. Through a combination of private study, some classwork, and many eager conversation partners, he slowly gained an understanding of the Catalan language and Mallorcan culture. Importantly, he learned the need to distinguish among mallorquí, menorquí, eivissenc, valencià, and of course, “català-català.” Perhaps more importantly, he mastered the fine arts of baking ensaïmada and chanting gloses. He has yet, however, to lay his fingers on a ximbomba, and sees no good reason why he should.
In 2012, he returned to New York to attend Columbia University’s graduate writing program as a fiction writer and literary translator. It wasn’t until Columbia that he tried his hand at translating Catalan, in the classroom of Alyson Waters. He later had the pleasure of studying under such translators as Natasha Wimmer, Edie Grossman, and Susan Bernofsky. This past year, he traveled to Barcelona as a participant in the Word for Word translation exchange, which allowed him the opportunity to meet and translate his Catalan writer-translator counterpart, and for the first time, to see his own fiction translated in Catalan.
Until this past May, Scott was also an employee of Columbia’s Language Resource Center, where he was chief program coordinator of a tutorial program for language students, particularly for those seeking instruction in languages less commonly taught. In this role, he matched tutors and tutees of every language, from French and German to Dari and Georgian. He now knows more about certain dialects than is proper for casual conversation, and is not to be provoked.
Scott is currently at work on an unsung collection of prose poetry by twentieth century writer Mercè Rodoreda, entitledViatges i flors (Journeys and Blooms). Despite his natural penchant toward the prosaic and realist, Scott fell hard in love with the adventurousness of both Rodoreda’s imagination and idiosyncratic language, and has greatly enjoyed expanding his vocabulary of Catalan flora. When he is not translating, he devotes his time to writing his first novel, about millennials, class consciousness, and the lasting effects of social class on the health of communities.