Each year, ALTA provides four to six $1,000 fellowships to emerging translators to attend the annual ALTA conference. This year’s winners were selected by Dick Cluster, Sara Novic, and Sebastian Schulman. We are excited to feature Travel Fellow David Smith:
The pinnacle of David’s translation career (so far) came in 2015, when he met one of his literary idols and the grand old man of Norwegian letters, Dag Solstad, at a festival in New York. David was conversing with Solstad in Norwegian when some Americans walked up, wanting to speak to the author, which David facilitated through some impromptu interpreting. While he hopes to one day bring more of Solstad’s oeuvre into English, for now, he is gratified that he can truthfully say: “I translated Dag Solstad.”
David grew up outside of Atlanta and studied English and philosophy at the University of Georgia. He then earned a Master’s Degree in the Humanities from the University of Chicago. After Chicago, a lifelong interest in his family’s Nordic heritage brought him to Norway. He took language classes at the University of Oslo, before settling in Bergen and starting to work as a commercial translator. In 2014, he earned a National Translator Accreditation from the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.
Upon returning to the States, David has focused on building a career in literary translation. His first published translation, a crime story by Unni Lindell, appeared earlier this year in Drunken Boat. He has been attending ALTA and AWP conferences and adding to a wide network of translators. This summer, David worked as an intern at Open Letter Books in Rochester, New York, writing reader’s reports, editing manuscripts and promoting new translations. He also gained valuable feedback on his own work from the Rochester translation community. After the internship, he will appear on an episode of the Three Percent Podcast to discuss Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller, an important work of Icelandic modernism.
Besides Solstad, David is particularly interested the rich tradition of Nordic women’s writing, from Sigrid Undset and Drude Krog Janson in the past to writers like Vigdis Hjorth and Naja Marie Aidt today. He continues to make connections and produce sample translations, and hopes to land his first book-length project in the near future.