Meet the 2020 Mentees: Olivia Lasky

The ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program is designed to facilitate and establish a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a project selected by the emerging translator. The mentorship duration is nine months. The emerging translator is expected to choose a project that can be completed in this timeframe, and they will only be advised on that particular project. Congratulations to this year’s non-language-specific, non-genre-specific mentee, Olivia Lasky, who will be mentored by Bill Johnston:

Olivia LaskyOlivia Lasky is a translator who translates primarily from Norwegian and aspires to work more extensively with Northern Sámi. Originally from a small town in the San Francisco Bay Area, she currently lives in Oslo where she holds a “day job” in digital marketing – and hopes to someday transition to full-time literary translation.

Olivia’s lifelong love of languages and literature led her to pursue B.A.s in Scandinavian Studies (emphasis on Norwegian language and Sámi culture) and English (emphasis on 20th century fiction) at UC Berkeley. She went on to receive an M.A. in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with concentrations in Sámi and Norwegian language and literature. Here, she was the recipient of two Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships to study Northern Sámi with Professor Thomas A. DuBois and Nynorsk at the University of Oslo. A translation job as a favor to a colleague (about 19th century Scandinavian clothing irons, of all things) was ultimately what sparked her interest in translation. Alongside working full-time in marketing since 2013, Olivia has continued to translate in her spare time as much as possible. She has worked extensively with a wide variety of Norwegian, American, British, and Canadian writers and publishers on prose, non-fiction, and poetry projects.

Her first book-length translation, Inside an Honor Killing by Lene Wold, was published by Greystone Books in 2019. She has also been featured in Words Without Borders, and a forthcoming translation, Anja Røyne’s The Elements We Live By, will be published by The Experiment in May 2020. Most recently, she received the 2019 American-Scandinavian Foundation’s Wigeland Prize for her translation of Watch Over Those Who Sleep, an as yet unpublished novel by Sámi-Norwegian author Sigbjørn Skåden. Olivia is also a co-editor for Tidsskriftet Mellom, a Norwegian literary journal focusing on literature in translation.

Olivia has concentrated primarily on contemporary Norwegian prose and non-fiction, but her ultimate goal is to translate not only Scandinavian literature, but also Sámi – whether that means translating from Northern Sámi, works by Sámi authors (who write in Norwegian or Swedish), or works about Sámi people. With this in mind, Olivia’s mentorship project will focus on the short stories of Norwegian author Laila Stien. While she isn’t of Sámi descent herself, Stien is married to a Sámi man and has spent much of her adult life surrounded by their culture. She often chooses to include elements of Sámi life and language in her stories – some which specifically highlight the tensions between Norwegian and Sámi cultures, but also others that bear traces of Sámi and Northern Norwegian influence.

Olivia is thrilled to work with and learn from Bill Johnston and excited to meet fellow translators at the ALTA conference in November. She is incredibly grateful for this opportunity and confident that participating in the Emerging Translator Mentorship Program will be a key element in her growth as a translator.

This mentorship is being offered by ALTA in partnership with Amazon Crossing.

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