The House of Impossible Loves – Q&A with Translator Lisa Carter

I’m always keen to find new ways of promoting translated literature so when I saw that translator Lisa Carter was hosting a virtual literary salon to mark the launch of her latest publication, I was intrigued. Unfortunately, real life intervened so that I missed the actual event, but Lisa kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about it.

The House of Impossible Loves

The House of Impossible Loves by Cristina López Barrio, tr. Lisa Carter (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Could you tell me a little about the book and how you came to translate it?

My most recent translation is The House of Impossible Loves, a novel by Cristina López Barrio. It’s a family saga of love and revenge, woven through with magical realism, snippets of Spanish culture and history. It’s both complex and yet a smooth, quick read.

I came to translate the novel when the acquiring editor, Christina Morgan, was working for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  in the United States. She had obtained a sample from another translator, but she and her senior editor thought it lacked a little something.

Christina was aware of my other translated works, so she got in touch and asked me for a sample.

I spent a lot of time on those first few pages because they’re rather poetic and I wanted to get the tone just right. That time was worth it because the editors were very happy. (Phew!)

We then took a while to hash out the contract details and then I got down to work…

Was it an enjoyable project to work on and what’s been the best part?

Absolutely. I can say without reservation that this was a fantastic project to work on.

Two aspects in particular were very rewarding. When the editor and I first talked about the sample, she encouraged me to respect the spirit of the novel yet find my creativity and be free with the translation. Then, after I was hired, I got the same encouragement from the author, Cristina López Barrio. That trust in me and my abilities is so appreciated and it shows great understanding of what literary translation can – and, in my opinion, should – be.

Now, finding that balance between being absolutely faithful to the Spanish and yet using English to its full effect is not always easy… So this was by no means an “easy” job!

But all of this relates to the other challenging but rewarding aspect of translating this book, and that’s the actual style, the language of the novel. In places it is lyrically evocative, yet occasionally downright vulgar, and overall very subtle. I felt like a Flamenco dancer, listening closely to rhythm to know when to pirouette, when to stomp and when to move my hands just so.

Your virtual literary salon to celebrate the launch of the book in July was a fantastic idea. How did you come up with it?

Well, I believe it’s essential to promote every new release. As a translator, I can’t rely on the publisher to be the only one to promote the book, or to necessarily promote me as translator. So I always brainstorm different ways of announcing the book and promoting my involvement in it.

Also, because so many books are published each and every day, it can be very hard to get noticed. I try to think of something novel, something different to do with each release. For my previous two books, I interviewed the author and had a book trailer made.

The fabulous working relationship I had with both editor and author made me want to involve them in the launch as well, so I began from that premise. Then I began to consider how much I’d been lamenting the lack of literary events – especially as regards translation – where I live. So the idea began to form of a conversation between myself, the author and the editor, held online so that people around the world could participate.

Have you got anything else lined up to tell us about?

For those who missed the virtual salon, there’ll be recording available, also for free. I’m holding off on publishing it, though, because I want to feature it as part of an upcoming revamp of my website ( Stay tuned!

I’d really love to do more literary salons, to host them for other translators and authors as a way to promote their new – or old! – releases. I want to keep the conversation going, make sure that the public in general gains insight into what it means to bring a work into a new language and culture, and promote discussion between translators.

The virtual salon would also be an excellent medium for round table talks on all things literary, from writing and translation to publishing.

If you or any of your readers are interested, I’d love to hear from you and see how we can make these happen!

Lisa CarterLisa Carter is an acclaimed Spanish-to-English translator with seven major titles and several short stories to her credit. Her work has won the Alicia Gordon Award for Word Artistry in Translation and been nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Through her company, Intralingo Inc., Lisa offers translation, writing and editing services, including online classes. You can find Lisa on her professional website at and follow her on Twitter at @intralingo

About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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3 Responses to The House of Impossible Loves – Q&A with Translator Lisa Carter

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