From an interview of Heather Cleary by Stephen Sparks, published in Issue 30 of The Quarterly Conversation (2012):
SS: Does how a work affect you as a reader play into your work as a translator? In other words, how much distance, if any, exists between reader and translator?
HC: I tend to think there’s very little distance between reading and translation. Gaytri Spivak has called translation “the most intimate act of reading.” It’s the closest reading you can do, and there’s almost an affective, if not sensual, quality to the practice of lingering over individual words in a way that the average reader typically does not. Of course, getting too entrenched at the level of the word can skew the perception of the work as a whole, something along the lines of missing the forest for the trees. As Natasha Wimmer, quoting the Mexican writer Gabriel Zaid, has said, reading a book too slowly is like getting a slug’s-eye-view of a mural. So, while translation is a detail-oriented kind of reading, it seems to be in constant negotiation with a broader, more story-oriented kind.
SS: What Latin or South American writers are English-language readers missing out on?
HC: Well, there’s Antonio di Benedetto, whose Zama (1956) and El silenciero (1964) are incredible. But there are so many great things already out in English translation, which means there’s NO excuse not to read them. On the dystopian end of the Argentine literary spectrum, there’s Roberto Arlt’s classic The Seven Madmen (though I don’t think its sequel, The Flamethrower, has been translated yet). And, seriously: Saer Saer Saer (of what’s out in English, I’d suggest Scars and The Witness). I also really like Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra, a young Chilean writer whose background in poetry comes through in the crisp beauty of his prose (in Carolina De Robertis’ translation, too). And these are from the Portuguese, but Chico Buarque wrote a smart, charming novel called Budapest, and Fernando Verissimo’s Borges and the Eternal Orangutans totally lives up to the outrageousness of its title.