Spotlight on Literary Translators is a regular feature here at Intralingo. The aim of these interviews is to get the word out about our profession and the works we bring into other languages. The insight the interviewees provide is also sure to help all of us who are aspiring or established literary translators. Enjoy!

Spotlight on Literary Translator Zoë Perry

LC: What language(s) and genres do you translate?

ZP: I translate from Portuguese and French into English, focusing primarily on literary translation from Brazilian Portuguese. I have a soft spot for contemporary Brazilian literary fiction, but you’ll also find me translating marketing and legal texts.

LC: How did you get started as a literary translator?

ZP: I’ve worked as a translator in some capacity for over ten years, but only translated my first novel last year. Translating non-literary texts satisfies my love of language, but not always my love of beautiful language or a good story, and translating a novel was always my dream. After finding Tout le monde est occupé by French author Christian Bobin in a Montreal bookshop in college, all I wanted to do was translate it so I could share it with my friends. I didn’t know where to start, but found an internship at a translation agency, and went from there. Then, in 2012 I made a resolution to take proactive steps towards becoming a literary translator and I enrolled in the Birkbeck translation summer school in London, led by the great Margaret Jull Costa. I was fascinated by one of the pieces we worked on that week by Brazilian author Rodrigo de Souza Leão. Stefan Tobler from the indie publisher And Other Stories asked participants to submit sample translations from the book and he liked mine! Stefan and I translated All Dogs Are Blue together as a co-translation, and it was published in August 2013.

LC: What do you love most and least about this work?

ZP: I love always being able to work on something new and the mental workout you get from a tricky phrase or passage (and the rush when you nail it). I love never having to stare at a blank page. I love the community of translators and their support. I also love getting edited. I rarely hear other translators say that, though, so maybe I’ve just been lucky. I have to admit I also really like seeing my name on a tangible item. The work of a translator can be difficult to explain to those outside the industry, and it’s so nice to be able to point to a book!

I hate tight deadlines, and how I never seem to have enough time. I hate how I always walk around with a list of great, untranslated authors and books that seemingly few publishers are interested in hearing about.

LC: Can you tell us a little about a recent project?

ZP: I recently finished two projects back to back, a historical novel called Elza: The Girl by Brazilian author and journalist Sérgio Rodrigues, and Paulo Coelho’s upcoming novel Adultery, which was a collaboration with Margaret Jull Costa. Somewhere in between I also translated a short story by João Ximenes Braga to be included in the forthcoming collection from Comma Press, the Book of Rio.

Dear readers: Leave your questions or comments for Zoë here!

Zoë Perry is a Canadian-American translator who grew up in rural southeastern Kentucky. She completed a BA in French at Guilford College and an MA in Intercultural Communication at Anglia Ruskin University. After living and working in Brazil for four years, and for briefer periods in Portugal, France, Spain, and Russia, she now lives in East London with her Brazilian husband.  Website: Zoë also blogs about untranslated Portuguese-language literature at

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