‘Editing is my natural role’
Declan Meade has made it his business to find our finest writers, and his 15 years at The Stinging Fly make for formidable reading
Declan Meade, editor of The Stinging Fly literary magazine, at its office on St Andrew’s Street, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Every reader of international fiction will know the feeling. It descends like a mist: mysterious, slightly annoying but enticing. It’s the hunger that comes from reading a work that has been translated from another language and then, eager to read more by its author, realising to your dismay that the writer’s other books have not yet been translated.
Anyone with an interest in discovering new fiction in Ireland will already be familiar with Declan Meade. Tireless and dedicated, unassuming but committed, he is a literary champion of old-school generosity and the publisher/editor and co-founder of The Stinging Fly.
The Fly is now a literary journal in format, with each issue averaging more than 120 pages. Meade, with characteristic modesty agrees: “Yes, it has become a bound journal but I still think of it as a magazine.”
It’s been 15 years since Meade introduced his forum for new writing. “I had been writing and was in the company of other aspiring writers. I could see that a place was needed, an outlet. I was 26, but the first issue came out in March 1998, when I was 27,” he says.
He pauses and then smiles, waiting, with his habitual expression of kindly exhaustion. Meade is now 42, and has the demeanour of a patient uncle. He is the editor writers must dream of finding – Kevin Barry and Mary Costello will confirm this.
The latest Fly, the 43rd issue, is dedicated to translation. It features works from 13 countries, including a piece by former Impac winner Tahar Ben Jelloun, as well as an interview by writer Philip Ó Ceallaigh with Robert Chandler, translator of Vasily Grossman and Andrey Platonov. It is Meade’s response to the always contentious area of literary translation.
“In Ireland writers tend to worry about getting published, but being translated is almost as big a problem, as Irish-language writers will endorse, and bigger still for non-English language writers. And it’s not until you travel abroad that you fully realise it.” He has written about this in his introduction to the translation issue, which he co-edited with Nora Mahony, founder of the Dublin-based literary translation agency Parkbench.
The inspiration for the issue came while Meade was at the Bucharest International Festival of Literature in December 2011. “I can remember being challenged by speakers from the floor about my attitude as a publisher towards non-English language work and my efforts, if any, on behalf of translation. I came away with an idea about a translation issue.”
Found in translation
Accessibility raises huge questions and translation is complex, even fractious, as is well explained in a candid essay by Claire Kilroy, who discovered that meaning can, and does, get lost in translation. The gifted literary translator is not only a skilled linguist; he or she is also an instinctive writer.