Women by Mihail Sebastian: Love from all angles
Book review: Philip Ó Ceallaigh’s translation is a minor masterpiece of voice, mood and emotion
Romanian author Mihail Sebastian survived the second World War only to be killed in 1945, aged 38, as he crossed the road to teach his first class.
Sometimes the right combination of author and translator can create a magical alchemy that takes a work to a higher register. Romanian author Mihail Sebastian has had books published before in English, including a novel (The Accident) and his wartime journals, but it was only with the English publication in 2016 of his novel For Two Thousand Years that he gained the accolade he deserved of a wider readership.
That book’s success was due in no small part to the lucid, fluent translation by Philip Ó Ceallaigh – no slouch as a writer himself, with two award-winning collections of stories and another due shortly from Stinging Fly – which matched the loose discursiveness of Sebastian’s narrative. It is a minor masterpiece of voice, mood and emotion, quite aside from its insight into anti-Semitism in interwar Europe.