Susan Bernofsky on Translation and the Plurality of Language

August 19, 2021

Susan Bernofsky's new translation of Thomas Mann's novel "The Magic Mountain" is eagerly awaited. In conversation with Tom Zoellner, Bernofsky talks about Thomas Mann's multiculturalism and the challenges of translating between languages and cultures. In this episode, the renowned translator also shares her personal experiences as a Jewish American in Europe and talks about the rise of the global, increasingly plural English language. Susan Bernofsky is the prizewinning translator of seven works of fiction by the great Swiss-German modernist author Robert Walser, as well as novels and poetry by Yoko Tawada, Jenny Erpenbeck, Uljana Wolf, Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse, and others. Her biography of Walser, "Clairvoyant of the Small", appeared in 2021. A Guggenheim, Cullman, and Berlin Prize fellow, she teaches literary translation at the Columbia University School of the Arts.


Susan Bernofsky photographed by Richard Gehr.


Tom Zoellner (host) is the New York Times bestselling author of eight nonfiction books, including Island on Fire, Uranium Train, and The Heartless Stone. He teaches at Chapman University and Dartmouth College. A former reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, he is the politics editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Aida Baghernejad (co-host) is a (pop) culture and food journalist based in Berlin. Her work has appeared in a number of regional, national and international media outlets, among them the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the San Francisco Chronicle, tipBerlinIntro MagazineSpex and Deutschlandfunk Kultur. She has previously taught at King’s College London and the Humboldt Universität Berlin.


Lisa Bartfai (producer) is an independent radio journalist and producer splitting her time between rural Maine and Southern California. Her work explores the intersection of culture and politics, and can be heard on NPR stations and podcasts all over the country.