Alice Whitmore is an award-winning literary translator. Through her translations from Spanish and Italian to English, Alice helps to shape community understanding of the value of cultural diversity. This is her story.
Writing has always been a great interest. My parents were both high school teachers and my father also wrote science fiction. He would become the first editor of my early translations.
When I was a child, my dad was thrilled that I seemed set in following in his literary footsteps – we used to keep a diary of all the books we’d read each year and see who’d read the most by 31 December.
My mother’s parents are Italian and, though only intermittently exposed to their dialect, I became fascinated by the way that my mother would fluently mingle English and Neapolitan in a way that was so curious and entertaining.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to turn my passion for the twin worlds of language and literature into a career. It began with having a few poems and short pieces of writing published online, then having the very first novel I translated – for my PhD in Translation Studies – being accepted by Giramondo Publishing.
Receiving the 2021 NSW Premier’s Translation Prize was my greatest – and most unexpected – honour to date. It was an encouraging counterpoint to the challenges of a freelance, creative career.
I think literature is an extremely powerful tool for developing empathy and understanding across cultures. Translation is, of course, indispensable here. We need to throw the doors of literature wide open if we want to witness the full range of human expression.