Barbara Wright (1915-2009) was ‘one of the most brilliant, conscientious and original translators of 20th-century French literature’ (The Guardian, 2009).
Originally trained to be a pianist, Wright turned to translation. She was often criticised by her agent Peggy Ramsay for choosing to translate the more intellectual authors in stead of the commercially successful. She picked what interested her and had an eye for quality and originality. Wright translated work of Raymond Queneau, Robert Pinget, Nathalie Sarraute, Roland Topor, Tristan Tzara en Alfred Jarry amongst others. During the 1950s she wrote some inventive art criticism and later translated artists’ texts, for the critic and curator David Sylvester among others. She was a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement.
She won the Scott Moncrieff prize for best French translation several times – twice in her own right (1987 and 1992), but anonymously on two other occasions for rewriting the inadequate translation of others. In 2002 she was appointed Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
She used to collaborate with Gaberboccus publishing house, run by our Schwob-writer Stefan Themerson and his wife Franciszka.