Donal McLaughlin

Donal McLaughlin © Donal McLaughlin Donal McLaughlin is both a writer and a literary translator. He writes short stories and translates novels.

In 2013, he was shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award (USA) for his translation of Urs Widmer’s Das Buch des Vaters (My Father’s Book, Seagull Books). In 2015, he was awarded the Max Geilinger Prize in Zurich for his translations of Swiss fiction.


Three questions to Donal McLaughlin

Why did you choose to become a translator? Is it the profession you always wanted?

Pre-school, I remember, I wanted to be a postman or a farmer. By nine, I wanted to write. Awareness of translation came with my first foreign language at the age of eleven.
I translate because I’m a keen reader & like to share my enthusiasms.
I translate because there is a world out there.
I translate because not everything that needs to be said is first expressed in English.
Which German book do you like the best and why?

An impossible question! So I’ll mention the novel that won me for German: Sansibar by Andersch. I first encountered a radio play version, adapted for school radio. The short stories by Böll and Borchert that I first read at school in Paisley have stayed with me too.
Is there a particular book you would like to translate?

Musica Leggera by the Swiss writer Franco Supino. Written in German, this is a first novel, a touching love story, and a debut to die for. As Peter Bichsel noted at the time: “Supino has pulled off a book that hundreds of writers before him wanted to write, and did write, but failed. [...] Musica Leggera is the most simple love story in the world, and also the most serious. A love story that is our love story too. I’ve known this book for a long time. I’d just not had the chance to read it as no one had had the courage to go ahead and write with such simplicity.”

  • Urs Widmer, Herr Adamson (Mr Adamson). Seagull, 2015.
  • Urs Widmer, The Blue Soda Siphon (Der blaue Siphon.). Seagull, 2014.
  • Monica Cantieni, The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons (Grünschnabel). Seagull, 2014.
  • Pedro Lenz, naw much of a talker (Der Goalie bin ig). Freight, 2013.
  • Abbas Khider, The Village Indian (Der falsche Inder). Seagull, 2013.
  • Christoph Simon, Zbinden’s Progress (Spaziergänger Zbinden). And Other Stories, 2012.
  • Urs Widmer, My Mother’s Lover (Der Geliebte der Mutter). Seagull, 2011.
  • Urs Widmer, My Father’s Book (Das Buch des Vaters). Seagull, 2011.