Ann Goldstein's renown as the English translator of Elena Ferrante's novels began with impromptu Italian lessons.
A longtime copy editor at The New Yorker, Goldstein and some of her colleagues formed an evening group in the 1980s to learn Italian, according to New York Times writer Joumana Khatib's profile of Goldstein published in Monday's Arts section of the newspaper.
The group's purpose was to read Dante's "Divine Comedy" in the poet's original language.
From those informal lessons, rather than grad school studies, Goldstein gained the proficiency to be named Ferrante's translator by Europa Editions, Ferrante's publisher.
Building upon her fame as the translator of Ferrante's Neapolitan quartet, Goldstein translated Ferrante's new novel, "The Lying Life of Adults," which comes out Sept. 1.
A departure from Ferrante's "My Brilliant Friend" saga, the book tells a different story about a young girl growing up in Naples's poor neighborhoods.
Goldstein's translations are credited with boosting the popularity of Ferrante's "Brilliant Friend" quartet, the story of two women's lifelong friendship beginning with their childhoods in Naples.
Known as a "literal translator," Goldstein captures the essence of Ferrante's language.
The New Yorker's copy desk chief when she retired from the magazine in 2017, the 71-year-old Goldstein has translated a number of other Italian books. She supervised the translation of Primo Levi's three-volume complete works.
While most readers today limit themselves to Dante's "Inferno," Goldstein's group also finished "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso." Goldstein in The Times article recommends completing the entire "Divine Comedy, " which established Dante's Florentine dialect as the standard Italian language.
Her immersion in Dante gave Goldstein a grounding in the language's complexities. As revealed in the wonderful HBO adaptation of Ferrante's novels, Italians speak colloquial and more formal versions of the language. Goldstein's translations show facility in both.
Goldstein learned Italian at a relatively mature age, and without undergoing a formal higher-education curriculum. Her story shows the benefits of lifelong education and intellectual curiosity.