Enda Boorman, translator

A lively discussion between friends. 

A lively discussion between friends. 

Oo ra, damn Ben! That's what pops up on Facebook when I receive a message from one of my favourite people. We like anagrams. Enda Boorman is his name and words are his game. 

Passionate about the nature of language, Enda knows that learning a foreign language opens doors to new cultures and modes of thought. He can remember copying miniscule Chinese characters from a soy sauce bottle when he was very small. Or pausing Mulan, at the scene when the tombstones light up and the spirits of the ancestors appear, in order to copy down the bright blue seal script characters. 

Enda's only 24 years old but he's one of the most intelligent and dynamic people I've ever met. He feels content when he's inside with a cup of tea and some music, during a storm with the window wide open. We both like to remain completely cosy OR get drunk and dance a lot.

RS: I grew up in the birthplace of Shania Twain and you're from Seamus Heaney's hometown [Bellaghy in Northern Ireland]. We first met at uni in Lyon in 2015. Where do you live now, Enda?
EB: I live in a smallish flat in the Parisian suburbs, which my boyfriend and I have worked to make homely. Going into Paris can be monumentally stressful for me some days. When everyone is rushing around on public transport, you can't help but feel like a helpless ant in a colony. But then you emerge from the dank metro into a beautiful setting. 

RS: Selon toi, what are some beautiful settings outside France?
EB: My favourite places I have been to are Church Island near where I'm from, pretty much all of Co. Donegal, the Cliffs of Moher, Reykjavík, Amsterdam, Paris and Jiufen in Taiwan.

RS: Ah yes, you recently took a trip to Iceland. I'm jealous!  
EB: Having lived in the countryside without any neighbours until the age of 18, I sometimes find a big, suffocating city like Paris to be a struggle. I was visiting a friend [in Reykjavík], but she was working during the day. It was great to catch up and spend time with her in the evening, but it was equally wonderful to be alone and find solace in isolation. I felt at the edge of the world, even though I was in the capital city. The icy mountains were so starkly present and the lava fields were barren and unspoiled.

RS: You have a Björk Guðmundsdóttir-inspired tattoo.
EB: I try to "feel at home whenever the unknown surrounds me."

RS: What else are you trying to do?
EB: Not to be so hard on myself. I'm adequate. 

Church Island by Steven Hylands on  Flickr .

Church Island by Steven Hylands on Flickr.


Failure in my work means a glaring misinterpretation of a word or phrase. That kind of stuff pisses me off to the nth degree. I'm needlessly harsh on myself and constantly compare myself to others. We've all heard about the impostor syndrome and the inferiority complex, and young people today are plagued by these phenomena, so I am no exception. 

RS: If I were you, I would be reminding everyone how many languages I knew every day! Tell me how your upbringing has affected you. 
EB: My family did not speak other languages besides English at home (and maybe a smattering of Irish phrases), but they have always been very encouraging toward me in my pursuit of my passions. My parents bought me a CD-Rom called "Talk Now!" and I used it to learn beginner's Irish and French.

I never met my grandfather, who picked up Irish autodidactically and earned his Fáinne Óir and who was also an accomplished fiddle player. It would have been nice if he were around to transmit some of his knowledge to me.

As for my quirks, when I was younger I was often told that I was pedantic. I guess this has served me well so far in my career.

RS: I'll say! You speak four languages comfortably enough to hold a conversation (English, French, Mandarin Chinese and Irish). What do you want to work on next?
EB: Dutch and Greek. 

RS: You've done translation work for Chanel but you seldom mention it. You're so humble. 
EB: I don't really care about brands. I like food, so Dairy Milk and Tayto are probably my favourite brands.

RS: Where do you currently work?
EB: I currently work at École Polytechnique as the resident French-English translator. The university focuses mainly on STEM subjects and my day is centred largely around providing English translations of internal communications and press texts. 

RS: You've translated technical, legal, and journalistic content but would love to translate more literary texts. 
EB: This is a long and arduous career path to go down, but I think it's ultimately what I want to do in my life. For the meantime, I'm happy to take on the challenges presented to me through the various texts I translate. 

RS: Poetry is the most difficult but also the most enjoyable for you?
EB: Finding a word or phrase that implies all the same context and subtext in one language as another is almost impossible. It's then that you realise that translation is very much an inexact science. We have bilingual dictionaries that give a French word, its gender and its English "equivalent definition". But the notion of equivalence is flawed. Even the sonority of the words "bread" and "pain" is different. So, how can you say that one equals another? But, there is such beauty in this challenge; in the pursuit of transferring knowledge from one culture to another, knowing that it will never be perceived in the same way by the target readership, but you do your best all the same.

RS: What have you translated this week?
EB: A legal opinion for opening a French bank account, and a voiceover script for a video on an algorithm developed here that attempts to calculate the best possible choice of footballers for the French national team.

RS: And choosing to whom you want to be faithful is no small task. 
EB: The question of faithfulness will always be relevant in translation. In my position as cultural mediator, I have the choice to adapt the text to the target audience and make them feel as comfortable as possible with the vernacular used, so that it reads like an original piece of writing, sometimes adding, for example, short explanations for specific cultural elements. Or I can leave no explanation and let the readership try to figure out things for themselves. 

RS: Elusive! What do you recommend for budding translators?
EB: Simply to immerse themselves in language. In the world of work, translation is given such a corporate, clinical character and its artistic spirit has kind of died a bit, but I think that art and beauty can be found in any type of translation. So, practise translating whatever type of text makes you happy. Maybe you feel totally frustrated by the nebulous nature of literature and prefer translating court affidavits or complex notions on finance or marketing or science; that's no problem. It doesn't make you any less "creative" if you get a sense of satisfaction from the order of a technical text. 

Paris Women's March, 2016. 

Paris Women's March, 2016. 

Enda is on the right. 

Enda is on the right. 

Finally, ask questions if you don't understand something. Don't just wing it.

RS: What solves a great deal of your problems?
EB: Music. Or back-to-back episodes of Broad City. Or tea and biscuits or a pint with someone I love. Those simple pleasures combined with the reminder that I'm actually doing alright can help tame the beast.

RS: Favourite music? 
EB: Björk, Sigur Rós, múm, Lisa Hannigan, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Michael McGoldrick, Brian Finnegan, Lúnasa, Solange, Owen Pallett, Arcade Fire, Grimes, Bon Iver, David Bowie, Erykah Badu, St. Vincent, Janelle Monáe, Imogen Heap, The Knife, Camille, Air, Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar, Soft Lipa, Cui Jian, Carsick Cars, Joanna Newsom, Debussy, Stravinsky. 

RS: Tell me about the Patrick Wolf concert. 
EB: At a music festival when I was 16 or 17, I kissed a really attractive Brazilian guy called Marcelo at a Patrick Wolf concert and no one has ever believed me.

RS: I believe you. When was the last time you felt truly happy?
EB: I felt really happy at my mum's 60th birthday as we were surrounded by our whole family.

RS: Wish I could have been there! You cite your mother as one of your favourite artists. Who are some others?
EB: Ai Weiwei is probably my favourite living artist. And my sister Clare and my friend Tabitha.

RS: What films do you like?
EB: Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Blade Runner, 2001: a Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange (again), I Killed My Mother, Rust and Bone, Raise the Red Lantern, I Am a Cyborg, But That's OK, Oldboy, Rocky Horror Picture Show.

RS: When do you feel most comfortable?
EB: Dancing at a concert with lots of people. Or totally alone with a book. I'm not really sure.

RS: Favourite books?
EB: A Clockwork Orange, 1984, American Psycho, Less Than Zero, To the Lighthouse, The Old Man and the Sea, Diary of a Madman, The Collector. 

RS: What do you find romantic?
EB: A Case of You by Joni Mitchell - oh my God, it just came on shuffle right after I typed this. Also, mutual respect and understanding. 

RS: What frustrates and/or scares you?
EB: I felt frustrated yesterday when people tried to get on the train while I was getting off. I shouted "Mais attendeeez!" Coming out was scary. Also moving to Taiwan. Life is just scary in general, isn't it? So, living. That's the scariest thing I've done so far.

RS: Thoughts on capitalism? 
EB: It's probably not the best system. I find that critiquing it while actively participating in it is kind of a horrible hypocrisy that so many of us are guilty of. If you don't want to be a capitalist, your only option is to utterly extricate yourself from society and go and live as a hermit in the woods like Justin Vernon did before he decided to make lots of money.

RS: Tell me about your activism.
EB: I try to disseminate and normalise Irish republicanism.  I am an armchair activist, promoting LGBT and women's rights, but only by speaking to others. Activism in translation is something that interests me, but I have yet the chance to properly engage with it.

Accuracy. Flow. Elegance. Consistency. Conciseness. 

Enda strives to achieve all of these elements in his texts. If you require a translation of a play, book, script or any other creative production, don't hesitate to contact him at happyenda [at] gmail [dot] com. His working languages are French > English and Chinese > English.

Rachel Stadder