‘The Translator’s Funeral’ by Rónán Hession

The writer and her wife, the translator, are found dead in their garden by the postman, one having died of natural causes and the other of a broken heart. The story catalogues a series of misunderstandings that can arise from interpreting others’ words and intentions, yet, crucially, how kindness can ensure that those mistakes are never devastating. 

Hession’s respect for the art of translation shines through in the carefulness of his sentences. When the two funerals are accidentally double-booked, the people of the town worry about which to attend: some say the writer’s work will bring people to the town, and “the guide dog trainer said yes, but it was the translator’s words they had all read.” The difficulty – and indeed the wisdom or necessity − of separating things into their component parts, whether people and the jobs they do or the entwined lives they lead, is beautifully described here. Full of Hession’s trademark gentle yet incisive observations on the world and how we can live well in it. 

First published online in the Irish Times on 13 August 2020