From her LinkedIn profile you would find that Rachel Crovello is a linguist and editor currently engrossed in advertisement and search engine optimization. This makes sense since she currently works for Yahoo. You would also discover that her background in English, French, American Sign Language, Spanish, and Modern Standard Arabic makes her suited as a translator for Dalkey Archive Press. What you would not know is that she was my Latin student and recently reached out to me in a way I shall treasure forever.
A short while ago, Rachel asked me for my home address. She said she had something she wanted to send me by way of a thank you. Since it had been a number of years since she had graduated from high school, I was curious and eagerly awaited whatever would show up in the mail. A few weeks later, I received a small package with a delightful card enclosed. The card expressed many kind thoughts, including the fact that she still remembers a passage she memorized for the Indiana Junior Classical League when she was my student (ubi nympha Echo Narcissum in silva vidit statim iuvenem amavit, "When the nymph Echo saw Narcissus, she loved the young man.").
After smiling at the contents of the card, I turned to the other item in the package and felt the thrill of excitement run up my neck. It was Rachel's first, published, book-length translation.
I ran my fingers across the smooth surface of the book, turning it over in my hands. My former student had published a translation of a novel. I could hardly believe it. I looked at the back cover to find the blurb about her listing but a few of her achievements.
In somewhat of a stammering awe, I called to my wife to show the book to her. My former student, whom I could picture so well in our classroom, had published a translation of a novel. I could hardly wait to read it.
Confessions of a Madman (also available on Amazon), a novel by Algerian-French author Leila Sebbar, is a bizarre tale of a nameless man who reflects on his family's devastation after the murder of his father even as he seeks revenge on the killers. It is in no way an action-adventure story, but is more of a prose poem that caused me to think many times of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." I have not seen the French original, but Rachel's translation is breathless and immediate. Run-on sentences held together by nothing more than commas, blunt sentences of little more than subject-object-verb, and the occasional question for which there is no answer take you into and hold you in first person madness. The chaos is ever moving, but not always forward. In lyric fashion it swirls around upon itself.
I am sure the original is quite artistic, but in the true in loco parentis manner of a teacher, I will praise the translation of my student, for Rachel's slender volume is indeed a work of art. I can hardly wait to show it to my students.