The University of Iowa

5Q Interview: Mallory Truckenmiller Saylor, Literary Translation

September 21, 2020

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Writing University has been continuing our series of interviews with writers in the various University of Iowa writing programs. We ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home. We are posting them now as examples of our shared community strength during this time.

Today's interview is with Mallory Truckenmiller Saylor, an MFA Iowa Arts Fellow in literary translation at the University of Iowa


Mallory Truckenmiller Saylor

Mallory Truckenmiller Saylor is an MFA Iowa Arts Fellow in literary translation at the University of Iowa and received a BA in English from Saint Vincent College. Specializing in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, Mallory primarily translates Latin American and Iberian women writers with a focus on the role of gender in literature and translation. She has worked with Asymptote Book Club, Eulalia Books, and Exchanges.


1. Do you have a specific project that you will be working on this year?

A lot of my projects are in their malleable, formative, can-you-even-call-it-a-project stages right now, but I am most involved in my translation of Argentinine writer Virginia Cosin's Partida de Nacimiento or, in English, Birth Certificate. Birth Certificate is a diary-esc novel featuring mixed installations of prose, poetry, and drama which maps the relationship between a single mother and her young daughter, set amongst the sprawling mess and minutiae of everyday life. I am especially drawn to this novel because within it the main character charts her identity both within and outside the expectations of her motherhood and her gender, stylistically and thematically exploring a sort of relational alienation which breaks up the intimacy of this quasi-diary piece.

2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write, or any specific routine?

At this point, my daily practice is a game of fitting short periods of writing and translation into slots of free time between classes and coursework. But I find there’s a sort of joy to this, to stealing pockets of time to squeeze in my own projects on top of the required reading and writing.

3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?

I’m reading a beautiful behemoth of a book: Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by Hungarian author László Krasnahorkai and translated by Ottilie Mulzet, winners of the 2019 National Book Award for Translated Literature. I’m reading this novel for a course I’m taking called Publishing, Prizes, and Prestige in which we are currently studying the sociology and cultural economy of awards in the literary ecosystem.

4. What is one thing the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about your work?

Right now, I’m really just trying to soak up all the advantages of being in Iowa City, of being surrounded (virtually, right now) by talented artists and scholars, whose influences have started to show up in my work. In my translation workshop, for example, I’m lucky to have a few classmates who are accomplished poets, so I’ve been translating more poetry, especially rhythmed and rhymed poetry which is just a tad outside my comfort zone. In this way, I’ve had access to a useful, guiding commentary that shifts my perspective on translation and poetry, an advantage that wouldn’t be possible if I were translating on my own. I love that my work, and even my approach to my work, carries the fingerprints of so many brilliant friends and teachers.

5. Tell us about where you are from—what are a few of your favorite details about your home?

I’m from Belle Vernon, a little town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, boasting of its friendly people, lovely autumns, and an unhealthy obsession with adding French fries to salads.

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Thanks Mallory!