Readers of Thai will soon be able to read Jane Austen’s Lady Susan in their native language, with the help of ANU Master of Translation student Angel Leelasorn.
The short novel, published after Jane Austen’s death, will be Angel’s first time translating a work of fiction into Thai.
“I have been working as an online content translator for some time now, but translating fiction to be published into a printed book has always been a dream of mine,” she says.
Lady Susan is often remarked upon as its author’s least known work, but Angel can’t understand why.
“Although I do agree with some people that the ending is a little bit bland, it is still quite well-written and a good use of the epistolary form,” she says.
Professor Will Christie, Head of the ANU Humanities Research Centre, describes Lady Susan as a “lively satirical piece written in the epistolary form with an often outrageous plotline and scheming, superficial characters that resemble those of Austen’s juvenilia”.
It was adapted into a film in 2016 starring Kate Beckinsdale and mistitled ‘Love and Friendship’, Professor Christie says, after an entirely different story Jane Austen wrote in her youth.
“Like all of Austen’s early stories it’s a hoot, with ridiculous plot complications and an irreverent approach to social convention,” Professor Christie adds.
“There are those who wish Austen had never started to take herself seriously as a novelist and moralist but cleverness can only take you so far and no further.”
The act of translating a seminal English novelist from the Romantic period into Thai has presented some interesting challenges for Angel, who’s had to negotiate significant cultural, linguistic and time differences. Unexpectedly, the difference in religion between the two countries is another barrier she’s had to overcome.
“The majority of Thai people are Buddhists, and although we studied various religions in school, it was only in a general sense,” Angel explains.
“Some of novels from the Victorian era mention Christianity quite a lot including the scriptures, texts from the Bible and so on.
“Fortunately, there are many Thai websites that provide translated versions of the Bible and they are very useful for me to reference them.”
Angel is about a quarter of the way through translating Lady Susan, and has until October to finish. Her Thai translation will be published in 2019.