Helena Vidal, the voice of Russian literature in Catalan and Spanish

Helena Vidal

Born in Russia to a Catalan father and an Asturian mother in exile, Helena Vidal is THE authority for Russianists in Spain today. She has translated books by the most prominent Russian authors, from Alexander Pushkin and Maxim Gorki to Ósip Mandelstam and Yuri Tyniánov.

Her most recent translation is Mandelstam's "Armenia en prosa y verso," which proved to be a challenge. It gathers poems, essays, and travel journals and Helena says it was hard to interpret the sequence of images into Spanish.

When asked why contemporary Russian writers aren't translated more often―especially in Spanish―she explains that Russian literature has a different pace to which Western readers aren't used. Besides, cultural and emotional references between Russia and Spain literally get lost in translation as well.

Her father, Augusto Vidal, also a translator, was responsible for the Spanish version of great Russian classics. She recalls that, back in those days when translators couldn't resort to the technology we have at the tip of our fingers now, he used to tirelessly look through all the dictionaries in his office, go to the library and read everything he could get his hands on and, if he was still stuck on something, contact his Russian friends to try to work things out into Spanish.

Complete interview [in Spanish] from Russia Hoy