donal mclaughlin

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LAST UPDATE: October 2013

Donal was included in Best European Fiction 2012 (Dalkey Archive Press, USA)both as an author and as a translator.

With both a new short story (‘enough to make your heart’), and his version of an extract from Sez Ner by Arno Camenisch, Donal joined writers from 33 countries around Europe. The volume – edited by Aleksandar Hemon, and the third in a highly regarded series – appeared in November 2011.

“the rhythm king of Scottish fiction Donal McLaughlin”

… “lends literary heft to this anthology”

New Statesman, 12.12.2011

The writers chosen by Aleksandar Hemon come from Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and the UK

The November 2011 issue of Harper’s magazine (New York) saw the pre-publication of Donal’s translation of the extract from Sez Ner.


My Mother’s Lover, Donal’s translation of Der Geliebte der Mutter by Urs Widmer, was published in June 2011 (Seagull Books) and subsequently nominated for the Newton First Book Award of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

“Donal McLaughlin’s translation delivers all the charm, sweet sorrow and gentle humour of the original.

The Independent, 9.12.2011

“Delicately and elegantly translated by Scotland’s own Donal McLaughlin, this is a short but complex and enthralling read”

Gutter / 06, February 2012

Donal accompanied Urs Widmer on a reading tour of India in January 2012.


My Father’s Book by Urs Widmer, again in Donal’s translation, appeared in November 2011.

In this companion to My Mother’s Lover, the narrator is again the son who pieces together the fragments of his parents’ stories. Widmer brilliantly combines family history and historical events to tell the story of a man more at home in the world of the imagination than in the real world; a father who grows on the reader just as he grows on his son.

Shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award 2013 (USA).

“My Father’s Book is a boisterous, expansive novel, an encapsulation of twentieth century Swiss life through an idiosyncratic and highly concentrating prism. This sense of breadth comes not only from the contrast of Karl’s engagement in politics and his ludicrous stint as a soldier with his wife’s extreme introversion, but also from his appetite for life and the arts, which Widmer evokes beautifully.”

“The sheer artistry of the writing in this novel alone would be deserving of the Best Translated Book Award, but in addition Donal McLaughlin’s translation is pitch-perfect, capturing the various registers and tonalities of Widmer’s prose and, most difficult of all, the many shades of his humor.”

Tess Lewis, BTBA judge.


As in My Mother’s Lover, the narrative style in My Father’s Book is breathtakingly complex. As the narrator tells his father’s story, his gaze often hews closely to Karl’s, and his voice becomes inflected by turns of phrase that clearly belong not to him but to Karl. Rich description gives way to rapidly shifting snapshots to match the pace of the story. This is the real thrill of reading Widmer: he masters the acceleration and deceleration of voice that follows the roller-coaster rides of existence, history. The book is ebulliently punctuated, filled with interjections, half-thoughts, hesitations. The rhythms of spoken language break into the narration, then dissipate in lyrical reveries. At a certain point, you find yourself nodding in agreement: yes, yes, yes, this is life.

Donal McLaughlin’s translation of this challenging voice is a joy. The language is idiosyncratic and daring — Widmer’s punctuation and sentence structures could have been smoothed further, and I’m glad they’re not, because the aforementioned pacing is so important. There is light-footedness and fun, but also precision. The basic units of My Father’s Book are the extreme close-up, the individual moment; it is a book of details, of exactness, and McLaughlin’s angular, energetic English reflects that.

Amanda DeMarco, Los Angeles Review of Books