- For the fictional character in the Doctor Who television series, please see Barbara Wright
(1915 – March 3, 2009) was an English translator of modern French literature.
Wright, born in Worthing, studied music and art in Paris in the years before World War II. She began her career as a pianist specialising in the accompaniment of Lieder, supporting herself by working as an art and literary critic, often needing to translate the works herself, that she was writing about. This soon led to the discovery that translating literature employed the very same faculties that she utilised as a pianist — the ability to present artistic works to an audience in a manner acceptable and satisfying to the composer or writer and honest in their interpretation. She then devoted her time to translation.
She specialised in "poetic prose" and drama, especially French surrealist and existential writing, but she translated works in several genres including women's literature, historical fiction, and fantasy. In 1986 she was made a Commandeur in L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In April 2001 she was made a member of the College of Pataphysics, as Régente de Zozologie Shakespearienne, with Fernando Arrabal and Umberto Eco (cacopédiste) as company. She was vibrant and lucid to the very end.
Her literary translation papers are held by the Lilly Library at Indiana University . The files are arranged alphabetically with publisher correspondence and French author—translation queries and notes all in a single alphabet. The authors she has translated and who are represented in the collection include Jean Hamburger (Le Journal de William Harvey
), Eugene Ionesco, Alfred Jarry, Pierre Lauer, Robert Pinget, Raymond Queneau and Nathalie Sarraute. The publishers of Wright's works, with whom there are extensive correspondence files, include John Calder, Doubleday, Faber & Faber, New Directions, and Red Dust. Also present is a large file of correspondence between Wright and Russell Fitzgerald, an aspiring author and devoted fan of her work from San Francisco, California.