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Smee has specialised in classic children’s literature since 2010, translating chiefly from French, and most recently adding literary biography to her repertoire. Her translation of a 1945 memoir by a Polish Jew who fled Germany and France for Switzerland, has left a powerful impression on Nobel Laureate Patrick Modiani, who wrote the Preface; her referee and reviewer the Holocaust scholar Avril Alba; and newspapers including the Economist. As a literary translator Smee has many voices.
Smee’s elegant translations of 19th century French children’s literature and Sweden’s 20th century Pelle Svanslös stories adopt different techniques to address the styles of each period and age group; like a kindly elder sister she takes the trouble to explain with gentle humour how the Swedish can be transformed into English without losing its first appeal; a more vigorous translation style is applied to Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff, rescuing it from its hitherto relative obscurity in English.