Born and raised in the Chicago area, Leah Janeczko studied Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign until 1991, when she ventured off to study for a semester in Milan. Prolonging her stay time and time again to further perfect her Italian, she never found her way back home.
In her early years in Italy she taught English to businesspeople, including many at the local Walt Disney offices, which became the headquarters of Global Magazines, responsible for developing 70% of Disney’s worldwide comics content. By moonlighting for them as a translator she found a natural outlet for her creativity working with comics, films, magazines and books. It grew to be her passion and she became a full-time translator for readers of all ages.
Leah loves translating everything from novels to comics, from children’s poems to screenplays. She particularly enjoys coming up with clever adaptations for jokes, rhymes and wordplay in general. Having lived in Milan for over 30 years, she speaks excellent modern-day Italian and fully understands its nuances. She remains faithful to the author’s voice and style while also taking great care to make her translation read as smoothly as the original text.
Now with over 25 years of experience in literary translation, Leah has been published by New York Review Books, Macmillan, Random House, Grove Atlantic, Simon & Schuster, Pushkin Press and others, and for international book fairs has translated samples of literary works by some of Italy’s leading contemporary authors. See a list of her literary translations.
She also writes song lyrics for Italian bands and acts as an English coach for their singers. Read about Leah’s work with musicians.
In 2023, for the American Literary Translators Association, she acted as a judge for the Italian Prose in Translation Award with Jamie Richards and Jenny McPhee. (Leah was shortlisted for this award in 2020 for her translation of Rosella Postorino’s novel At the Wolf’s Table.)
In October 2023, she was invited by the podcast Harshaneeyam to talk about her journey into literary translations, her translation At the Wolf’s Table, and her love for translating fiction. You can listen to Leah’s half-hour interview here.
Leah is a member of Strade, StradeLab, the American Literary Translators Association, the Society of Authors, the Authors Guild, SIAE and Note Legali.
(In the US, people pronounce her name LEE-uh Juh-NESS-ko, but in Italy everyone calls her LAY-uh Yuh-NETCH-ko.)
Leah is a brilliant translator: precise and dependable and utterly respectful of the authors’ voice.
Leah is a like a many-faceted precious gem. When she translates a literary work she knows how to delve into the writer’s spirit and render the same thought in the target language.
To her, translating is a focused, joyfully furious act of “wrestling with the angel” – both when the text to be translated is angelic and when, poor thing, it needs to be saved from itself.
A real translator. And I’m not joking. Skilled, fast, friendly (even gifted with a sense of humor!) and full of constructive ideas.
Leah Janeczko uses her creativity, passion
and expert knowledge of Italian and English
to help others express their authentic voice
in a language not their own.