Book review

I have just finished reading the most fascinating book "A Foreign Affair" by Valerie Barnes (published 2004).  Valerie, a young British girl (1947) yearned for the good times promised after the war.  Two chance meetings catapulted her into the most amazing career - at the newly-formed United Nations in Generva as an Interpreter (English, French, Spanish and Russian).  She traveled the world (first class - they were treated like royalty - making big dollars) in the 1950's and 1960's visiting the most exotic locations (long before tourism had become fashionable and cheap) rubbing shoulders with prime ministers and presidents.

She was also married to a Frenchman - who believed it was fine to have a mistress whilst married - which he did for 26 years! They had 3 children  and a nanny (who cared for the children when she traveled).    In 1977 she finally divorced her French husband (he had a very bad temper) and in 1981 married an Australian and moved to Canberra (this last bit is not in the book) and became an interpreter for the Australian Prime Minister at Parliament House!

What I found amazing was the skills one needs to have when interpreting in places such as the  United Nations and the amount of pressure in reacting quickly.  She gives one funny story (among many) where she was asked to sing Waltzing Matilda in French (having never heard before)! And what happens when a word is used in a sentence that has no translation in another language eg in one interpretation she had to convert "The delegate of the UK is pussyfooting with a red herring" into French and Spanish with no time to think about it!! - there isn't a translation.