“In translation it doubled in size”

Bruce Webber on the late Rosario Ferré

Ms. Ferré began writing in English in the 1990s in the hope of reaching a wider audience. Interviewed by The New York Times in 1998, she said that writing and thinking in another, less familiar language changed her style, making it less flamboyant and less complex.

“When I get into Spanish, I go crazy with words,” she said. “In English, I don’t have the same linguistic repertory. I have no choice but to wear blinders and go straight.”

The result, she said, sometimes ended up surprising her, rendering changes in her characters. “The House on the Lagoon” — a multigenerational story about a wealthy and problematically haughty family that begins in 1917, when Puerto Ricans were granted American citizenship, and ends in the 1980s — is told with rival narrators, a husband and wife, with often conflicting points of view. She wrote it first in Spanish, as “La Casa de la Laguna,” but as she recalled in a 2011 reminiscence (recently published in English as “Memoir”), she decided to translate it into English and send it to an American publisher; it ended up at Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

In translation it doubled in size and changed so much that after it was published, she had to retranslate it back into Spanish. In English, Ms. Ferré said in the Times interview, she found that the patriarchal husband, Quintin Mendizabal, was “less unpleasant, nicer and more human,” whereas in Spanish, he was “a scoundrel who is not worthy of forgiveness.”