An identical twin (her sister Olive Classe is also a translator), she was educated at Girton College, Cambridge, where she read English, with papers in French and Italian. Bray became a script editor in 1953 for the BBC Third Programme, commissioning and translating European twentieth-century avant-garde writing for the network. Harold Pinter wrote some of his earliest work at Bray's insistence, but her connection with Samuel Beckett became personal as well as professional.
From about 1961, Bray lived in Paris and established a career as a translator and critic. She translated the correspondence of Gustave Flaubert, and work by leading French speaking writers of her own time including Marguerite Duras, Amin Maalouf, Julia Kristeva, Michel Quint, Jean Anouilh, Michel Tournier, Jean Genet, Alain Bosquet, Réjean Ducharme and Philippe Sollers. She received the PEN Translation Prize in 1986.
Her relationship with the married Beckett continued for the rest of his life, and Bray was one of the few people with whom the Irishman discussed his work. She suffered a stroke at the end of 2003.
In spite of her serious disability she worked until shortly before her death on her memoir of Samuel Beckett, Let Mortals Rejoice..., which she was unable to complete. Her reflections on Samuel Beckett, both as a writer and as a person, became part of a series of conversations with her Polish friend Marek Kedzierski, recorded from 2004 to 2009. Extensive excerpts from these conversations have been published in German by Berlin´s quarterly Lettre international (Es war wie ein Blitz… vol. 87, Winter 2009) and in French by the magazine Europe (C´était comme un éclair, un éclair aveuglant, no. 974/975 Juin-Juillet 2010), as well as in Polish, Slovak and Swedish. The English original of these excerpts remains unpublished, but other fragments have appeared in Modernism/modernity (Barbara Bray: In Her Own Words, Volume 18, Number 4, November 2011).
- Andrew Todd Obituary: Barbara Bray, The Guardian, 4 March 2010
- Obituary: Barbara Bray, The Times, 5 March 2010
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