On Translation

“I believe that serious professional translators, often in private, think of themselves—forgive me, I mean ourselves—as writers, no matter what else may cross our minds when we ponder the work we do, and I also believe we are correct to do so. Is this sheer presumption, a heady kind of immodesty on our part? What exactly do we literary translators do to justify the notion that the term “writer” actually applies to us? Aren’t we simply the humble, anonymous handmaids-and-men of literature, the grateful, ever-obsequious servants of the publishing industry? In the most resounding yet decorous terms I can muster, the answer is no, for the most fundamental description of what translators do is that we write—or perhaps rewrite—in language B a work of literature originally composed in language A, hoping that readers of the [translation] will perceive the text, emotionally and artistically, in a manner that parallels and corresponds to the esthetic experience of its first readers. This is the translator’s grand ambition.”

[Edith Grossman, Why Translation Matters.]

Grossman has translated – among other books – two incredible novels that I read in English and would probably never have encountered if not for laborious and generally unheralded profession of translation: Love in the Time of Cholera, and Of Love and Other Demons.

The full introductory chapter of the book, Why Translation Matters is available at  Words Without Borders.

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