Why Translation Matters

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Overview

Why Translation Matters argues for the cultural importance of translation and for a more encompassing and nuanced appreciation of the translator’s role. As the acclaimed translator Edith Grossman writes in her introduction, “My intention is to stimulate a new consideration of an area of literature that is too often ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented.”

For Grossman, translation has a transcendent importance: “Translation not only plays its important traditional role as the means that allows us access to literature originally written in one of the countless languages we cannot read, but it also represents a concrete literary presence with the crucial capacity to ease and make more meaningful our relationships to those with whom we may not have had a connection before. Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar. As nations and as individuals, we have a critical need for that kind of understanding and insight. The alternative is unthinkable.”

Throughout the four chapters of this bracing volume, Grossman’s belief in the crucial significance of the translator’s work, as well as her rare ability to explain the intellectual sphere that she inhabits as interpreter of the original text, inspires and provokes the reader to engage with translation in an entirely new way.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Grossman and others like her continue to offer us enlightenment. . . .[The subject] is passionately explored and patiently explained.—Richard Howard, New York Times Book Review

— Richard Howard

The Australian
Required reading for publishers the world over. . . . It should also be given to all reviewers, agents, writers and readers. . . . In clean language that is a pleasure to read, Grossman argues why and how a good translation is just that.—Julie Rose, The Australian

— Julie Rose

Sunday Times
In this slim but powerful volume, Edith Grossman argues that translation performs a function that is too often ignored or misunderstood.— Edward King, Sunday Times

— Edward King

The Quarterly Conversation
This is a valuable book and a valiant effort to explain the importance of translation.—Chad Post, The Quarterly Conversation

— Chad Post

Choice

"[Grossman's] investigation of the broad-reaching societal benefits of translated texts--which allow for exchange of ideas and insight--is captivating and refreshing."--Choice
San Francisco Chronicle

"Grossman is one of the multilingual crowd's best, and she explains exactly why this skill of decoding and reconstruction of an author's words, rhythm and intent is so important."--San Francisco Chronicle
The Boston Globe
A passionate defense of the translator's art.—Peter Terzian, The Boston Globe

— Peter Terzian

The Associated Press
A brief, forceful defense of [translation].—Hillel Italie, The Associated Press

— Hillel Italie
In Other Words
This trio of essays is a record of a professional's clear-sighted reflections on an often misunderstood craft. Composed with clarity and insight in what Orwell himself would have called 'windowpane prose,' the book is a beautifully written and boldly argued piece of scholarship.—Thomas Patrick Wisniewski, In Other WordsThe Journal for Literary Translators

— Thomas Patrick Wisniewski

Harold Bloom

“Edith Grossman, the Glenn Gould of translators, has written a superb book on the art of the literary translation. Even Walter Benjamin is surpassed by her insights into her task, which she rightly sees as imaginatively independent. This should become a classic text.”—Harold Bloom

New York Times Book Review - Richard Howard

“Grossman and others like her continue to offer us enlightenment. . . .[The subject] is passionately explored and patiently explained.”--Richard Howard, New York Times Book Review
The Australian - Julie Rose

“Required reading for publishers the world over. . . . It should also be given to all reviewers, agents, writers and readers. . . . In clean language that is a pleasure to read, Grossman argues why and how a good translation is just that."--Julie Rose, The Australian
Sunday Times - Edward King

"In this slim but powerful volume, Edith Grossman argues that translation performs a function that is too often ignored or misunderstood." — Edward King, Sunday Times

The Quarterly Conversation - Chad Post

"This is a valuable book and a valiant effort to explain the importance of translation."--Chad Post, The Quarterly Conversation
The Boston Globe - Peter Terzian

"A passionate defense of the translator's art."--Peter Terzian, The Boston Globe
The Associated Press - Hillel Italie

"A brief, forceful defense of [translation]."--Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
In Other Words - Thomas Patrick Wisniewski

"This trio of essays is a record of a professional's clear-sighted reflections on an often misunderstood craft. Composed with clarity and insight in what Orwell himself would have called 'windowpane prose,' the book is a beautifully written and boldly argued piece of scholarship."—Thomas Patrick Wisniewski, In Other WordsThe Journal for Literary Translators
Sunday Times

"In this slim but powerful volume, Edith Grossman argues that translation performs a function that is too often ignored or misunderstood." — Edward King, Sunday Times

— Edward King

New York Times Book Review

“Grossman and others like her continue to offer us enlightenment. . . .[the subject] is passionately explored and patiently explained.”--Richard Howard, New York Times Book Review

— Richard Howard

The Australian

“Required reading for publishers the world over. . . . It should also be given to all reviewers, agents, writers and readers. . . . In clean language that is a pleasure to read, Grossman argues why and how a good translation is just that."--Julie Rose, The Australian

— Julie Rose

Richard Howard
Grossman is at her eloquent best not when she makes plaintive, resentful demands that the "bloated international conglomerates" owning the major publishing houses face up to their responsibility to foster literature in translation, but rather when she reveals her joy in her work and her true inspiration…In the end, Grossman warmly…and gratefully rehearses the twofold answer to the question of her title: translation matters because it is an expression and an extension of our humanity, the secret metaphor of all literary communication; and because the creation of any literary translation is (or at least must be) an original writing, not a pathetic shadow or tracing of the inaccessible "original" but the creation, indeed, of a second—and as we have seen, a third and a ninth—but always a new work, in another language.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Invoking Ralph Manheim's metaphor, Grossman compares the translator's art to that of the actor transforming a playwright's words in performance. Thus asserts award-winning translator Grossman, who has worked with some of Latin America's greatest authors and most recently translated Don Quixote. The art of translation “expands our ability to explore through literature the thoughts and feelings of people from another society or another time.” Grossman believes that U.S. and U.K. publishers, who limit the number of translations to 2%–3% of their lists, are not meeting their “ethical and cultural responsibility” to literature. After discussing her method for translating poetry, Grossman offers tuition in poetic forms and fascinating examples from the 16th century to the present. Based on lectures Grossman gave at Yale, this book provides a succinct argument for the importance of those who “bring a text over” from another language and make it accessible to a wider audience. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300126563
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/7/2010
  • Series: Why X Matters Series
  • Pages: 137
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Edith Grossman is the acclaimed translator of Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, Mayra Montero, and many other distinguished Spanish-language writers. Her translation of Don Quixote is widely considered a masterpiece. The recipient of numerous prizes for her work, she was awarded the Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation by PEN in 2006, an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009, and the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute Translation Prize in 2010. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in New York.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction: Why Translation Matters 1

1 Authors, Translators, and Readers Today 35

2 Translating Cervantes 61

3 Translating Poetry 89

A Personal List of Important Translations 121

Works Cited 125

Acknowledgments 127

Index 129

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