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In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means

In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means

by Esther Allen (Editor), Susan Bernofsky (Editor)

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The most comprehensive collection of perspectives on translation to date, this anthology features essays by some of the world's most skillful writers and translators, including Haruki Murakami, Alice Kaplan, Peter Cole, Eliot Weinberger, Forrest Gander, Clare Cavanagh, David Bellos, and José Manuel Prieto. Discussing the process and possibilities of their


The most comprehensive collection of perspectives on translation to date, this anthology features essays by some of the world's most skillful writers and translators, including Haruki Murakami, Alice Kaplan, Peter Cole, Eliot Weinberger, Forrest Gander, Clare Cavanagh, David Bellos, and José Manuel Prieto. Discussing the process and possibilities of their art, they cast translation as a fine balance between scholarly and creative expression. The volume provides students and professionals with much-needed guidance on technique and style, while affirming for all readers the cultural, political, and aesthetic relevance of translation.

These essays focus on a diverse group of languages, including Japanese, Turkish, Arabic, and Hindi, as well as frequently encountered European languages, such as French, Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, and Russian. Contributors speak on craft, aesthetic choices, theoretical approaches, and the politics of global cultural exchange, touching on the concerns and challenges that currently affect translators working in an era of globalization. Responding to the growing popularity of translation programs, literature in translation, and the increasing need to cultivate versatile practitioners, this anthology serves as a definitive resource for those seeking a modern understanding of the craft.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The last decade has seen significant growth in the study of literary translation, including the MLA’s increased readiness to set standards for evaluating translations. With this anthology, editors Bernofsky (Foreign Words: Translator-Authors in the Age of Goethe) and Allen (translator and editor of The Selected Writings of José Martí) hope to educate current and prospective translators to see their work as “a particularly complex ethical position” rather than a “‘problematic necessity.’” The book is divided between theory and practice, though all essays focus on the experience of translators. The 18 translators included—among them Eliot Weinberger (translator of Bei Dao, Jorge Luis Borges, and Octavio Paz), David Bellos (Georges Perec), and Haruki Murakami (whose afterword to his Japanese translation of The Great Gatsby is itself translated into English reprinted here)—offer memorable anecdotes. Maureen Freely describes the “intense and volatile exchanges” with Orhan Pamuk that followed her first translation of the author’s work; José Manuel Prieto explains the historical context, phrase by phrase, that made Osip Mandelstam’s “Epigram Against Stalin” into “the sixteen lines of a death sentence.” Literary translation is specialized enough that many authors reference the same canonical texts, and the chapters occasionally blur together. Overall, the book makes for a strong introduction to the field. (May)
Edith Grossman
In Translation promises to be an essential part of any translation library. Allen and Bernofsky have assembled a collection of thoughtful essays by a wide-ranging group of translators whose opinions about the knotty art of translation are varied, fascinating, and eminently intelligent
John Biguenet
In Translation is an essential addition to the canon of translation studies, offering fascinating insights about the role and the work of the translator. Anyone interested in the making of literature will want this book.
Motoyuki Shibata
Serious and witty by turns, and sometimes both at once, these informative essays illuminate what matters in translation and why translation matters.
Peter Constantine
A panoramic view of the craft of translation. An impressive gathering of the expertise of the finest translators working in English today from a wide range of languages and literatures.
Lydia Davis
The essays in In Translation, exploring both the larger, complex questions of translation's role and function in the world of literature and the more detailed, word-by-word dilemmas faced by every translator, are consistently stimulating, engaging, and eye-opening, not to speak of eloquent and occasionally even dramatic and/or funny. I came away from reading them with a host of new ideas and insights.
San Francisco Book Review
I loved this book. I felt I was introduced to a new universe, and not only translation, but language itself, will never look the same again.
Publishing Research Quarterly
Translators, academics, students, editors, and publishers will want torecommend In Translation to anyone with a curiosity about who translators are,what translators do, how they do it, and why.
Kirkus Reviews
Translators reflect on their work: its mechanics, frustrations, rewards and meanings. Editors Allen (Modern Languages and Comparative Literature/Baruch Coll.) and Bernofsky (MFA Program/Columbia Univ.) have assembled a knowledgeable and articulate collection of translators who describe in considerable detail a process that most readers think little about. Eliot Weinberger notes that "translators are the geeks of literature." David Bellos talks about the problem of maintaining a sense of "foreignness" in a translation. Several writers also talk about the issue of whether to maintain some of the words of the original in a translation--a way to retain a sense of the original. Catherine Porter raises an issue that a number of the writers mention: their lack of status in the academic world and their virtual invisibility with readers. Several essays deal with the problems translators face in specific languages. Maureen Freely writes about translating Orhan Pamuk from Turkish into English; Jason Grunebaum discusses the problems of translating from Hindi to English. If the audience is South Asian, perhaps one method is appropriate, but if the audience is American, then what? There is some translation playfulness in the volume, too: Haruki Murakami describes his translation of The Great Gatsby, an essay that, in turn, Ted Goossen translates from Japanese into English--and then follows with some reflections of his own. Lawrence Venuti discusses the difficulty of translating from archaic literary forms. Co-editor Bernofsky describes how she revises--usually four drafts--as she prepares her own translations from German, and Clare Cavanagh closes the collection by showing how the villanelle, a poetic form unknown in Poland, arrived there via translation. Perhaps too textually dense for general readers, but the book raises and clarifies a variety of significant issues about the many decisions translators must contend with.
Library Journal
Translations are a fixture in America's literary landscape, responsible for introducing writers whose work may have otherwise been unknown in this country. Editors Allen (languages and literature, Baruch Coll.; To Be Translated or Not To Be) and Susan Bernofsky (writing program, Columbia Univ.; Foreign Words) have assembled an anthology of essays written by translators on the task of translating. There are both well-known names (e.g., Haruki Murakami) and the lesser known (e.g., Jacopone da Todi, anyone?) representing the two sides of the translating equation—from this language into that language and vice versa. The two parts of the book, "The Translator in the World" and "The Translator at Work," address the necessity of literary translation as both a subject for theory studies and as practice in the craft of writing. Much as Edith Grossman's Why Translation Matters maintained the importance of translation as an expression of humanity, Allen and Bernofsky's compilation advocates for a "culture of translation" to strengthen the world's cultural pluralism. VERDICT An obvious choice for writers and readers interested in translations; challenging but also accessible to the nonacademic reader.—Elizabeth Heffington, Lipscomb Univ. Lib., TN

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Columbia University Press
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6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)
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Russell Valentino
A very strong addition to the field of translation qua writing, as well as the more specialized field of translation studies, with its scholarly connections to language and literary study, the study of English transnational literature, literary theory, and the history of belles lettres.

Meet the Author

Esther Allen teaches at Baruch College, City University of New York. She has translated a number of books from French and Spanish, including the Penguin Classics anthology José Martí: Selected Writings. A former fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, she was named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for her work promoting a culture of translation in English.

Susan Bernofsky is a leading translator from the German. Her translations of works by Robert Walser, Jenny Erpenbeck, Hermann Hesse, and others have been honored with the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize, the Calw Hermann Hesse Translation Prize, and fellowships from the NEA, NEH, PEN Translation Fund and Lannan Foundation. Chair of the PEN Translation Committee, she teaches in the MFA program at Columbia University and blogs about translation at www.translationista.org.

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