"A revelation." —Kirkus Reviews
"Rich and moving." —Los Angeles Review of Books
"This is a book full of fascination and joy for anyone involved in or simply curious about translation. Beyond this, with its call to look beyond our own borders, it is a remarkably prescient book for our times." —The Skinny
“A tribute to the courage and bravery required in every true translation.” —World Literature Today
"At a time in which words are losing their meanings and border walls are once again growing tall, Gansel illustrates for her reader the difficult work of border crossing." —Cleaver Magazine
“This is a small but richly rewarding book, packed with gems about the challenges and unexpected delights of translation, which will prove irresistible not only to translators but also to all those who have ever wondered just what is involved in translation.” —European Literature Network
“In Translation as Transhumance, a venerable, inveterate literary translator, who has made the world her literary home, is herself translated; impeccably so, by prizewinning French specialist, Ros Schwartz. They are two translators who richly deserve each other.” —The Jewish Chronicle
"Extraordinarily thoughtful and thought-provoking from beginning to end." —Midwest Book Review
“Deeply insightful and humanistic.” —Bookwitty
“In this memoir of a translator’s adventures, Mireille Gansel shows us what it means to enter another language through its culture, and to enter the life of another culture through its language. A sensitive and insightful book, which illuminates the difficult, and often underestimated task of translation—and the role of literature in making for a more interconnected and humane world.” —Eva Hoffman, author of Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language
“A history not just of twentieth century poetry but of that dark century itself, from the rise of the Nazis to the American bombing of North Vietnam, and yields too a rare insight into the nature of language and the splendors and limitations of translation.” —Gabriel Josipovici, author of What Ever Happened to Modernism?
"This memoir tells of a life forged by encounters, by humble desire to reach out to and understand the other. It is a subtle, moving, and at times sad testimony that talks of poetry, the dialogue with consciousness, commitment and values that are essential to literature and to life itself." —Marina Warner, author of Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale
A personal meditation on the challenging art of translation.This extended essay by the gifted translator Gansel, a fine translation unto itself, weaves together memoir and a discussion of the nuances involved in translating foreign texts, especially poetry. The book is divided into three autobiographical sections: the author's early years, her time spent in Vietnam during the U.S. bombings, and the challenges she faced translating the Jewish German-language poet Nelly Sachs. Gansel's elaborate methodology, carefully developed over the years, was to do extensive research about the lives of the poets she was working on, meet with them personally whenever possible, and immerse herself in the language and the writers' habits and writing processes. For her, translation was like a "hand reaching from one shore to another where there is no bridge." It became the "clay from which I would fashion my own interior language." Gansel grew up surrounded by languages: Hungarian, French, German, and some Czech and Yiddish. Early on, in Berlin, she worked on Bertolt Brecht and then the East German poets Reiner Kunze and Peter Huchel, both of whom she was able to meet and learn from. The repressive political milieu of the German divide loomed over her work. After struggling with a key word in a Kunze poem, Gansel recalls returning to the West side after a Kafkaesque checkpoint experience, smuggling "back the word I had come to seek." In Vietnam during its darkest days, she worked with a small group of Vietnamese poets on a "vast and entirely different kind of poetry." Gansel concludes with her personally difficult experiences translating the "deeply painful poetry" of Sachs. The poet escaped Nazi Germany, but many of her family members were sent to concentration camps and died. For those interested in translation, this slim, delicate book will be a revelation.
Beautiful. Luminous. Thought provoking. These are the words that come immediately to mind when reading this slim but powerful book by translator and French Voice and English PEN Award winner Gansel. Part memoir, part meditation on the art of translation, Gansel's work shows how language transgresses boundaries—political, emotional, intellectual—and how translation is "a hand reaching from one shore to another where there is no bridge." Gansel writes about her experience translating Vietnamese and East Berlin poets, bringing their words of defiance and protest to a wider audience. The author grew up in a family who lost everything to Nazi Germany, and this upbringing may account for the empathy and meticulous care of her translations of little-heard voices. Her work is fascinating to read about. Itself a translation from French, beautifully rendered by Schwartz, Gansel's book features chapters of short meditations, not to be rushed through, each whispering and lingering in the mind long after the book is closed. VERDICT A must-read for lovers of world literature as well as those interested in language and the art of translation.—Stefanie Hollmichel, Univ. of St. Thomas Law Lib., Minneapolis