In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means

Esther Allen, Editor, Susan Bernofsky, Editor
Edited by Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky. Columbia Univ., $29.50 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-231-15969-2
Reviewed on: 03/04/2013
Release date: 05/01/2013
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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)
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