This fall, three iconic 20th-century novels are being released in new translations, and their publishers have good reasons to boast. Never before have these novels, written by oppressed German, Russian and Polish writers, been more accessible to American readers. With technology making the world smaller daily, there's still something to be said for a fresh new translation's ability to promote global thinking.
|Author||In the First Circle: A Novel (The Restored Text) (Harper Perennial, Oct.)||Pornografia (Grove, Nov.)||The Tin Drum: The New Translation (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct.)|
|Translated||From the Russian by Harry T. Willetts||From the Polish by Danuta Borchardt||From the German by Breon Mitchell|
|Background||Solzhenitsyn's “best novel” (Washington Post)—based on the writer's time in a prison research institute outside Moscow during Stalin's regime—has never been available to English-language readers in its complete original form. Solzhenitsyn was forced to delete nine chapters in the hopes of getting the manuscript past Soviet authorities. A “lightened version” was leaked to the West, translated and published in the 1960s. This “uncensored” translation is the first of Solzhenitsyn's work to be published in English since his death last August. Willetts died in 2005.||Dramatist and novelist Gombrowicz (1904—1969) fled his native Poland for Argentina in 1939. During that time, he wrote Pornografia, a novel in two parts that investigates violence and carnality in the countryside of war-torn Poland (“probably the most important 20th-century novelist most Western readers have never heard of,” said Benjamin Paloff). Gombrowicz lived, virtually unknown, in Argentina for 25 years before moving to France. Pornografia was translated from Polish to French, and then from French to English. This is the first direct Polish to English translation.||Grass's first novel, published in the U.S. in 1962 by Pantheon, contained some controversial passages; many foreign translators and publishers omitted or condensed parts they thought readers might find “disgusting or blasphemous,” writes Grass in the introduction. Literary historians and translators said Tin Drum's first English translation, by Ralph Manheim, needed revision, so in 2005, Grass met with 10 translators to create new versions of the novel in their own languages. They spent eight days together, with Grass answering queries. The new translation marks the novel's 50th anniversary.|