Archive for the 'translators & translations' Category

Edith Grossman

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

I met a man once who told me, with great earnestness, that books were translated by machines.


It’s hard, sometimes, to tell with my French acquaintances whether they’re pulling my leg or not. The best thing is to play along, play for time and draw them out a bit. Thing is, saying inflammatory things that you don’t believe is a conversation technique here. Once you hang out with a person more and get to know them you can tell better. They usually are pulling your leg; but then every once in a while, they’re not. And that’s usually the time when you give a big cackling laugh. I’ve developed some wonderful recovery techniques for this sort of social whoopsie.

But back to the beginning. “Books are translated by machines.” I think translators are some of the most undervalued people on the planet. They’re more invisible than the factory workers who helped make your pencil.

It’s been getting a bit better lately, though. And to further the cause of translator awareness, I bring you a link to a nice article on Edith Grossman. She’s most probably most famous for translating Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera (which if I’m not mistaken, was recently turned into a movie. No idea how successfully.) Also, she not too long ago did a new version of Don Quixote that I still need to get my hands on. Plus oodles of others. I won’t list them, the article does a good job of that.

The sentence structure’s a bit dangley, but as far as content goes the article certainly has a book lover’s opening:

When you walk into the center of Edith Grossman’s foyer, you’re not sure which of the six white-walled rooms of this classic high-ceilinged Upper West Side ground-floor apartment, with their ubiquitous wooden bookshelves, tall and short, to rake your eyes over first.

[go to article…]

I love the bit where Garcia Marquez sends her a letter:

“I knew this Colombian writer was eccentric when he wrote me saying that he doesn’t use adverbs ending with -mente in Spanish and would like to avoid adverbs ending in -ly in English.”

Seems completely reasonable to me. How few writers take such care with the rhythm and flow of their words!

Here’s the jazz radio station Ms Grossman mentions.

Book’s are translated by machines, indeed! I never could figure out if he was serious or not.

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Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear translate Tolstoy’s War and Peace!

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

I suppose you’ve guessed what this post is about.

I’m so excited!!! I’m not sure when I’ll get it here, maybe late October, early November. Time to call in sick at work! Too bad I’m self-employed.

When Brigg’s translation came out I was devastated. I’d been hoping and waiting for eons for my favorite Russian-to-English translators to get to War and Peace. I thought surely no publisher would release another translation of it for at least for a few years. How happy I am to be wrong.

While we’re all waiting, I found a wonderful article (reproduced in full) about Russian-to-English translators, translations and translating issues. It includes interesting details about V and P’s technique and the rather astounding fact that D.H. Lawrence and Constance Garnett were friends. (Somehow I can’t possibly imagine them in the same room together, let alone speaking.) There’s a lot of wonderful information in it, but I must say that I did find the writing of the article itself a bit uneven. Not that that stopped me — I devoured it in minutes!

I copied the text from the comments of this post on Prufrock’s Page (thank you!) and pasted them into a word processing program, then printed it out. I think if I’d read all 17 pages of it in that teeny text on my dreadful screen I would have gone blind (”…or insane!” Remember that from Love and Death? Ah, how I miss the early Woody Allen films…)

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Halfway there…

Monday, May 16th, 2005

Can you name a single translator? If you have a favorite author who writes in another language, do you know who he or she is translated by?

I’ve always been very particular about my translations. In a bookstore, I can often be seen comparing all versions available. This often requires advanced juggling skills and is sometimes a very difficult decision indeed. Translation is a extremely challenging occupation. I’ve been even more aware of the difficulties since I began seriously learning a second language. Languages are not just coded versions of each other. It’s a hell of a lot more complicated than that. So, I was quite pleased when I heard that the Man Booker people were offering a prize for translators. I was rather disappointed when I heard the details though. The new Man Booker International Prize will be offered to a living writer who has an impressive body of work that has had international impact. If they are translated, an additional 15,000 will be added to the award money and the author is left to divvy it up between his or her various translators, as the author sees fit. Sadly, if your author dies (i.e.: Saul Bellow was one of the contenders) or the authors you translate are already long dead (i.e.: Homer, Tolstoy…) this prize is not for you.

Why didn’t they just make it for a living translator? That would have been much more respectful of the job, not to mention much more interesting.

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