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Why Translation Matters (Why X Matters Series) 1st Edition

15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300126563
ISBN-10: 0300126565
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Editorial Reviews


“Edith Grossman, the Glenn Gould of translators, has written a superb book on the art of the literary translation.  Even Walter Benjamin is surpassed by her insights into her task, which she rightly sees as imaginatively independent. This should become a classic text.”—Harold Bloom
(Harold Bloom)

“Grossman and others like her continue to offer us enlightenment. . . .[The subject] is passionately explored and patiently explained.”--Richard Howard, New York Times Book Review

(Richard Howard New York Times Book Review)

“Required reading for publishers the world over. . . . It should also be given to all reviewers, agents, writers and readers. . . . In clean language that is a pleasure to read, Grossman argues why and how a good translation is just that."--Julie Rose, The Australian


(Julie Rose The Australian)

"In this slim but powerful volume, Edith Grossman argues that translation performs a function that is too often ignored or misunderstood." — Edward King, Sunday Times
(Edward King Sunday Times)

"This is a valuable book and a valiant effort to explain the importance of translation."--Chad Post, The Quarterly Conversation
(Chad Post The Quarterly Conversation)

"[Grossman's] investigation of the broad-reaching societal benefits of translated texts--which allow for exchange of ideas and insight--is captivating and refreshing."--Choice

"Grossman is one of the multilingual crowd's best, and she explains exactly why this skill of decoding and reconstruction of an author's words, rhythm and intent is so important."--San Francisco Chronicle
(San Francisco Chronicle)

"A passionate defense of the translator's art."--Peter Terzian, The Boston Globe
(Peter Terzian The Boston Globe)

"A brief, forceful defense of [translation]."--Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
(Hillel Italie The Associated Press)

"This trio of essays is a record of a professional's clear-sighted reflections on an often misunderstood craft. Composed with clarity and insight in what Orwell himself would have called 'windowpane prose,' the book is a beautifully written and boldly argued piece of scholarship."—Thomas Patrick Wisniewski, In Other WordsThe Journal for Literary Translators
(Thomas Patrick Wisniewski In Other Words)

About the Author

Edith Grossman is the acclaimed translator of Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, Mayra Montero, and many other distinguished Spanish-language writers. Her translation of Don Quixote is widely considered a masterpiece. The recipient of numerous prizes for her work, she was awarded the Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation by PEN in 2006, an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009, and the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute Translation Prize in 2010. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in New York.

Product Details

  • Series: Why X Matters Series
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300126565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300126563
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,707,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
WHY TRANSLATION MATTERS is a superb book, exceedingly rich for its 119 pages of text. Basically, it is a passionate statement of the role, creativity, and duty of translators of literature, written by one of the foremost Spanish-to-English translators working today, having to her credit published translations of Cervantes's "Don Quixote" and many of the major works of García Márquez and Vargas Llosa.

Most of the book is comprised of three lectures given at Yale as the first in a proposed annual series of lectures entitled "Why X Matters". Given her expertise, Edith Grossman addressed translation and why it matters. In addition to the lectures, the book contains a fourth chapter on translating poetry, which in Grossman's professional work has been poetry of the Spanish Renaissance.

Many of us who have not worked as translators, or whose work basically has been limited to classes in a foreign language, tend to think of translation as rather mechanical duplication or word-for-word transcription, i.e., for each word in the original language, substituting the most appropriate word in the target language. WHY TRANSLATION MATTERS certainly will disabuse anyone of that model. Let me quote two excerpts from the book:

"[T]he most fundamental description of what translators do is that we write--or perhaps rewrite--in language B a work of literature originally composed in language A, hoping that readers of the [translation] will perceive the text, emotionally and artistically, in a manner that parallels and corresponds to the esthetic experience of its first readers."

"To my mind, a translator's fidelity is not to lexical pairings but to context--the implications and echoes of the first author's tone, intention, and level of discourse.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Edith Grossman, a translator of many important literary works, including Cervantes' Don Quixote, delivered much of this very fine, easy to read, and informative book as lectures at Yale University. She points out that translations make it possible for people to gain knowledge from other cultures and a wide number of thinkers. She deplores that many publishers diminish the value of translators by hardly mentioning them and reviewers who altogether ignore that the volume is a translation. She bewails that while fifty percent of all books in translation published world-wide are translated from English, English-speaking people are deprived of what they should know because only six percent of foreign language books are translated into English.

In chapter 2, Grossman tells us about the two years she took to translate Don Quixote, the things she had to consider and the things she had to do. Should she read all the English translations of the masterpiece? Should she study the scholarly literature about the book? Should she consider the different scholarly views about various passages and add footnotes? Should she approach her translation of this four hundred year old classic as he handled the modern Latin writers that she usually translated?

In chapter 3, she discusses how she and others handle translating poetry, and offers many examples. How does a translator capture the rhyme and rhythm of the original, its emotions, and its images, images from another country and, possibly also, a different time.

Grossman is certainly correct. Good translators make significant contributions to every book they translate. In fact, some translations are a lively duet between the original author and his or her translator.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Glynn Young VINE VOICE on June 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the fall of 1986, I was in a Master's program at Washington University in St. Louis, and taking a seminar in "The Latin American Novel." I have to admit that, prior to the course, I was familiar with (but had not read) only one Latin American novel - "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (Yes, I was an Anglo-centric cretin).

We read "100 Years of Solitude," and we read "The Green House" and "The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa." And Manuel Puig's "Kiss of the Spider Woman." And "The Death of Artemio Cruz" by Carlos Fuentes. And several other works. I wrote my major paper of the seminar on Vargas Llosa's "Conversations in the Cathedral," which seems to have no narrative structure at all until you understand that it is actually four stories being told simultaneously. Think Faulkner on steroids.

But I didn't read these works, and many more to follow, in the original Spanish. I read them in translation. And so I met names like Alfred MacAdam, Helen Lane, Gregory Rabassa - and Edith Grossman.

"Why Translation Matters" is based upon two lectures Grossman gave at Yale University and an original essay written for this volume. She explains, with all of the artful love of a translator, what the process of translation involves, the challenges it poses (and they are formidable), and why translations are important. And she means translation "not as the weary journeyman of the publishing world but as a living bridge between two realms of discourse, two realms of experience, and two sets of readers."

For the fact is that no good translation can be a literal, word-for-word effort. It's simply not possible.
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