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Why translation matters by Edith Grossman
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Why translation matters (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Edith Grossman

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121799,547 (3.52)27
Member:jburlinson
Title:Why translation matters
Authors:Edith Grossman
Info:New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, c2010.
Collections:Ebook
Rating:**
Tags:Lit crit, Boo

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Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman (2010)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
An eminently sensible, well-written book that probably won't bestow upon you a single new idea. Of the three words of the title, the second two receive the most attention. The "why" seems to be taken for granted, other than the hardly world-shaking insight that without a translation, you wouldn't be able to read a book in a language that you don't know. ( )
  jburlinson | Jan 11, 2013 |
I think, to the majority of the people who visit The Parrish Lantern, this is a question that even if it momentarily flitted across their conscious mind - would seem so obvious, it must be rhetorical, and yet a post on a fellow bloggers site, made me reconsider this question. Because of the way my country appears to be heading, the way to all intents and purposes our leaders(?) have chosen to isolate us from the greater European community, a fellow blogger – Tom (The Common Reader) was so appalled by their decision, he wrote a post decrying this horrendous situation, stating that he was a Europhile. That because he as

“ a lover of European literature I have developed a sense of being “European”, sharing in the culture of Thomas Mann, Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Robert Walser, Gunther Grass, Magda Szabo and many others”.

This got me thinking about how we, lovers of World/ translated literature, may have a different aspect, an alternate viewpoint to those that do not read or that only read works by English language writers. how can you be insular, inward looking whilst your viewpoint is being shaped and moulded by a whole world of writers, if your vision of this planet is not only shaped by the writers of Europe but Asia, the Americas and all points in-between. If your understanding of a situation is derived from a combination of questions and answers posed and dissected, screamed out at a confused and hostile world by writers from all points of this globe, you rapidly learn that we have far more in common and share a whole lot more than there are differences. A quick look through the index of this blog made me realise that the majority of the books on The Parrish Lantern, started out their lives in a language different to the one I read them in, writers like – Roberto Bolano, Yukio Mishima, Italo Calvino, Deyan Enev, Pablo Neruda, Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Alois Hotschnig, Kobo Abe, Alessandro Baricco, Hans Fallada & many more, all of whom I read in a translated form.

Which brings me to this book “ Why Translation Matters” by Edith Grossman. In this book the writer/ translator stakes out her claim for the importance of translation and the role of the translator, she says in the introduction that:
“My intention is to stimulate a new consideration of an area of literature that is too often ignored, misunderstood or misrepresented. As the world seems to grow smaller and more interdependent and interconnected while at the same time, nations and peoples paradoxically become increasingly antagonistic to one another, translation has an important function to fulfil that I believe must be cherished and nurtured. Translation not only plays its important traditional role as the means that allows us access to literature originally written in one of the countless languages we cannot read, but it also represents a concrete literary presence with the crucial capacity to ease and make more meaningful relationships to those with whom we may not have had a connection with before. Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar. As nations and as individuals, we may have a critical need for that kind of understanding and insight. The alternative is unthinkable.”

http://parrishlantern.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/preaching-to-converted-why-translat... ( )
  parrishlantern | Jun 29, 2012 |
When one of the best translators working today write a book about translation and its meaning, the book cannot be bad. Or so I thought.

"Why Translation Matter" is a short and easily readable book. But this is where the good parts end. Grossman spends a lot of those pages wondering why UK and US publishers publish a lot less translations than their non-English colleagues (and somehow it does not even cross her mind that maybe the reason is that a non-English editor has a bigger choice in all language except their own (where this subset includes English) than an English editor has in non-English books; grumbling that reviewers don't even bother to mention translators (her thesis is that the translator is more important that the author and that when a reviewer praises someone's style, they praise the translator style; not to mention that all reviewers should be bilingual and should have read both versions) and generally complaining how hard it is to be a translator. The first time you read this, you smile. The second time, you get annoyed. When she started on that again, I was wondering why I keep reading. Add to this a complaint that no editor would even look at a non-English book until they see 2 chapters and a resume (or something like that) translated and the whole "How hard it is to be a translator and how everyone hates us" is getting loud and clear.

Not that the book does not have good moments but they get lost under all that trash.

When she is not writing about that, she is convincing the reader that translations allow everyone to sample the world literature; that authors and readers expand their horizons because of the translations and so on... which is what I expected to read about in the book. Except that these arguments are getting repeated again and again.

She cites a lot of authors about translations; she has a few interesting stories to tell - both personal and from the history of the translation. And these save the book a little bit. Only a little.

And then comes the third chapter. It is about translating poetry and it could have been the saving grace of the book... despite all the mess of the first two chapters and the introduction. After a few pages of general things about poetry and her experience, Grossman decides to go technical - comparing Spanish and English texts and discussing specific choices... which you cannot judge or even understand in some cases if you do not know Spanish. And then she finishes the chapter with a Spanish/English poem that requires you to know both languages. She does not even attempt to translate it or to give literal translations to the example poems and sonnets she is using -- literal translation is bad and I agree with her on that but when she discusses why she chose a different meaning or words, a literal "this is what the Spanish text is saying" would have helped. I do not speak Spanish. At all -- so this last chapter was... undecipherable. I read it - but it just made no sense without knowing the language.

A book that could have been very good was drown into mediocrity. She is a great translator (or so I am led to believe - not speaking any Spanish, I cannot decide for myself - but I know that I can read the books she translated and they sound good) but something in this attempt to justify the profession simply did not work.

The funny part is that I am the last person that needs convincing that translation is needed -- my native language is one of the small languages so most of the world classics came to me in translation; and I had dabbed into translation myself- including poetry. And yet, the book might have convinced me that translators are people that care only about seeing their names in print and who are more concerned about their craft and getting their message across than anything else.

Translators are important - but not in the way the author of this book is trying to make them be important.... ( )
2 vote AnnieMod | Mar 6, 2012 |
Edith Grossman, translator of notables such as Cervantes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, explains in short essay form the perspective of those who transform literature from one language into another. She brings up the woeful plight of the translator, underpaid and unappreciated, and stresses how many of the world's favorite works owe their enduring popularity to those tireless workers. She brings up a good point. How often when you read Nabokov or Aristotle do you realize that you are reading a translated work? Because the words flow just as easily in on tongue as in another, we too often give all the credit to the original author. Grossman argues that the translator should have equal billing.

It was a tough point to get at first, but she won me over when she described how the myth of literal translation is damaging to the craft. Grossman describes how she weighs more on translating the rhythm, cadence, and essence of words, rather than obsess over finding the exact word translation (because often there is none.)

Grossman is an obvious lover of words, her verbosity is better suited for readers in academia, but that is perhaps her exact audience for these essays. The first one, the Introduction, took up almost half of the book, and I felt like it could have been easily cut down. The wonderful later essays, where she decribes the actual work of translation, should have been expanded instead.

I came away from this book with a greater appreciation for translated works. I know I'll be checking my next reading from a foreign author to see exactly who the translator is and how he or she is credited. ( )
  StoutHearted | Jun 9, 2011 |
Edith Grossman is an award winning translator of Spanish language novelists and poets such as Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, Jaime Manrique and Nicanor Parra, who is best known and respected for her recent translation of "Don Quixote" (which I read several years ago and highly recommend). This book was based on a series of lectures that she recently gave at Yale, as part of the university's "Why X Matters" series.

The book is divided into four sections: an introduction, in which Grossman convincingly makes the case for the importance of translation for authors, readers, and modern societies; an insightful discussion of the life of a translator, including interactions with writers, readers and publishing companies; a description of the joys and difficulties she faced in translating "Don Quixote"; and the challenges of translating modern and Renaissance poetry. According to Grossman, a good translator must not simply transcribe the text word by word from one language to the other; she must understand the prose or poem as fully as possible, and rewrite the work in the second language, while maintaining its rhythm and the intent of the writer.

The book includes quotes from influential writers and translators about the importance of this underappreciated craft, and ends with a list of translated books recommended by Grossman.

I found "Why Translation Matters" to be very well written and most insightful, which gave me a much better understanding and appreciation of the art of translation, in a conversational style that was easy to digest. She skewers publishers and reviewers in the UK and US for their narrow minded attitudes and ignorance about translated literature and the process of translation, which at times seemed overly personal, but this is a minor critique of an otherwise brilliant and highly recommended work. ( )
7 vote kidzdoc | Aug 15, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300126565, Hardcover)

Why Translation Matters argues for the cultural importance of translation and for a more encompassing and nuanced appreciation of the translator’s role. As the acclaimed translator Edith Grossman writes in her introduction, “My intention is to stimulate a new consideration of an area of literature that is too often ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented.”

For Grossman, translation has a transcendent importance: “Translation not only plays its important traditional role as the means that allows us access to literature originally written in one of the countless languages we cannot read, but it also represents a concrete literary presence with the crucial capacity to ease and make more meaningful our relationships to those with whom we may not have had a connection before. Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar. As nations and as individuals, we have a critical need for that kind of understanding and insight. The alternative is unthinkable.”

Throughout the four chapters of this bracing volume, Grossman’s belief in the crucial significance of the translator’s work, as well as her rare ability to explain the intellectual sphere that she inhabits as interpreter of the original text, inspires and provokes the reader to engage with translation in an entirely new way.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:24 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Why Translation Matters argues for the cultural importance of translation and for a more encompassing and nuanced appreciation of the translator's role. As the acclaimed translator Edith Grossman writes in her introduction, "My intention is to stimulate a new consideration of an area of literature that is too often ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented." For Grossman, translation has a transcendent importance: "Translation not only plays its important traditional role as the means that allows us access to literature originally written in one of the countless languages we cannot read, but it also represents a concrete literary presence with the crucial capacity to ease and make more meaningful our relationships to those with whom we may not have had a connection before. Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar. As nations and as individuals, we have a critical need for that kind of understanding and insight. The alternative is unthinkable"." -- Book jacket.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Yale University Press

Two editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300126565, 0300171307

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