Why Translation Matters

Monday, July 12, 2010

Acclaimed translator Edith Grossman explains the cultural importance of translation. Her book Why Translation Matters looks at why translation is often ignored or misunderstood. She’ll be joined by Laurence Senelick, who just published translations of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, and The Seagull; and Idra Novey, executive director of Columbia University’s Center for Literary Translation, whose most recent book of poetry is The Next Country.


Edith Grossman, Idra Novey and Laurence Senelick

Comments [9]

Amy from Manhattan

Catalan is definitely not close to Portuguese. Gallego, spoken in Galicia, in the NW corner of Spain (north of Portugal), is much closer. (Why, yes, I was a Spanish major!)

Jul. 12 2010 12:38 PM
Matt C from Buffalo, NY

Adán Buenosayres, Leopoldo Marechal. Every year that passes, I can't believe there isn't an English-language version. When my career settles down a bit, I might do it myself.

Jul. 12 2010 12:38 PM
Shari R from Somers, NY

I remember my friend Matt Ward explaining why he was asked in the 80's to translate Camus' The Stranger again--to capture the sound of the original language. The English translation that I read in high school was deemed too wordy. In the American translation, Matt (a poet and writer himself) aimed to rediscover the influence of Hemingway in Camus' prose--less verbose and more terse.

Jul. 12 2010 12:38 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I'm glad Leonard asked about translating puns. I agree w/the guests' answers, & I'd say the same applies to characters' pronunciation & grammar: there may not be any form that directly corresponds to "ain't," for example, but there are grammatical forms that are disapproved of in other languages. Or a character who pronounces -ado endings as -ao in Spanish could use -in' instead of -ing endings in an English translation, even though the endings will be on different words.

Jul. 12 2010 12:32 PM
Stan from Montclair, NJ

What about Robert Lowell's approach to translation? He called them "imitations." Half him, half the original writer. Also, translators taking over the piece, such as Chapman's Homer and Pope's Homer.

Jul. 12 2010 12:31 PM
Kate Savoca

Eamon Grennan and Rachel Kitzinger did a collaborative translation of Sophocles' "Oedipus at Colonnus." Grennan is a poet and translator (of Italian, Leopardi) and a professor of English at Vassar. Kitzinger is a professor of classics at Vassar. Kitzinger did an original literal translation, Grennan worked it as poetry then showed it to Kitzinger again to be sure he had not strayed from the original too much. A labor-intensive but worthwhile process.

Jul. 12 2010 12:21 PM
Gene from NYC

I slogged through The Magic Mountain for hundreds of pages before it finally struck me: hey, this is really, really, hilariously funny!

So I reread it, and LOVED it.

I read the first page or so of this new translation, worried the effort to let the humor through would be too arch.

No, it's subtle, but effective. I can't wait to reread TMM with this translation (after I finish Inherent Vice).

Jul. 12 2010 12:19 PM
Bobby G from East Village

I've been reading translations of contemporary Spanish language authors -- not only Roberto Bolano, but Evelio Rosero.

Jul. 12 2010 12:19 PM
CL from New York

Good show. Another example of why The Leonard Lopate Show is easily the best thing on WNYC.

Jul. 12 2010 12:16 PM

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