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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (4 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300171307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300171303
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.3 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 428,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"'Here, in the first of a new series from Yale University Press, she makes a passionate and provocative case for the continuing importance of literary translation, art that she believes has been "too often ignored", misunderstood or misrepresented.' (London Review of Books) '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) '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) '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)"

About the Author

Edith Grossman is the acclaimed translator of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 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 Sofia Spanish Institute Translation Prize in 2010. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in New York.

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By Mr. N. G. AUSTIN on 10 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An immense disapointment from a justifiably famous literary translator. More about the social status of translators amongst the literati than a reflection in depth on translations and translating.
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Format: Paperback
This ought to be compulsory reading for all those interested in translation, language, Spanish and Latin American literature as well as for all US-based publishers.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. Bannon on 8 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
Grossman's style is often chatty and highly personal, yet imbued with the depth and breadth of experience one would expect from such an accomplished translator. The first three sections were delivered as part of the Why X Matters lecture series at Yale University in 2008--as such, they sparkle with the author's unique wit and joy in her topic. That sense of joy, above all else, makes this book immensely readable. An expert's enthusiasm is often contagious and Grossman is no exception. Consider her description of the rich experience of her craft: 'On occasion, at a certain point in the translation of a book, I have been lucky enough to hit the sweet spot, when I can begin to imagine that the author and I have started to speak together---never in unison, certainly but in a kind of satisfying harmony. . . . The experience is exhilarating, symbiotic, certainly metaphorical, and absolutely crucial if I am to do what I am supposed to do---somehow get into the author's head and behind the author's eyes and re-create in English the writer's linguistic perceptions.' (pp. 82-83)

Grossman explains in detail the necessary negotiations with the original text to create something unique, a translated book. 'It seems clear that a translated work does have an existence separate from and different from the first text, if only because it is written in another language. . . . And here I mean 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.' (pp. 74-75) This observation, coupled with her perspective that all translation is possible--indeed, essential--gives readers a peek into a little understood literary field.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rozgar on 11 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
as it is described .. thanks a lot for the offer!!!!!! just as best as it had to be! :)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 14 reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Superb -- To my mind, essential reading for all interested in literature in translation 23 Mar. 2010
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
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. Good translations are good because they are faithful to this contextual significance. They are not necessarily faithful to words or syntax, * * * because words do not `mean' in isolation. Words `mean' as indispensable parts of a contextual whole that includes the emotional tone and impact, the literary antecedents, the connotative nimbus as well as the denotations of each statement."

Thus, for Grossman, translation is an interpretive art - akin to an actor performing Shakespeare or a pianist performing a Beethoven piano sonata. Indeed, it is almost as if the translator is another author, another creative writer, albeit paradoxically still tethered to the original author's story, tone, intentions, and level of discourse. This attitude is behind Borges's reported instructions to one of his translators to write not what Borges had said but what he had meant to say.

The discussion of the creativity of translation is to me the most interesting part of the book. In addition to that subject, part of the book is devoted more directly to the topic denoted by the title - "why translation matters". What Grossman says on this topic is pretty much what one would anticipate: Translation exponentially expands the audience for classics of literature and the products of foreign perspectives and experience, and it broadens considerably a reader's understanding of the human experience. It also enables the literary tradition of any language to be infused with fresh ideas, both substantively and stylistically, as is illustrated by the profound effect that Faulkner (in translation) had on many Latin American writers, who in turn later influenced (in translation) more contemporary writers in English.

As someone who has been immeasurably enriched by reading foreign literature in translation, I cannot sing highly enough my praise for WHY TRANSLATION MATTERS. I expect that it will prove of similar urgent interest to all who are sensitive to, bewildered by, or in awe of the art of translation.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
An eye-opening book about translators and their significant contributions 12 April 2010
By Israel Drazin - Published on Amazon.com
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. The great philosopher Moses Maimonides (1138-1204), for example, who spent a decade composing his book on philosophy and was careful in selecting every word, told his translator, who rendered his Guide of the Perplexed from its original Arabic to Hebrew, not to translate his philosophical masterpiece literally. He wrote to him:

"The translator who proposes to render each word literally and adhere slavishly to the order of the words and sentences in the original, will meet much difficulty and the result will be doubtful and corrupt. This is not the right method. The translator should first try to grasp the sense of the subject thoroughly, and then state the theme with perfect clarity in the other language. This however, cannot be done without changing the order of words, putting many words for one word, or vice versa, and adding or taking away words, so that the subject be perfectly intelligible in the language into which he translates." (Translated by Leon D. Stitskin in his Letters of Maimonides, Yeshiva University Press, New York, 1977.)

Maimonides' use of translations proves Grossman's point about the need for translations to acquire information, for without being able to read translations, Maimonides probably would not have known enough to write his famous philosophical book. Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed is based in large part upon the Greek Aristotle's philosophy. However, Maimonides did not know Greek, the language Aristotle used. Maimonides' knowledge of Aristotle's philosophy came from the translations of the Greek into Arabic, a language he understood.

Grossman focuses primarily on novels and poetry, and not on philosophical writings, such as those by Maimonides. However, her thoughts, as can be seen in the above quote, apply to all literature. They also apply to the Bible.
Most of the millions of people who read the Bible forget that the Scripture they read is a translation from the Hebrew in regard to the Torah, and the Greek or, according to some scholars, from Aramaic to Greek to English, for the New Testament. They fail to realize that what they are reading frequently, indeed very frequently, is different than what is in the original.

For example, should the opening words of the Torah be translated "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," as most translations render the Hebrew words, even though the heaven and earth were not the first creations, as can be seen in the next sentences. Or should the Hebrew be translated "In the beginning when God created the heaven and earth," as the eleventh century French commentator Rashi insisted; the later indicating that heaven and earth were not the first creation.

Or take another example, the noun "Lord" as another name for God is well-known, but the fact is that "Lord" is not the name in the text. The Torah has the Tetragrammaton, the four letter name of God. When the Bible was translated for the first time, from Hebrew into Greek in about 250 BCE for Jews living in Egypt who spoke Greek, in a work called the Septuagint, the translators felt it was inappropriate to render God's name into Greek, so they substituted the word "Lord." Most future translations continued this practice. As a result, readers of the Hebrew Bible in translation are reading what the Bible does not say.

Grossman's book is important. It raises our consciousness to the role and contributions of translators and how we need to respect their efforts and encourage publishers to use them much more frequently.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Translation Matters - A Lot 9 Jun. 2010
By Glynn Young - Published on Amazon.com
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. Languages are full of expressions, artifacts, histories, nuances, hidden meanings and all of the other components of culture that may - or may not - translate well. And even if they translate well, they can't really ever be exact, because the experience that shaped Spanish, for example, is not the same that created English. The translator faces the task of remaining true to the author's words and intent, but that dedication can mean, and often does mean, continuing to "write" the work in hand. In that sense, translation means that no literary work is actually ever "finished."

Grossman tackles these issues head on. And it's because of translators like Grossman that we have anything resembling a "world literature" instead of fragmented collections of "national literatures."

Just a few years ago, Grossman translated "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes. She had first read Don Quixote in English, translated by Samuel Putnam - the same translation of Don Quixote I first read and fell in love with. Her translation has met wide acclaim, and she talks extensively about it in her third essay in "Why Translation Matters."

I knew her work before I met her in this volume. In fact, I've read at least seven novels she has translated, and I learned that I could see "Translated by Edith Grossman" on a book's title page and know that I was holding a novel that would be well worth my time to read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent and readable book about the importance of translation to writers, readers and societies 23 Aug. 2010
By Darryl R. Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Joy in Translation 8 July 2010
By D. Bannon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Grossman's style is often chatty and highly personal, yet imbued with the depth and breadth of experience one would expect from such an accomplished translator. The first three sections were delivered as part of the Why X Matters lecture series at Yale University in 2008--as such, they sparkle with the author's unique wit and joy in her topic. That sense of joy, above all else, makes this book immensely readable. An expert's enthusiasm is often contagious and Grossman is no exception. Consider her description of the rich experience of her craft: 'On occasion, at a certain point in the translation of a book, I have been lucky enough to hit the sweet spot, when I can begin to imagine that the author and I have started to speak together---never in unison, certainly but in a kind of satisfying harmony. . . . The experience is exhilarating, symbiotic, certainly metaphorical, and absolutely crucial if I am to do what I am supposed to do---somehow get into the author's head and behind the author's eyes and re-create in English the writer's linguistic perceptions.' (pp. 82-83)

Grossman explains in detail the necessary negotiations with the original text to create something unique, a translated book. 'It seems clear that a translated work does have an existence separate from and different from the first text, if only because it is written in another language. . . . And here I mean 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.' (pp. 74-75) This observation, coupled with her perspective that all translation is possible--indeed, essential--gives readers a peek into a little understood literary field. Her style is accessible to general readers and will interest professionals and anyone that loves a good book.

D. Bannon is a professional translator and the author of The Elements of Subtitles, Revised and Expanded Edition: A Practical Guide to the Art of Dialogue, Character, Context, Tone and Style in Subtitling
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