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The Translator

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  925 Ratings  ·  169 Reviews
In silken prose and with subtle suspense, Nina Schuyler brings us a mesmerizing novel of language and translation, memory loss and heartbreak, and the search for answers in a foreign country.

When renowned translator Hanne Schubert falls down a flight of stairs, her injury is an unusual but real condition--the loss of her native language. She is left speaking only Japanese
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published July 1st 2013 by Pegasus Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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(showing 1-30)
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Hanne is a polyglot. She uses her language skills to teach and translate. But then one day the unthinkable happens: she falls down a marble staircase and as the result of a brain injury finds herself unable to speak anything but Japanese. No longer being able to communicate with locals in San Francisco, she takes up an offer of an assignment in Japan.

That very briefly is the plot. However, the novel is so much more than that. It explores the power of language and communication and, more importan
Jul 16, 2013 Samadrita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the ones waiting to be heard and understood
I have always frowned upon people who seem to think that reading is a mere pastime, barely suppressing the resentment I felt for those who consider the act of complete engagement with a narrative akin to a childish desire of letting go of reality for a while and stepping into a world detached from our own. I believed them to be ignorant, presumptuous and hopelessly prejudiced.

But after having read The Translator, I feel like I have gained enlightenment, become a more empathetic and thoughtful be
Jul 03, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Originally published on my blog at

The first thing that intrigued me about this book was the cover. Isn't it striking? I know we're not supposed to judge books by their covers but how could I not? This one is gorgeous.

I was looking forward to reading The Translator for a few reasons. The premise sounded fab. Can you imagine what it would be like to lose the ability to speak your native language? Also, I enjoy reading about Asian cultures. I was eager to learn more
Jun 26, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it
My friend Paul, a math teacher and avid reader, was given a pre-release copy and found it very affecting. I borrowed his. Typically I grow bored with a book and give up on it but this one I read through. My last book was 1Q84 so I was primed for the story of a Japanese translator. Schuyler quite nicely opens up the wrestling and choices a good translator must make, and joy and pride in believing she got it right, the intellectual rigor in toying with words and ideas, and in letting us understand ...more
The Translator, A Novel
By Nina Schuyler
Narrated by Kirsten Potter
9 hours 18 minutes
Published July 2nd 2013 by AudioGO
ISBN- 1482101467

This audio version of The Translator was provided to this reviewer by AudioGO for an honest review.

This book wonderfully translated into audio. The narrator captures Hanne Schubert’s character. Not an easy task considering the number of languages that she had to use. There were a few times during these passages in which there might have been some carefulness in the
Aug 19, 2013 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it

This is one of those light and slightly ethereal books where my opinion of it might waver in the breeze. Today it seems in sync with my spirit; ask me next week I might more revisit its weaknesses.

The (titular) Translator, Hanne, a 53 year-old polyglot and mother of a successful, attorney son Tomas and daughter with a troubled soul Brigitte, is finshing up the translation of a Japanese novel into English when an accident in her hometown (San Francisco) causes her to lose her primary language, l
I have to give this book 5 stars for the shear emotional impact it had on me.

To say that this story explores language and words is banal. It is myriads more. I'm afraid that I don't have the mechanics in language to express the depth of this book. There are people so much better at it than I - Nina Schuyler to name one. But let me try.

When Hanne Schubert, a gifted translator, falls and sustains a brain injury, losing her ability to speak all languages but Japanese, she goes on a journey of self
Feb 07, 2017 Ms.pegasus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the art of translation
Shelves: fiction, japan
Translating a work of literature into another language is a daunting task. A character speaks. Is he being ironic or straightforward? Is he addressing other fictional characters or is he speaking directly to the reader? Or, is he telling himself a story that he doesn't even believe, an argument between warring parts of his psyche? Grammar provides an important clue. Hanne Schubert, the eponymous translator in this novel, has been working for nearly a year on a translation from Japanese into Engl ...more
Jun 18, 2013 Owen rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I really liked the idea of this book, and even if the execution wasn't as great as I would have liked, I still feel like it is a good book. The concept is original and the problems the characters faced were realistic, but the writing and plot held the book down at times. In the same way that the main character, Hanne, is a translator, a connection between writer and readers of different linguistic backgrounds; I felt like her purpose was to not necessarily connect the people around her but augme ...more
Jun 20, 2013 Lianne rated it it was amazing
I received a galley copy of this novel to read in exchange for an honest review.

The Translator is a wonderful, beautiful, thought-provoking novel; I honestly could not put it down once I started reading it. Having studied a few languages in recent years, I've come to appreciate the tricky and detailed job that translators have and I enjoyed reading how the character Hanne approached the job and her understanding of the Japanese language.

I also enjoyed reading about Hanne's time in Japan and the
Bernie Hafeli
Jul 29, 2013 Bernie Hafeli rated it it was amazing
Such a compelling, beautifully written novel. Hanne Schubert, who as a translator prides herself on getting things right, manages to get it all wrong, not just in her latest translation assignment but in her relationship with her estranged daughter. Using the precision of language and translation as a metaphor for how Hanne relates to the world, Nina Schuyler tells a fascinating, richly textured story that takes us from San Francisco to Japan to a small village in India, and leaves Hanne, a woma ...more
Jun 21, 2013 Melinda rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written story about the journey a woman takes when she loses her first language. It is the tale of a woman who discovers herself through a deep look inward and to her past, to how she has lived her life, the beliefs she has held. It is a story of perception and misconception. It is about living your best life. It is a story about the possibility to change.

The book is a little confusing in the beginning, but quickly finds its rhythm. The writing is incredible and the story i
Dec 31, 2016 Lori rated it it was amazing
Audio version: If you’re a parent who has made some real mistakes with raising your kids, or one who is having a hard time with a child, this is a book to listen to. The main character, Hanne, shows us that we never really grow up, we are constantly growing up. And it takes some of us a lot longer than others to make any progress. It's beautifully written and the narrator was the perfect choice.
So I won this book through the Goodreads first reads giveaway a while ago. I know I know, it's taken me a long time to actually sit down and read this book and review it and everything. I know, I'm terrible. But I've been so busy lately that I haven't had time to read, tragic story.

Secondly, I haven't actually finished this book, and I'm really not so sure if I will. And the reason for that is, I guess mostly I just don't have much interest in it. This book is supposed to be a self-discovery of
~✡~Dαni(ela) ♥ ♂♂ love & semi-colons~✡~
A slow, languid, strangely hypnotic read, The Translator introduces us to Hanne who speaks languages for a living. Dutch/German by birth and upbringing but currently living in the States, Hanne teaches Japanese at a San Francisco university and is working on a Japanese-to-English translation of a novel by one of Japan's up and coming authors. She becomes so wrapped up in the novel that she essentially imposes her own ideas and thoughts about the characters onto her translation; she doesn't so mu ...more
Jul 25, 2013 James rated it it was amazing
This is a very thought provoking book, ostensibly about literature translation, but it becomes a lot more. It's about a 50-something woman who translates books from Japanese to English and her experience translating a new Japanese novel which has swept Japan. She really gets into it, and, as a matter of fact, really gets a crush on the main male character. He is a professional musician who has been caring for his wife for some years, then finally has to put her in a mental institution as he just ...more
Aug 06, 2013 Anne rated it it was amazing
In the post “Born Again in a Second Language”, Costica Bradatan writes: “if for any reason the writer has to change languages, the experience is nothing short of life-threatening … Changing languages is not for the fainthearted, nor for the impatient” (The Opinion Pages of the NYT, Aug. 4, 2013). This is indeed the situation faced by Hanne Schubert, the title character in Nina Schuyler’s The Translator, when she loses her native language as the result of a fall down the stairs. As Bradatan puts ...more
Aug 07, 2013 Mikekarpa rated it really liked it
As a Japanese translator myself, of course I wanted to read this book. I wasn't disappointed. I found the book compelling and became quickly interested in the narrator and her life. It didn't hurt that I got to read someone else's thoughts about the process of translating. I didn't sense Japanese language lurking behind the English "translations" that are part of the book, so I suspect Schuyler is not a Japanese speaker herself, but I was so glad she took on this subject. As a translator I inevi ...more
Jun 14, 2013 Harvee rated it it was amazing
The main character Hanne Schubert has finished translating a book for Kobayashi, a Japanese novelist, who rejects her translation and her version of his main character, Jiro. She travels to Japan to meet the Noh actor, Moto, who is the real life model for the character in Kobayashi's book. This trip is easy for her as Hanne has lost all memory of her native language, English, and all other languages, expect for Japanese. This came as a result of an unfortunate fall and head injury.

Meeting Moto,
Jul 31, 2014 Aura rated it it was amazing
This was one of the best books I have read in a long time. Hanne Schubert is a translator of books and good at her job. Ironically this talented translator has trouble interpreting her daughter's sensitive nature and pains. After a fall, Hanne suffers a head trauma and she loses all her languages except one. I was incredibly moved by Hanne introspective journey back to language but more importantly back to life and her daughter. Nina Schyler is an insightful writer that stands above.
Aug 23, 2013 Natasha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
I have to say that I'm disappointed. I expected much more from this book. But there is no plot, almost nothing is going on. Just some soul-searching that wasn't written very well.
The end wasn't satisfying either. Boring, all the way till the end.
Aug 25, 2013 Cara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
The Translator was a quietly forceful and evocative story. Nina Schuyler paints a portrait of a woman in crisp oils, while the world around her swims in watercolors. There are absolutely some gorgeous lines of words wrapped into each other like chocolates in a satin box. Further, the beauty in her writing is the images that stay even as the words melt from a language of human misunderstanding towards an evolving compassion.

I received the book as a first-read, and having never received a book fro
Robert Wechsler
Apr 27, 2015 Robert Wechsler rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-lit
This is the first novel I know of that has acknowledged my book Performing Without a Stage: The Art of Literary Translation (for research purposes). Schuyler's take on translation focuses on the results of the translator’s emotional limitations on her interpretation of the protagonist of a Japanese novel she has translated. This is something I never considered. Limitations of knowledge and life experience, yes. But not emotional limitations. This is an excellent driver for a novel, but the novel ...more
Jul 16, 2013 Jason rated it it was amazing
I really like the premise behind this story and, while maybe not a perfect 5, I thought it was better than a 4. (I wish there was the option to give half a star).

What I took most from this novel is that, so often in life, we form an opinion on something or assume a particular stance, and then move on without thinking to revisit our opinion or stance. We close it up in a box and categorize it, assuming we are right in what we believe and our opinion won't change. However, if we give ourselves the
Dec 09, 2013 Pat rated it really liked it
I found the book fascinating. The protagonist, a translator, has a brain injury that causes her to lose all her languages except Japanese. Her life as a translator is over. She goes to Japan to meet the author whose work she translated and is told her translation was a travesty. She meets the Noh actor who on whom the character in the novel was based. He, like her, is completely blocked from performing his art.

The main story, about the pain caused by adult children who intentionally or otherwise
Renae Lucas-Hall
Aug 27, 2014 Renae Lucas-Hall rated it it was amazing
This novel by Nina Schuyler truly surpassed my expectations. I write Japan-related fiction and I've worked as a translator in the past and Schuyler's understanding of the Japanese culture as well as the Japanese mind-set is very impressive. This is clearly evident in the dialogue between Hanne and the Japanese characters Moto and Renzo. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful interpretation of an American woman who travels to Japan to find herself as she searches for the answers that will validate h ...more
May 21, 2013 Autumn rated it it was amazing
This was such an interesting and unique read. I instantly thought of this book when I heard of a man from Florida who was recently found and did not have any memory of who he was. The strange thing... he did not speak English and could only speak Swedish.

This was such a delight to read, and while it was beautifully written, I agree that it was not pretentious and hard to get into. I would highly recommend this book to everyone! Also, like another reviewer said, isn’t the cover gorgeous?! That is
May 07, 2013 Amber rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lariat-noms-2013
I got my digital review copy through Edelweiss.

Absolutely beautiful prose, but not so high handed that it is difficult to read - it was really a joy to read.

Would be a good book club book with discussion questions about the role of parents - imposition of will vs. guidance vs. accepting our children as they are.
Jan 01, 2016 Daniela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
"The passive voice, a passive verb, present perfect; she is not the agent, but the object of the sentence, the world acting upon her."

I totally recognized "After Babel" underneath the passages concerning translation theory. Such a marvelous reading.
Apr 20, 2013 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Nina Schuyler is an amazing writer, and this book is intriguing, complex, and deeply imagined. This is a true original and a wonderful story. Do check it out.
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I'm delighted that my next novel, The Translator will be published July 1, 2013 by Pegasus Books. You can read a synopsis on my web site, My first novel, The Painting was named a Best Book by the San Francisco Chronicle and was nominated for a Northern California Book Award.
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“Every situation, every person has a melody playing, even if you can’t hear it.” 2 likes
“In Latin, translate comes from translatus, to carry over, to carry across. Something written in language A is carried over into language B. I always imagine a bridge in which language A is traveling over to meet B. Sometimes when I’m translating, the languages blend together in my mind, and when I hear this, what gets carried over isn’t a grandiose idea. The songs merge together and what is brought forth is a new song. Such stunning and mysterious harmony. That probably sounds silly, but it’s the closest I’ve come to believing in something more, something other than this, something of awe that humbles me. Not a god, but a sound.” 2 likes
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