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Why Translation Matters (Why X Matters Series)

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  203 ratings  ·  40 reviews
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, t
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Yale University Press (first published February 18th 2010)
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I've read a couple of Grossman's translations, and was looking forward to seeing what she had to say on the art of translation. Not much, as it turns out, though we do learn a lot about her opinions of book reviewers.

I especially took issue with the following sentence:

"I am certainly not lamenting the fact that most reviewers do not make one-for-one lexical comparisons in order to point out whatever mistakes the translator may have made--a useless enterprise that enlightens no one since the book
Edith Grossman, renowned Spanish-to-English literary translator, has taken on the challenge of explaining why translation matters. She scarcely mentions non-literary translation, so a better title would be: Why does literary translation matter?

Another book on the subject of translation is “Is that a Fish in your Eye?” by David Bellos. He does discuss other forms of translation, such as business translation, and offers a good explication of Google Translate, which is clearly not on Ms. Grossman’
Why Translation Matters is divided up into several several sections: an Introduction, Why Translation Matters, Translating Cervantes, and Translating Poetry. Unfortunately, though there were interesting points in them, almost the entirety of the first two sections and most of the third could have been probably combined into one and titled "Translators Get No Respect". It seemed less a defence of translation, less an explanation of just why translation is a valuable literary function, and more an ...more
I was pretty excited about this book, thinking it would give me enough to think about without requiring me to really become a scholar of the field; I'm a big fan of the Very Short Introduction series, and also a dilettante, so I figured this'd be perfect. It also probably counts that I spent a year in a translation studies department overseas, without really understanding what was going on well enough to really form opinions and prejudices.

Well, this book, for the most part, didn't help. Grossma
Being a person who appreciates the work of translators, I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, I didn't. I was expecting a brilliant defense of translation as art and craft, and all this book does is say over and over, "Translation is an art! Translation is a craft! Please credit us (translators) in your book reviews!" Although the section on Golden-Age Spanish poetry, with its side-by-side comparisons of the original and translated texts, was fascinating.

If you want a better argument
Julia Beck

Another brilliant exposé of the cultural world of literature. Edith Grossman writes fluently and insightfully on the role of translation in disseminating seminal literatures across languages.
Max Nemtsov
Мое глубокое убеждение — переводчик должен переводить, а не разговаривать о переводе. Бывают, конечно, исключения, но они редки — как вот эта книжка, построенная на лекциях, например, но до определенной степени. Эдит Гроссмен, выдающаяся переводчица с испанского на английский, — совершенно наш чувак, и очень многое из того, что она тут говорит, очень точно ложится на картинку переводческого и издательского дела в ръяз-пространстве (надо только заметить Штаты на Россию), — говорит с горечью и жел ...more
This book is, to put it nicely, pretty useless. It sings praises to translators / translations but it's just so oblivious to the problems involved in translation e.g. cultural appropriation, translators acting as 'guardians' of a certain foreign culture, translators purposely mistranslating texts, especially non-Western ones, to 'clean' them up / do away with references to sex - or, on the contrary, making the texts really 'sensual' (good example for this are the various translations of Arabian ...more
Interesting account/defense of the art of translation. At times I both sympathized with and was annoyed by how defensive Grossman occasionally became: it’s true that most people, from highly esteemed literary critics down to myself, don’t give translation enough thought, tending to ignore it when it’s done well and mention it only to criticize. (If you go back through my reviews of translated books, I’m sure you will indeed find that where I’ve mentioned the translation/translator at all, it’s t ...more
Edith Grossman is my favorite translator and she gives me lots of arguments to counter my son's scholarly preference for reading literature in the original. No, I cannot learn all the languages. Translation is a beautiful thing. I do have to work on my book club; only 9% of our reading was written in a language other than English. Appalling.
In this thoughtful short book, Edith Grossman, the famed translator of Cervantes and Marquez, explores historical and contemporary notions of what literary translation is and what it does. In making her argument for the importance of translation, she elegantly demolishes a pile of long-standing cliches and misunderstandings about the topic.
Worth reading for the introduction alone, where Grossman passionately and convincingly argues for the value of literary translation, which is often undervalued, unacknowledged, and misunderstood. Particularly good on making the case that the translator is a *writer*, and must be as sensitive to all the contexts and nuances as any author or reader; and on how different language's literary traditions inform and interpenetrate each other - e.g. Renaissance Italy forms and models adopted by English ...more
I have always known that the English speaking world is somewhat reluctant to embrace anything foreign and loves to label it as "exotic" and distance itself from literature or movies coming from other, non-English based cultures, but I was still surprised to see the statistics quoted by Edith Grossman in her book:

"Our world as dedicated readers depends on the availability of translated works, classical and contemporary, yet in English-speaking nations, major commercial publishers are strangely re
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,
I read this book because I thought it would be interesting to read about translation from the woman who translates Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Fuentes and most recently Cervantes. But I was a bit surprised by how powerful it was. It seems rather elementary when you think about it, but without translation we wouldn't be able to read the classics nor any literature coming from a culture other than our own. We would be cut off from the world around us. Translators are as much artists as the write ...more
Anne Van
This was a happy coincidence.....running into this book right after finishing Carlos Fuentes' "Destiny and Desire" that Edith Grossman translated. What stuck me about the cover was that the translater's name was given equal size and billing as the writer's! I know that Edith Grossman has some acclaim as a translator, in particular her newish translation of Cervantes' "Don Quixote". I'm still batting around some her ideas.....basically, that the translator is the "writer" of the translated work. ...more
I was already sold on the value of translations, both of
whole pieces of writing and of excerpts from foreign works
that are incorporated--often highlighted--in things written
in English, the only language I can really read. The news
to me were the details of how U.S. and U.K. publishers limit
what we get in translation. So short-sighted of them, and of
the critics who also don't get it. Grossman has specialized in
translations from Spanish to English, both prose and poetry.
The last section of t
It has been a while since I read this book and I forgot it on the "currently reading" shelf. I was disappointed in it, not because I don't agree with the polemic, most of it is obviously true although I am not in agreement that a translator is equal with the author! I had hoped for something more subtle or thought provoking, on the one hand more philosophical and on the other more nitty gritty examples. I do not read Spanish so any examples finally offered were lost on me; perhaps I have no righ ...more
Yvette Neisser Moreno
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this for the 2nd time in as many years. While I found the intro a bit heavy-handed and some of the writing a bit overly academic, Grossman's comments on translation are brilliant, illuminating, and often quite entertaining. As a literary translator myself, I found her discussion of her approach to translating both "Don Quixote" and poetry very helpful--she presented some angles that I hadn't considered before.

Reading this book (along with having attended a lecture by
2.5 stars. Meh. I wanted to like this more. I do think translation matters. But this felt repetitive.
An interesting, cursory look at Grossman's theory of translation - an obviously less regarded and disregarded by many artform. She questions where it stands in relation to the reader and the author, if the translator's voice means anything at all. She takes the reader through the perils of translating Don Quixote and more memorably through Spanish-language poetry. Worth it for the end poem: 'Lo que se pierde/What Gets Lost' - a poem that slides between English and Spanish so that you don't know ...more
The second half of this book focuses on specifics of translation and is therefore interesting. The first half, though, is a tiresome screed of the I-don't-get-no-respect variety. Yes, translators are important, and I understand why they'd be aggrieved by the lack of attention paid to the translation itself in book reviews; but what *makes* a good translation, and what sorts of details should reviewers be attending to? Grossman never says. And translators as important as the authors themselves? P ...more
What a great idea for a series: Yale asks various people in the know to explain Why X Matters, where X is an area of the speaker/writers expertise. I've read a few of Grossman's translations and I'm very grateful to her for making it possible for me to read some fine Spanish language novels. Grossman has some fascinating things to say about translation, particularly her own experiences, and her essays are peppered with lots of interesting anecdotes about writers translating and reading in transl ...more
States nothing but the obvious. This book is mostly fluff and filler, a 30 page op ed for translating; a cheer leading book that presents translators as martyrs. As a budding translator, I found this book useless. It felt like a poor me bitch-session. I liked the first 30 pages. It should have been titled, Why Does This Book Matter. And the answer... It doesn't. I love Grossman's work, but this book was a disappointment.
ماهر Battuti
Professor Grossman is a famous translator of Spanish into English. I attended many lectures given by her in Instituto Cervantes de New York.
In this book, she discusses how she was interested in translation since her university years, her experience in translating Don Quijote , and problems involved in translating poetry.
This book is tempting me to translate it into Arabic, God Willing.

Arthur K
This is a book that is exactly what its title says. The essays by the (ought to be) renowned translator are based on several lectures she delivered at Yale University. In this book she makes an impassioned pleas on behalf of world literatures and having them available in second languages as an important way of sharing our humanity.

I highly recommend this title.
Creí que iba a ser más interesante, pero me terminó cansando porque sentí que la autora estaba constantemente defendiéndose y repitiendo que no hay suficientes traducciones AL inglés, que nadie quiere publicarlas, que nadie sabe reseñarlas y meh.

(había escrito otra cosa pero no sé dónde quedó ese comentario, si me acuerdo/lo encuentro lo agregaré)
This had everything that I could have wanted about Edith Grossman's thoughts on translation including personal experiences, philosophy, impassioned call to arms, and clear, side by side examples of her poems. Written clearly and concisely. This is an excellent book of craft by one of its createst artists. So very satisfying.
Margaret Sankey
In the wake of new translations of Madame Bovary and War and Peace, a meditation by the acclaimed translator of Marquez on the artistry of translation--not just the necessity--and the choices translators make to preserve the style of the author and the class, gender and slang of his characters.
Carlitos Caprioli
A great recommendation. Very quick read that still gets the passion of translating across. I had heard so much crap about her before that I didn't even want to read it, but it's a great book, especially if you've ever translated any type of fiction.
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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, and an award in literature from the Am ...more
More about Edith Grossman...

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“Intrinsic to the concept of a translator's fidelity to the effect and impact of the original is making the second version of the work as close to the first writer's intention as possible. A good translator's devotion to that goal is unwavering. But what never should be forgotten or overlooked is the obvious fact that what we read in a translation is the translator's writing. The inspiration is the original work, certainly, and thoughtful literary translators approach that work with great deference and respect, but the execution of the book in another language is the task of the translator, and that work should be judged and evaluated on its own terms. Still, most reviewers do not acknowledge the fact of translation except in the most perfunctory way, and a significant majority seem incapable of shedding light on the value of the translation or on how it reflects or illuminates the original.” 4 likes
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