No one cares about the translator

Gregory Rabassa died at the age of 94. Rest in Peace master !
Gregory Rabassa died at the age of 94. Rest in Peace master !

Just take a minute and think how many Non-English books translated in English that you have enjoyed. The chances are that there are many such books. From the legends like Rabindra Nath Tagore, Leo Tolstoy, Paulo Coelho, Calvino, Kafka to recent wonders like Murakami- they all adored and loved by English readers. But we fail to give credit to the people who brought these books closer to the English readers & that is the translators . They are like silent ninjas who have been instrumental in bringing the cultures together.

Earlier this month, the translator of the celebrated literary icon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez died in Connecticut. Gregory Rabassa was 94 and he was instrumental in bringing Latin American authors to English speaking countries. Apart from Marquez, Rabassa has also translated the books of Julio Cortazar. Marquez himself praised Rabassa often and once said that his translation of “One hundred Years in Solitude” was an art in itself.

Marquez praised Rabassa work as an art itself
Marquez praised Rabassa work as an art itself

I am big admirer of Marquez books. His books seldom seemed like foreign, they always touched the cords of English readers. Gregory Rabassa died on 14th June and though I follow many blogs and twitter handles related to books and literature, I didn’t see any tributes for him. I felt sad. I went to my bookshelf and saw his name credited as the translator. I felt so bad that I never acknowledged his name until he was dead.

Rest in Peace Gregory and hope your name will be alive in long times to come. I hope the publishers and media give more attention and love to the translators. They are as much an artists in their rights as are the writers and the editors. English and Spanish are a very different language in terms of metaphors and expression, but Gregory made sure we never felt that different. Also, a big shout and love to the translators all over the world.

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19 thoughts on “No one cares about the translator

  1. So true, Avinash. we must give more credit to the translators who bring the story to us. I can think of two strong names here- Ann Goldstein of Ferrante fame and Stephen Santarelli of Montalbano series fame.

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  2. How right you are. Apart from Higashino’s main translator (Alexander smith I believe) and Anita nair’s translations I never pay attention to the translator. That is such a pity. I’m glad you mentioned this. We need more translator publicity.

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  3. I so agree with this. The role of the translator is paramount in the success of the book. I have read some great translations and I wish there are more. They should be recognised and awarded at all levels.

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      1. In her latest books, she has spoken about different languages, and the contrast in experience when you write in one language versus another.

        Since the time I have read that book, I have been thinking a lot about translations and how learning a new language as an adult must be a transformative experience.

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      2. Yes indeed her entire book is based on her experience of learning new language. Of course she does not even translates her own book from Italian to English- to be honest, my true influence for this post come from the panel discussion that I attended in Jaipur Literature Festival last year. It was based on how translation from the regional language to English/hindi is helping to protect much of the ancient literature of India

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