Humanities Center Director: Thomas Wilson

Hansmann Lecture: Edith Grossman

Translator, Author, Critic

Why Translation Matters

Thursday, September 15, 2011 • 4:10pm • Taylor Science Center G027

Humans are a literary species, and translation has probably been with us almost from the time our forebears first began to write, yet the enterprise is famously difficult to discuss. The parameters of the conversation are elusive, and thorny distinctions between art and craft resist both qualification and quantification. And yet it is impossible to conceive of any history of poetry or fiction that does not take translation into serious account.  By focusing on the process itself, we can begin to elucidate some of the complications inherent in bringing a text over into another language and delineate those elements that trouble most translators at one time or another. Many are intrinsic to the very act of translation, while others are external, driven by the modern business of publishing and reviewing books, a dark wood where translators are often hard put to find their way.

Edith Grossman is a translator, critic, and occasional teacher of literature in Spanish. She was born in Philadelphia, attended the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Berkeley, completed a PhD at New York University, and has been the recipient of awards and honors including Fulbright, Woodrow Wilson, and Guggenheim Fellowships, the PEN Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Grossman has translated into English poetry, fiction, and non-fiction by major Latin American writers, including Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, Alvaro Mutis, and Mayra Montero. Peninsular works that she has translated include Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, novels by Julián Ríos, Carmen Laforet, and Antonio Muñoz Molina, and poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. She recently translated the Soledades by Luis de Góngora.  Her new book, Why Translation Matters (Yale University Press, 2010), argues for the cultural significance of translation and for a more nuanced and careful appreciation of the role of the translator.

Sponsored by the Dean of Faculty, the Yordán Lecture Fund, and the Hansmann Lecture Fund