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Gregory Rabassa's influence as a translator is incalculable. His translations of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch have helped make these some of the most widely read and respected works in world literature. (Garcia Marquez was known to say that the English translation of One Hundred Years was better than the Spanish original.) In If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents Rabassa offers a cool-headed and humorous defense of translation, laying out his views on the art of the craft. Anecdotal, and always illuminating, If This Be Treason traces Rabassa's career, from his boyhood on a New Hampshire farm, his school days "collecting" languages, the two-and-a-half years he spent overseas during WWII, his travels, until one day "I signed a contract to do my first translation of a long work [Cortazar's Hopscotch] for a commercial publisher." Rabassa concludes with his "rap sheet," a consideration of the various authors and the over 40 works he has translated. This long-awaited memoir is a joy to read, an instrumental guide to translating, and a look at the life of one of its great practitioners.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780811216197
ISBN-10: 0811216195
Format: Hardback
(211mm x 145mm x 22mm)
Pages: 204
Imprint: New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publish Date: 2-Jun-2005
Country of Publication: United States


US Kirkus Review » A fine summing-up by the translator who brought such notable Latin American authors as Gabriel Garc'a Marquez and Julio Cortazar to the attention of English-speaking readers. In three parts, Rabassa surveys his long, distinguished career in translation. The first essay, "The Many Faces of Treason," treats the "varieties of betrayal" inherent in his art: betrayal of the word (can stone ever be truly equivalent to the French pierre?), betrayal of the authors (by imposing our culture onto theirs) and betrayal of himself, since every translator is also a writer who must execute someone else's vision. "In the Beginning" charts Rabassa's life-defined by serendipity, he asserts coyly. By his account, he wandered more or less by chance from Yonkers, where he was born in 1922, to Dartmouth, to military service in WWII, to graduate work at Columbia in Spanish and Portuguese (because journalism involved "too much legwork" and law "too much grinding"). When he agreed to editor Sara Blackburn's request to translate Cortazar's Rayuela (Hopscotch), he hadn't even read it. Here, Rabassa introduces his modus operandi: "True to my original instincts (or perhaps my inherent laziness and impatience)," he writes, "I translated the book as I read it for the first time." It was a successful technique, apparently, because he ended up translating five other books by Cortazar, works by Guatemalan novelist-folklorist Miguel Angel Asturias, who subsequently won the Nobel Prize, and many of Garc'a Marquez's novels. The author declared that he liked the English version of his huge bestseller One Hundred Years of Solitude better than his original Spanish-"Maybe in some way I was simply translating in a way close to the way he wrote it," Rabassa notes earnestly (and clunkily). Part Two, "The Bill of Particulars," discusses in some detail each author he has translated, while Part Three's single essay declares his "ultimate dissatisfaction with any translation I have done." Grateful readers of these works in English will disagree. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Gregory Rabassa

Gregory Rabassa (1922-2016) was the recipient of multiple prizes including a lifetime achievement award from the PEN American Center for contributions to Hispanic literature and a National Medal of Arts. He was the translator of One Hundred Years of Solitude, among other classic works.

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Hopscotch, Blow-Up, We Love Glenda So Much

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