NPR Features Translation as Artistic Partnership

NPR has just launched a new series of features on artistic partnerships to be included in their All Things Considered broadcasts, and I was delighted to see that they chose to lead off the series with a segment on literary translation. For the segment, Lynn Neary interviewed star translators Edith Grossman and Lydia Davis, both of whom reported finding aspects of collaboration in their work. For Grossman, who is celebrated for her retranslation of Cervantes’s great novel Don Quixote, literary translation is a matter of shared authorship, and she imagines sitting down to chat with Cervantes over a drink. Davis, who says her goal is “speaking in the voice and in the manner, as much as I can, of the original author,” read Flaubert’s letters while working on her retranslation of Madame Bovary to get a sense of what was on his mind while he was writing the novel. Whereas Grossman says she intentionally refrained from looking at earlier translations of Don Quixote, wanting nothing to interfere with her own sense of the novel’s voice, Davis did consult other versions of Flaubert’s novel while she was in the process of revising her own translation. She says she felt she and the earlier translators were “sitting in the room together wrestling with the same problems,” and she would have liked to collaborate with them to achieve “the final, definitive, wonderful translation.” A podcast of the program is available on the NPR website, as is a somewhat abridged print version.

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  1. schultzie says:

    I thought the London Review of Books discussion of Davis’s translation of Madame Bovary was quite fascinating for the way it compared translations.

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