Writers Translating Writers

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 10.56.32 AMThe other week I got a query from the the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in Philadelphia about writing a little something for their website apropos of the American premiere of Felix Mendelssohn’s 19th century revision of Johann Sebastian Bach’s 18th century St. Matthew Passion. They wanted a short essay about artists translating other artists, which I wound up interpreting as “Writers Translating Writers” (the title of the essay I wrote). Now don’t get me wrong – I consider all literary translators writers as long as they’re halfway good at what they do, so when I say “writers” here, what I really mean is “writers who do not generally include literary translation as part of their writing practice.” And my essay discusses a few particularly wonky translations that got produced when writers with strong points of view were loosed upon great works originally written by others. I love projects of that sort, and am always happy to see writers of all stripes engaging playfully and mischievously with translation (as e.g. a bunch of McSweeney’s authors did in 2013). So here’s the link to my short essay about weird translations-by-writers as it appears (without its title, alas) on the lovely Pew Center website.

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