Readersforum's Blog

May 4, 2013

Books I Love: Edith Grossman

Edith Grossman

Edith Grossman

The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico Garcia Lorca Ascends to Hell by Carlos Rojas is the latest book to be translated by Edith Grossman, one of the most renowned translators in the world. And though she’s spent her career translating authors like Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Cervantes, she shared with Tip Sheet some of her personal favorites.

At first I thought I’d put together a list of ten translated books that have affected me deeply but decided not to when I realized, with some astonishment, that certain English-language books actually did turn my life around, change my thinking, and seriously influence my decision-making. I’m avoiding the issue of the precise number because books often came to my attention in groups rather than as individual volumes.

I had favorite books when I was a girl, especially The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Story of King Arthur, and Little Women, all of which I read over and over again, but the book that made a huge impression on me and invariably brought more tears to my eyes than the heartbreaking death of Robin Hood or the image of King Arthur sailing off to Avalon was Bambi. I read the book countless times and, as a consequence, developed a deep dislike of hunting, which I found incomprehensible. The effect has lasted to this day.

The other book that had a major impact on me a few years later, when I was about twelve and read it against my parents’ wishes and behind their backs, was The Naked and the Dead. Because I was so young I couldn’t comprehend all of the novel, but what I took away with me was an on-going commitment to pacifism. This came as a surprise: I grew up during the Second World War, and my mind was filled with a comic book version of villainy and virtue, a movie image of heroism. After reading the novel, I couldn’t imagine any cause that could justify subjecting vulnerable human beings to the kind of suffering and brutality depicted by Mailer. I still can’t.

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December 29, 2010

When Done Right, Little Gets Lost In Translation

Edith Grossman has translated Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When translating an author's work, "you feel as if you are looking at the world through the eyes of someone else," Grossman says.

When Edith Grossman translates a book, she begins to feel a closeness to the author who wrote it. “The more talented the writer, the more open the door is into his or her mind,” she explains.

And Grossman should know. She is perhaps best known for her translation of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Not only did Cervantes invent the modern novel, says Grossman, he was a cutting-edge writer 400 years ago. When Grossman talks about the author, it’s almost as if he is still alive.

“I dearly love him,” she says. “I would love to have a meal with him, I’d love to have a couple of drinks with him, to sit and chat and talk about literature and all the other things you talk about with someone you are really very fond of.”

But such affection and admiration can also be daunting. Grossman says she had a lot of fear when she began translating Don Quixote. She spent two weeks on the first sentence alone, because she felt everything else would fall into place if she could only do justice to Cervantes’ opening line.

The key to unlocking what the author intended, says Grossman, can always be found in the text itself….read more

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