While convalescing from surgery a few weeks ago, I enjoyed reading Andrew Wilson’s new book Translators on Translating. Each themed chapter includes quotes, anecdotes, and extracts from practicing translators, and it makes translators and their thoughts on translation more visible.
Many of the usual suspects are included (such as Douglas Robinson, Lawrence Venuti, Martin Luther, Anthea Bell), but there are also names that are less familiar, such as Sharon M. Bell, Cathy Hirano, Eivor Martinus, Moura Budberg), and it’s very interesting to get such a wide variety of views, from different countries, languages, and time periods.
The themes include work (Samuel Johnson refers to translation as “the great pest”), technical translation, the relationship between translators and authors (Wilson points out that “[f]ew authors will ever have occasion to read a translator’s work with anything like the attention the translator puts into theirs, and fewer still are actually capable of judging the quality of the translation.”), translation theory (Andrew Chesterman and Emma Wagner say that “[m]essages from the ivory tower tend not to penetrate as far as the wordface. (The wordface is the place where we translators work – think of a miner at the coalface.)”), and more.
Wilson’s book is more than an anthology of extracts, as he explores many of the concepts and adds his own opinions and experiences. It’s a fun and fascinating book to dip into.