Beyond Words - Language Blog

Edith Grossman on the Art of Translation

Edith Grossman is one of the most prolific and accomplished translators on the planet. She specializes in translating great works of Spanish Literature from Spain and Latin America into English, and has translated some of the great masters of the Spanish novel: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosas, and Miguel de Cervantes.

In 2003, Grossman delivered a speech for the PEN Translation awards ceremony, during which she said the following:

Fidelity is our noble purpose, but it does not have much, if anything, to do with what is called literal meaning. A translation can be faithful to tone and intention, to meaning. It can rarely be faithful to words or syntax, for these are peculiar to specific languages and are not transferable.

To recreate significance for a new set of readers, translators must make the effort to enter the mind of the first author through the gateway of the text – to see the world trough another person’s eyes and translate the linguistic perception of that world into another language.