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Edith Grossman

"Translating Cervantes"

Edith Grossman, New York


This presentation is based on the chapter of the same name in my book, Why Translation Matters. I discuss briefly the nature of literary translation—its difficulties, challenges, pleasures, and its peculiar status in contemporary publishing, which, sadly, requires a defense of the translator’s work. Specifically, I am interested in what the translator does when bringing a text over into another language and in the craft and art of the translating process.


Some of these considerations are then applied to the issue of translating older texts, Renaissance texts, for example, most of which have already been translated at least once, and the connection for the translator between working on a current book and translating an earlier one. Aside from lexical issues, I am interested in whether the process of translating a centuries-old text can be distinguished from the translation of contemporary writing, and if so, how. Does the translator’s mind-set change? Do I approach a novel by García Márquez differently from a novel by Cervantes, and does the reader have a different set of expectations?



Edith Grossman is a translator, critic, and occasional teacher of literature in Spanish. She was born in Philadelphia, attended the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Berkeley, completed a PhD at New York University, and has been the recipient of awards and honors including Fulbright, Woodrow Wilson, and Guggenheim Fellowships, the PEN Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Queen Sofía Translation Prize, and induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Her best known translations are probably Don Quixote and novels by Gabriel García Márquez; her most recent are Carlos Fuentes's Destiny and Desire and Luis de Góngora's Solitudes.


She lives in Manhattan and has two sons, both of whom are musicians.

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