If This Be Treason by Gregory Rabassa
Translation and Its Dyscontents, A Memoir

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Synopsis

The long-awaited memoir and meditation on the art of translating by the most acclaimed American translator of Latin American literature.

Gregory Rabassa's influence as a translator is incalculable. His translations of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and Julio Cortázar's Hopscotch have helped make these some of the most widely read and respected works in world literature. (García Márquez was known to say that the English translation of One Hundred Years was better than the Spanish original.) In If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents Rabassa offers a cool-headed and humorous defense of translation, laying out his views on the art of the craft. Anecdotal, and always illuminating, If This Be Treason traces Rabassa's career, from his boyhood on a New Hampshire farm, his school days "collecting" languages, the two-and-a-half years he spent overseas during WWII, his travels, until one day "I signed a contract to do my first translation of a long work [Cortázar's Hopscotch] for a commercial publisher." Rabassa concludes with his "rap sheet," a consideration of the various authors and the over 40 works he has translated. This long-awaited memoir is a joy to read, an instrumental guide to translating, and a look at the life of one of its great practitioners.

 

About Gregory Rabassa

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Gregory Rabassa (born 9 March 1922) is a renowned literary translator from Spanish and Portuguese to English who currently teaches at Queens College where he is a Distinguished Professor. Rabassa received a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth; he enrolled as a graduate student at Columbia University, where he earned a doctorate. He taught for over two decades at Columbia University before accepting a position at Queens College. Typically, Rabassa translates without reading the book beforehand, working as he goes. Rabassa had a particularly close and productive working relation with Cortázar. For his version of Cortázar's novel, Hopscotch, Rabassa received a National Book Award for Translation. In 2006, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. He has written a memoir detailing his experiences as a translator, If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents, A Memoir.
 
Published April 27, 2005 by New England Natural Resources. 189 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Here, Rabassa introduces his modus operandi: “True to my original instincts (or perhaps my inherent laziness and impatience),” he writes, “I translated the book as I read it for the first time.” It was a successful technique, apparently, because he ended up translating five other books by Cortáza...

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The New York Times

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George Steiner begins his magisterial study of translation, ''After Babel,'' by making the point that every act of comprehension is an act of translation.

May 15 2005 | Read Full Review of If This Be Treason: Translati...

The New York Times

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Cervantes, Goethe, Gide, Kundera: Wyatt Mason, in a recent essay in The New Republic, enumerated these and others among the many writers for whom translation is irredeemably clumsy and vulgar, the translator a well-meaning but hapless boob.

May 15 2005 | Read Full Review of If This Be Treason: Translati...

The New York Times

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George Steiner begins his magisterial study of translation, ''After Babel,'' by making the point that every act of comprehension is an act of translation.

May 15 2005 | Read Full Review of If This Be Treason: Translati...

Deseret News

Rabassa had not yet read the book when he was asked to translate it, but that didn't discourage him: "True to my original instincts (or perhaps my inherent laziness and impatience), and to the subsequent amazement of those to whom I confessed my hubristic ploy, I translated the book as I read it ...

Jun 20 2005 | Read Full Review of If This Be Treason: Translati...

Project MUSE

It is possible to glean details about the translating process throughout the book, which includes insider references to literary agents, small presses, major publishers, author consultations, language references works, native speaker assistance, literary conferences and editorial oversight.

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