The Art of Translation at NPR

This piece doesn’t necessarily break any new ground, but it’s nice to see NPR covering the art of literary translation.

Rick Kleffel’s piece begins by pointing out the impossibility of a literal translation, then focuses on three translators: Bea Basso, who points out the difficulty of capturing the culture, dialect of a particular region; Julie Rose, who was the third person to translate Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables; and Burton Raffel, who has translated Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Like I said, nothing new to see here—I expect nothing more from NPR these days—but this story from Raffel is worth the price of admission:

“Rabelais, the author of this very strange book, ends the chapter with a sputtering iteration. I believe it’s something like 43 different words in French for s- – -,” says Raffel. “My problem was finding 43 different words because English is not so plentiful in these things.”

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