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David Bellos on the new PRI's The World in Words

One of my favorite podcasts (aside from the Three Percent podcast, of course) is PRI’s The World in Words, which is hosted by Patrick Cox and covers a ton of really interesting topics related to language, translation, etc.

It’s worth checking out every week, but especially this week, since the main focus is on translation. Starting with a bit about Google Translate (and the word “antidisestablishment”), the podcast also includes a conversation with the head of the American Translators Association, one about Madeline Miller’s new novel, The Song of Achilles and what it owes to Homer’s The Iliad, and a great talk with David Bellos:

And some people even translate books. David Bellos does that. He has translated, among other novels, Georges Perec’s La Vie mode d’emploi “Life: A User’s Manual”), a book once considered untranslatable. Bellos is also the author of the recently published Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything.

Bellos’ book has been a hit with reviewers. No wonder. With all those reasons (global marketing, espionage, immigration) why translators are needed now more than ever, it follows that we should question more closely what translation is, what it does, and what it misses. I don’t know if translations of novels and poems have improved over time, each translator shaving his or her own microsecond off some previous world record, but in one small way it’s a shame: it may discourage us from reading books in their original languages. But that’s a minor worry, certainly not an argument against good translations.

It’s a great episode, and another great opportunity to encourage everyone to buy Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Or at least, you should read this sample.

And to listen to the full World in Words podcast, just click here or you can click here to listen to it in iTunes.



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