An engaging and unabashedly opinionated examination of what
translation is and isn't. For some, translation is the poor cousin
of literature, a necessary evil if not an outright travesty-summed
up by the old Italian play on words, traduttore, traditore
(translator, traitor). For others, translation is the royal road to
cross-cultural understanding and literary enrichment. In this
nuanced and provocative study, Mark Polizzotti attempts to reframe
the debate along more fruitful lines. Eschewing both these easy
polarities and the increasingly abstract discourse of translation
theory, he brings the main questions into clearer focus: What is
the ultimate goal of a translation? What does it mean to label a
rendering "faithful"? (Faithful to what?) Is something inevitably
lost in translation, and can something also be gained? Does
translation matter, and if so, why? Unashamedly opinionated, both a
manual and a manifesto, his book invites usto sympathize with the
translator not as a "traitor" but as the author's creative partner.
Polizzotti, himself a translator of authors from Patrick Modiano to
Gustave Flaubert, explores what translation is and what it isn't,
and how it does or doesn't work. Translation, he writes, "skirts
the boundaries between art and craft, originality and replication,
altruism and commerce, genius and hack work." In Sympathy for the
Traitor, he shows us how to read not only translations but also the
act of translation itself, treating it not as a problem to be
solved but as an achievement to be celebrated-something, as Goethe
put it, "impossible, necessary, and important."
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