Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto (Hardcover)

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What's important in translation? What matters the most, the significance or the loyalty to the words? In this great essay book, Polizzotti guides us through how translation works, how it's infamy started and how we can read and understand translated works in an efficient way, without thinking it's difficult or wrong. Polizzotti breaks the stigma that translation is a way of being a "traitor", but as a connection to get to know other writers and cultures.

— From Stephanie


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."

Product Details
ISBN: 9780262037990
ISBN-10: 0262037998
Publisher: Mit Press
Publication Date: March 30th, 2018
Pages: 200
Language: English