Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Invisible Hand

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Invisible Hand

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Translators Straggle to Prove Their Academic Bona Fides" by Jennifer Howard, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 17, 2010.

PITY THE LITERARY TRANSLATOR, whose mission it is to be invisible, to "fade into the background, like a discreet waiter who keeps the glasses filled while remaining practically unnoticed." Translating fiction and poetry is a thankless task, one that earns little respect in the academy and little pay outside of it, writes Jennifer Howard, a senior reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In academia, translation is often seen as a digression from serious scholarly wore As Mark Anderson, a Franz Kafka specialist at Columbia University, describes the prevailing sentiment, "Translation can take people away from criticism and theoretical thinking of an original sort." Before Anderson was tenured, the chair of his department advised him not to work as a translator because doing so would be viewed unfavorably by the tenure committee. Anderson opted to work under a pseudonym. "I think my chair gave me excellent advice," he says. …

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