Translators in the Isolation Tank

April 1, 2009

A few days ago on his Sentences blog, Wyatt Mason mentioned a little book on translation published in Texas in 1959, a collection of essays called The Craft and Context of Translation. In his “A Professional Translator’s Trade Alphabet,” Richard Howard offered for the letter “I”:

ISOLATION: See Other Translators.

… whereunder we find:

OTHER TRANSLATORS: I have never had the opportunity of discussing my work with other translators. . . . I am curious about my confreres. Though I know a number of scholars, many editors and even one or two reviewers who have done translations, I do not know any of the men and women of my profession. I often wonder about them—do they have as paranoiac a sense of me as I of them? What would we have to say to each other at a party, not to mention a panel?

This is one thing that’s wonderful about Iowa’s M.F.A. program in translation: the opportunity for interaction with and feedback from fellow translators. But it still seems to be the exception. Fifty years later, even with established professional organizations and conferences and so on, most translators seem to experience something more akin to what Howard describes (although perhaps not as exaggeratedly solitary). And I can’t say I’m looking forward to it!



One Response to “Translators in the Isolation Tank”

  1. […] 2, 2009 Andrea’s post below about the isolation of translators from each other – and her mention of how the relative lack […]

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