Last weekend I received an early Xmas gift in the form of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s new translation of War and Peace. Most striking to note is that Knopf decided to put a picture of the translating husband and wife on the back flap of the dust jacket, right in the space traditionally reserved for an author photo. Pevear and Volokhonsky are the current big guns of Russian translation and their fame is due largely, one must assume, to Oprah’s Book Club, but still… translators getting this honor? These eyes can’t recall such a sight.
Despite what anyone thinks of Pevear and Volokhonsky (I think they do fabulous work), imagine if this sets a trend. Think of seeing Natasha Wimmer or Lydia Davis or Gregory Rabassa on a book jacket. Not just their names, buried somewhere below the author’s in significantly smaller print, but their pictures as well. If this were to catch on perhaps translators might begin to command better fees and more respect in the pantheon of literary history.
Dare to dream.