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Essays & Interviews on Translation

A selection of writing about the art of translation for National Translation Month 2022

Tower of Babel by Anton Joseph von Prenne
Public domain image of Anton Joseph von Prenner's Tower of Babel, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Throughout Words Without Borders‘ nearly twenty-year history, the magazine has published many interviews and essays on the subject of translation itself. In commemoration of National Translation Month 2022 this September, we’ve selected some of our favorite pieces from the archive on the task of the translator, racial equity and inclusion in translation, and the role the critic plays in the circulation of literature around the globe.

The Making of Originals: The Translator as Editor (Part 1)
By Karen Emmerich
As a translator and scholar of modern Greek literature, and now as a professor of comparative literature, I am what André Lefevere would call (not without some degree of irony) a “professional…
On Reviewing Translations: Confessions of a Book Reviewer (of works in translation)
By Jonathan Blitzer
There is an anecdote about translation—which, fittingly, I´ve only come across second-hand—that involves an enthusiastic Ernest Hemingway gushing to a friend that finally, with a new…
Translating (in) Darkness
By Lara Vergnaud
How do we translate trauma? In this essay, Lara Vergnaud reflects on her experience translating scenes of graphic violence and abuse, and shares strategies that may be useful to other translators.I…
Edith Piaf (left) and David Bowie (right) at the microphone
Édith Piaf and David Bowie, Wikimedia Commons.
From the Translator: The Song Remains the Same?
By Esther Allen
Images: David Bowie, 1974; Silvia Pérez Cruz, 2008; Édith Piaf, 1962 (Wikimedia Commons).     Esther Allen’s translation of Erick J. Mota’s “The Bleeding Hands of Castaways” appears…
How Can We Better Publish Black Writers in Translation?
By the Editors of Words Without Borders
This month, WWB took a look back at some of the important writing on race and racism to be found in the magazine’s archives.
The Milky Way is pictured above Earth's atmospheric glow blanketing Earth's horizon
Photo by NASA, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Czech Enough
By Jaroslav Kalfař
Home is an ever-changing aspiration, not a truth or guarantee.
Viva Translation!
By Luis Magrinyà
Translation is and should be a specialized occupation, but that doesn’t mean its natural audience should consist entirely of specialists.
Translated from Spanish by Anne McLean
Foreign Affairs: Theater Translation in the Age of Zoom
By Trine Garrett
On January 20 and 21, the UK-based theater company Foreign Affairs will present a digital showcase of six plays translated by its first-ever virtual cohort of theater translation mentees. In today's…