I saw Edith (Ms. Grossman?) speak at CUNY a few weeks ago, took studious notes, and promptly forgot to blog them. That said, they are definitely worth sharing so apologies for my truancy! In her (paraphrased) words:
1) It’s necessary to love (or at least have a great fondness for) the work you’re translating. Translation is like a marriage - it’s hard to get in bed with someone you don’t like.
2) You need to look up EVERYTHING.
3) There is no such thing as a good literal translation.
4) As a translator you will encounter certain milestones. They are the following: publishers, reviewers, and the myths that surround translation (i.e. that something got lost in translation).
5) Re that last part, something is rather found in translation. Translation does things to the language, and all for the better.
6) A good translator cares more about the text than almost anyone in the world.
7) Anything you need to know about the book is in the book.
I especially appreciate that last one. To expand a bit, Grossman was responding to a question about the possibly hidden intentions of an author and how the translator should take those intentions into account. She responded that while everyone will have difference experiences (reading a text) and different expectations, all you need as a translator is the text in front of you. I was happy to hear her straightforward answer as I am a big believer in the idea that all you need are the words on the page (and obviously a strong understanding of the culture and language) without straying into hypotheticals and obscure theoretical arenas. I’m sure I’ve left tons of things out but these are the ideas and thoughts that stayed with me the most after she spoke. Other topics included the role of technology in translation (Grossman didn’t have a lot to say about this other than to praise Google) and experimental translation (to paraphrase her response: phshaw!) She also described her start as a translator as “serendipitous” and explained why staying at home in her jeans motivated her to keep on with the profession. Grossman was engaging, funny, and seemed very no-nonsense at the same time (deflecting a persistent and contrary audience member determined to start a fight about which language is inherently richer: english or spanish?) Grossman’s book Why Translation Matters is full of helpful tips and gems about translation, but there is something to be said for hearing such an influential and reputable translator talk about her experiences in person.