Translation is an art often underestimated, if not taken wholly for granted. But not by the accomplished novelist Jhumpa Lahiri, who became so engrossed by the challenges of bridging languages that she has crossed over, from English into Italian.
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This week, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces about the intricacies of translation. In “A ‘Beowulf’ for Our Moment,” Ruth Franklin writes about a feminist reimagining of the Old English classic. (The over-all effect is as if the translator, “like the warrior queen she admired as a child, were storming the dusty halls of the library, upending the crowded shelf of ‘Beowulf’ translations to make room for something completely new.”) In “Found in Translation,” Claudia Roth Pierpont considers the history of English translations of Arabic fiction. In “Han Kang and the Complexity of Translation,” Jiayang Fan explores the pitfalls of overly literal translations and examines the œuvre of the Korean novelist. In “The Translation Wars,” we look at the legacy of English-language versions of the Russian classics and a married couple’s attempt to translate the greatest works of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, and more. Finally, in “The Book That Taught Me What Translation Was,” Lahiri describes the six years she spent translating the novels of Domenico Starnone and how they transformed her perspective on language. The act of translation, she writes, asks us to enter “into a more profound relationship with words,” descending with them “to a deeper realm, uncovering layers of alternatives.”