Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Gregory Rabassa (1922-2016)

The translator Gregory Rabassa has died, according to a notice from the Associated Press.

Rabassa was a professor for many years at Queens College, but it was his work as a peerless translator of modern Latin American literature that secured his place in the literary firmament. Beginning in 1966 with an English-language version of Cortázar's Hopscotch (itself a daunting feat, given that novel's linguistic fireworks), he produced dozens of translations, including more than a few that, taken individually, would have been sufficient to secure his reputation: José Lezama Lima's Paradiso, Mario Vargas Llosa's Conversation in the Cathedral, Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, and on and on and on. That he not only managed to translate such challenging, verbally sophisticated works at all but did so with scrupulous care and endless creativity is simply astounding. We owe him a very great debt.

Translator Susan Bernofsky has a nice appreciation.

Update: The New York Times now has a full obituary.

(Photo of Gregory Rabassa from the jacket of Rabassa's memoir If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents, published by New Directions.)

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