Greetings, literarians. Last week, we had the privilege of interviewing Gregory Rabassa, one of the great translators of the past century, whose works include the legendary novels HOPSCOTCH and 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE, which kindled the flames of what would become the so-called boom of Latin American literature. Rabassa, born in Yonkers to an American mother and a Cuban mother, has a distinct, dense translation style that compacts any unnecessary looseness of an original text into a concrete, unbreakable work of art. But what of the other great translator of Garcia Marquez: Edith Grossman?
I’m currently halfway through the mesmerizing page-turner LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA. Many people have spoken of this book as their all-time favorite novel, so I went into the text with reasonably high expectations, and the book has completely delivered so far. And yet. And yet I find myself missing the head-scratching, eye-burning difficulty of SOLITUDE and, even moreso, in THE AUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH (one of the most difficult books this reader’s ever encountered). This isn’t to say that difficulty is inherently a virture. Rather, the struggle one endures with a text — like climbing a mountain — inevitably qualifies one’s engagement with it. Some times, a book is needlessly tough. In this case, though, it feels as if Edith Grossman has done her reader a disservice in smoothing over Garcia Marquez’s prose, anglicized it just a bit too much, so that the love story seems known, almost safe, and less terrifying and heart-shaking as the strongest moments in SOLITUDE.
What say you, dear reader, dear lover of Gabo? How did you experience the different translations of Marquez, either pro-Rabassa, pro-Edith Grossman, or any of the others? Share with us your thoughts and preferences on how you’d like your translated book to compare with its original.