Last week was a sad one for the literary community. The renowned translator Gregory Rabassa, the voice of a generation of Portuguese and Spanish authors introduced to English-speaking audiences, passed away at the age of 94.
Rabassa was born in New York City in 1922 to a Cuban father and American mother. He served during World War II before starting his academic career as a professor at Columbia University, Queens College and City University of New York.
Working with major Latin American authors from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Rabassa’s translations introduced authors such as Julio Cortázar (Argentina), Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru), José Saramago (Portugal), and Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia) to the English-speaking world. He also translated Clarice Lispector’s “The Apple in the Dark,” Jorge Amado’s “Captains of the Sands,” and Machado de Assis’ “Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas” and “Quincas Borba.”
He was the recipient of the 1977 PEN Translation Prize for his translation of García Márquez’s “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” the inaugural U.S. National Book Award in Translation in 1967 for his work on Cortázar’s “Hopscotch,” and the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation in 1982, among other awards and distinctions.
Legend says García Márquez waited three years for Rabassa to become available and translate “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which went on to become one of the world’s most well-known novels in translation. The author himself read the Rabassa version in English and deemed it even better than the original, calling his translator “the best Latin American writer in the English language.”
More on Rabassa:
- Obituaries on The New York Times and Washington Post
- Wikipedia page with a detailed biography and list of his works
- Catalog of his translations available on Amazon
- Rabassa in the wake of the Gabriel García Márquez’s passing
- Rabassa’s memoir “If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents“
- “Me and My Circumstance” ― Rabassa’s article for Words Without Borders
- Opening Doors: The Magical Touch of Gregory Rabassa
- An Interview with Gregory Rabassa ― Center for Translation Studies
- Exclusive Interview with Gregory Rabassa (VIDEO) ― CCTV America
- The Secret History of One Hundred Years of Solitude
Other Literary Links:
Ask a Translator with Daniel Hahn
Man Booker International Prize
The Rise of Hispanic/Latino Canadian Literature in Translation
Contemporary Literature from Spanish into English
Much more than waffles and fries
National Museum of Taiwan Literature
Moving Beyond the “Saving Muslim Women” Memoirs
Hrabal, Translation, and “Owning” Languages
Influences and Translation in Culture
Refugee Literature vs. National Literature
“It was really true, there was no longer
anything about him that could interest me.
He wasn’t even a fragment of the past, he was only a stain,
like the print of a hand left years ago on a wall.”
Elena Ferrante, translated from Italian to English
by Ann Goldstein in The Days of Abandonment
RAFA LOMBARDINO is a translator and journalist from Brazil who lives in California. She is the author of “Tools and Technology in Translation ― The Profile of Beginning Language Professionals in the Digital Age,” which is based on her UCSD Extension class. Rafa has been working as a translator since 1997 and, in 2011, started to join forces with self-published authors to translate their work into Portuguese and English. In addition to acting as content curator ateWordNews, a collective blog about translation and literature, she also runs Word Awareness, a small network of professional translators, and coordinates Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories (CBSS), a project to promote Brazilian literature worldwide.