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In Translation

Thank You, Translators

Rachel Cordasco

Staff Writer

Rachel Cordasco has a Ph.D in literary studies and currently works as a developmental editor. When she's not at her day job or chasing three kids, she's writing reviews and translating Italian speculative fiction. She runs the website, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

In my quest to read more works of fiction in translation, especially speculative fiction, I’ve realized just how important literary translators are in helping us become more open-minded, tolerant, and knowledgeable about our world. Think about it for a second- imagine if suddenly there were no translators (literary or otherwise) on Earth. Everything would grind to a halt, because, in case some readers didn’t realize this, not everyone speaks English. I mean, if everyone on the planet only spoke English, this would be a really really boring place.

But I digress. I just wanted to say…

Thank you, translators, for enabling us to read great authors across both time and space. Because of translators, I was able to discover the German author Thomas Mann, and my life is absolutely the better for it. When translating texts written 50 years ago or more, translators must balance capturing the spirit of the text and making it readable for a contemporary audience. I consider myself daunted.

Thank you, translators, for broadening our science fiction-al horizons. Sci-fi is ultimately about humanity imagining its own future by thinking deeply about contemporary issues, so don’t you think it would be wise to share some, you know, ideas and concerns with one another? i.e. will/should humanity leave the Earth to inhabit orbiting colonies or even other planets? What might our governments look like in a century or two? What kinds of new art forms will arise? etc. We should have more international sci-fi conventions and fewer f*cking wars.

Thank you, translators, for working your derrières off, often for not much money, to give readers access to great works they otherwise couldn’t enjoy. You provide a vital service, but I guess if you don’t do something people will watch on a screen, you don’t get the millions. Apparently.

Thank you, translators, for appreciating that many English-language readers (like myself) are chomping at the bit for more translated books and stories, so you’re starting your own presses and magazines to give the people what they want. Many of these may be small, but they’re mighty.

And finally, thank you, translators, for stretching yourself across two (or more) worlds, bringing ideas and colloquialisms and stories from one people to another. It is because of you that we don’t all live in our own little bubbles, unable to communicate with anyone outside.

Keep kicking derrière and translating fiction and poetry and know that you’re appreciated.