The trans­la­tor’s art

What’s lost—or gained

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

Con­grat­u­la­tions to J.T. Ma­hany, a grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Fayet­teville, and the French au­thor who writes un­der the name An­toine Volo­dine. The $10,000 Al­ber­tine Prize has just been shared by Mr. Ma­hany and M. Volo­dine. It’s a bilin­gual, trans-na­tional award that rec­og­nizes the vi­tal role played by the au­thor and the trans­la­tor in pre­sent­ing a work to the world. And when the trans­la­tion rises above the orig­i­nal, it’s an oc­ca­sion and ac­com­plish­ment to be cel­e­brated.

Dorothy Stephens, chair­man of the English depart­ment at UA, has at least a cou­ple of rea­sons to cel­e­brate this oc­ca­sion and achieve­ment. As she puts it, “We’re tremen­dously proud of J.T.’s ac­com­plish­ment and ex­cited for the spot­light that it shines on lit­er­ary trans­la­tion.”

The 27-year-old Mr. Ma­hany notes that, when he was grow­ing up, he spoke only English at home. But he be­gan study­ing French in high school be­fore go­ing off to the Univer­sity of Rochester in New York, where he worked as an in­tern for Open Let­ter, a part of the univer­sity that pub­lishes trans­la­tions of An­toine Volo­dine’s work, among that of oth­ers. To quote Chad Post, Open Let­ter’s pub­lisher, on J.T Ma­hany’s work as a trans­la­tor: “He’s very tal­ented and has an ear for the lan­guage.” What more could one hope for in a trans­la­tor?

Lest we for­get, trans­la­tions from other lan­guages can be­come clas­sics of the mother tongue — the way the King James Bi­ble be­came a foun­da­tion stone of English lit­er­a­ture. So here’s to all the tal­ented trans­la­tors out there, no­table among them Arkansas’ own J.T. Ma­hany.

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