Translation as Transhumance


This is a photo of the transhumancia, which is the custom of driving flocks from summer grazing to winter pastures. It has recently been reestablished in the area surrounding Madrid, and the flocks are symbolically driven through the centre of the city at some point in the middle of October.

Cécile Menon, the brain behind the publishing house Les Fugitives (apparently delivery drivers ring the office bell and ask if Les is at home), sent me their latest book, Translation as Transhumance, a translation, by Ros Schwartz, of Mireille Gansel‘s Traduire comme transhumer.

It is rare that I get to write about things that I uncomplicatedly love. Maybe this is because love is always complicated; maybe it’s also because there’s not that much out there worth loving. But this was a book which I loved. It is a series of short chapters, half-reminiscence, half-philosophy, about translation, and about the care which all true translation requires. I love it because it appeals to the Romantic idea of the translator, the single figure swimming down into other worlds and coming back with her hands full of pearls, and I love it because it is unafraid to show that translation is a very personal act, connected to how we learn to speak, how we learn to fall into language, how our childhood and our families organise our responses and our lives in ways far beyond our awareness.

Ah, maybe one reason why I don’t write about things I love is because it is hard to talk about them. Well, it’s a wonderful book, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in translation, or words, or other people.


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