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This Little Art

Kate Macdonald

BriggsKate Briggs’ meditation on the art of translation meanders around her experience of translating some lectures given by Roland Barthes in (I think) the 1970s, her deep interest in the translations by Helen Lowe-Porter of Thomas Mann, and the relationship between Andre Gide and his besotted translator Dorothy Bussy. I’m not interested in Barthes, but I am interested in the process of translation, so the sheer volume of Barthes in this book is rather off-putting to the non-Barthesian. Some things that she quotes him saying are relevant, but his work is mostly there as the kicking-off point for Briggs’ own thoughts on what translation is, and why and how she does it. Her empathy for Lowe-Porter stems from the kicking that (female) translator got by the later (male) critics for her inaccuracies and general inadequacies, long after she was dead and unable to defend her methods. Bussy is also an…

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