TRANSLATION AS TRANSHUMANCE
Translated by Ros Schwartz
Mireille Gansel grew up in the traumatic aftermath of her family losing everything—including their native languages—to Nazi Germany. In the 1960s and 70s, she translated poets from East Berlin and Vietnam to help broadcast their defiance to the rest of the world.
Gansel’s debut illustrates the estrangement every translator experiences for the privilege of moving between tongues, and muses on how translation becomes an exercise of empathy between those in exile.
Read the opening chapters in French, with a recorded audio reading on Asymptote. Further excerpts can be found on Asymptote, Granta, Words Without Borders and Modern Literature, and Lauren Elkin's foreword on Literary Hub.
Winner of an English PEN Award 2017 and a French Voices Award 2015
Longlisted for the Jan Michalski Foundation Literature Prize 2013
Selected by Sophie Collins in The White Review Books of the Year 2018
Selected by Gabriel Josipovici in Times Literary Supplement Books of the Year 2017
‘A revelation.’ – Kirkus Reviews
‘Pursuing this work of recovery and protection, translators like Gansel could be aligned with Platonists, committed to groping towards the elusive ur-truth of a literary work.’ – London Review of Books
‘In this series of delicate memoir essays about living in translation and living as a translator, Gansel tunes herself most sensitively into many states of language, from dwelling in a mother tongue to opening ways of surviving in exile and estrangement.’ – Marina Warner
‘A history not just of twentieth century poetry but of that dark century itself, from the rise of the Nazis to the American bombing of North Vietnam, and yields too a rare insight into the nature of language and the splendours and limitations of translation.’ – Gabriel Josipovici
‘Imagine watching the entire flock of migrating monarchs; hundreds of thousands of orange and black pixels creating a mountain in the negative space of their movement. Through tireless effort, sensitivity to history and nuance, deep research into the original artist and landscape, and, finally, “the conviction that no word that speaks of what is human is untranslatable,” the translator shows us trees where there are no trees, and leads us over the contours of terrain we will never climb.’ – Los Angeles Review of Books
‘In this memoir of a translator’s adventures, Mireille Gansel shows us what it means to enter another language through its culture, and to enter the life of another culture through its language. A sensitive and insightful book, which illuminates the difficult, and often underestimated task of translation—and the role of literature in making for a more interconnected and humane world.’ – Eva Hoffman, author of Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language
‘This memoir tells of a life forged by encounters, by the humble desire to reach out to and understand the other. It is a subtle, moving, and at times sad testimony that talks of poetry, the dialogue with consciousness, commitment and values that are essential to literature and to life itself.’ – La Quinzaine littéraire
‘(Gansel) recognizes the fact that poetry is the lifeblood of a language and a culture; it saves language from the meaningless currency of everyday exchange—the language that Nazi bureaucracy thrived on—and transforms it into words that breathe, that live their own life, that create an entirely different reality from the roots of words and transforms them into “glowing stones.”’ – Charlotte Mandell, translator of Maurice Blanchot and Mathias Énard
‘Gansel’s slim and sensitive memoir, Translation as Transhumance, has just been elegantly translated into English by another outstanding translator, Ros Schwartz…there is a deeply insightful and humanistic approach to their work.’ – Olivia Snaije
‘A rare work of literature with translation at its heart. And a translation to match.’ – Anthony Rudolf, author of Silent Conversations and translator of Yves Bonnefoy and Edmond Jabès
Read more reviews here.