Edith Grossman

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Edith Grossman in 2012

Edith Grossman (born March 22, 1936) is an American Spanish-to-English literary translator. One of the most important contemporary translators of Latin American and Spanish literature, she has translated the works of Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, Mayra Montero, Augusto Monterroso, Jaime Manrique, Julián Ríos, Álvaro Mutis, and Miguel de Cervantes.[1] She is a recipient of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation.

Early life[edit]

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Grossman now lives in New York City. She received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, did graduate work at UC Berkeley, and received a Ph.D. from New York University. Her career as a translator began when in 1972 a friend, Jo-Anne Engelbert, asked her to translate a story for a collection of short works by the Argentine avant-garde writer Macedonio Fernández.[2] Grossman subsequently changed the focus of her work from scholarship and criticism to translation.


In a speech delivered at the 2003 PEN Tribute to Gabriel García Márquez, in 2003, she explained her method:

Fidelity is surely our highest aim, but a translation is not made with tracing paper. It is an act of critical interpretation. Let me insist on the obvious: Languages trail immense, individual histories behind them, and no two languages, with all their accretions of tradition and culture, ever dovetail perfectly. They can be linked by translation, as a photograph can link movement and stasis, but it is disingenuous to assume that either translation or photography, or acting for that matter, are representational in any narrow sense of the term. Fidelity is our noble purpose, but it does not have much, if anything, to do with what is called literal meaning. A translation can be faithful to tone and intention, to meaning. It can rarely be faithful to words or syntax, for these are peculiar to specific languages and are not transferable.[3]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Grossman's translation of Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote, published in 2003, is considered one of the finest English-language translations of the Spanish novel, by authors and critics including Carlos Fuentes[4] and Harold Bloom, who called her "the Glenn Gould of translators, because she, too, articulates every note."[5] However, the reaction from Cervantes scholars has been more critical. Tom Lathrop, himself a translator of Don Quixote, critiqued her translation in the journal of the Cervantes Society of America, saying:

Serious students of literature in translation should consider looking elsewhere for more faithful translations, such as Starkie and the discontinued and lamented Ormsby-Douglas-Jones version. There are just too many things that just are not right, or are confusing, in this translation.[6]

Both Lathrop and Daniel Eisenberg criticize her for a poor choice of Spanish edition as source, leading to inaccuracies; Eisenberg adds that "she is the most textually ignorant of the modern translators".[7]

She received the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation in 2006.[8] In 2008, she received the Arts and Letters Award in Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[9] In 2010, Grossman was awarded the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute Translation Prize for her 2008 translation of Antonio Muñoz Molina's A Manuscript of Ashes.[10] In 2016 she received the Officer's Cross of the Order of Civil Merit awarded by the King of Spain Felipe VI.[11]

In 1990 Gabriel García Márquez said that he prefers reading his own novels in their English translations by Grossman and Gregory Rabassa.[12]

Selected translations[edit]

Miguel de Cervantes:

Gabriel García Márquez:

Mario Vargas Llosa:

Ariel Dorfman:

  • Last Waltz in Santiago and Other Poems of Exile and Disappearance, Penguin, 1988.
  • In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land: New and Collected Poems from Two Languages, Duke University Press, 2002

Mayra Montero:

  • In the Palm of Darkness, HarperCollins, 1997.
  • The Messenger: A Novel, Harper Perennial, 2000.
  • The Last Night I Spent With You, HarperCollins, 2000.
  • The Red of His Shadow, HarperCollins, 2001.
  • Dancing to "Almendra": A Novel, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
  • Captain of the Sleepers: A Novel, Picador, 2007.

Álvaro Mutis:

  • The Adventures of Maqroll: Three Novellas, HarperCollins, 1992.
  • The Adventures of Maqroll: Four Novellas, HarperCollins, 1995.
  • The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, NYRB Classics, 2002.

Other works:


  1. ^ Hecht, Randy B. "Interview with Edith Grossman, translator". AARP. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-10. Retrieved 2014-04-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Grossman, Edith. "Narrative Transmutations". PEN American Centre. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  4. ^ Fuentes, Carlos (2 November 2003). "Tilt". Nyimes.com. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  5. ^ Bloom, Harold. "The knight in the mirror". The Guardian. London. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  6. ^ Lathrop, Tom (2006). "Edith Grossman's Translation of Don Quixote" (PDF). Cervantes, bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America. pp. 237–255. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-08-09.
  7. ^ Eisenberg, Daniel (2006). "The Text of Don Quixote as Seen by its Modern English Translators" (PDF). Cervantes, bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America. pp. 103–126. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-21.
  8. ^ "PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation Winners - PEN America". Pen.org. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Awards – American Academy of Arts and Letters". artsandletters.org. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  10. ^ López, Enrique Ávila (2015-12-07). Modern Spain. ABC-CLIO. p. 211. ISBN 9781610696012.
  11. ^ "En traducción. Edith Grossman". April 30, 2016. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  12. ^ Padgett, Tim (October 8, 1990), "Battling over Bolívar's Soul", Newsweek, 116 (15): 70, retrieved 2008-03-17.

External links[edit]