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Translator as rock star?

By / January 21, 2009



Far too often, the translator's job is a thankless one. The book is a great success and everyone lauds the author – but almost no one remembers the translator. The exception to the rule may be Natasha Wimmer.

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Wimmer has won acclaim as translator of "Savage Detectives" and "2666," both by Chilean author Robert Bolaño. The novels themselves have become publishing sensations in the US. But as James Wood reminded readers in his review of "Savage Detectives" in the New York Times, "The pleasure we take in this, as readers of English, owes everything, of course, to the book's talented translator, Natasha Wimmer."

Wimmer is a Harvard graduate who learned Spanish living in Spain. While translating "Savage Detectives," she was living in Mexico City, where much of the book's action takes place.

“He was a geographically obsessed writer, especially when it came to Mexico City," Wimmer told Monitor staff writer Matt Shaer in an interview. "Being in the middle of [the city] was very clarifying, and very useful. I found I understood the cultural references better, and had a closer sense of the vibrancy of the place. And that’s what I wanted to capture."

Between the two novels, Wimmer worked on books by Bolaño for more than three years. She usually worked at a pace of eight hours a day, six days a week. In "some ways,” she says, “I know Bolaño much better than any other reader.”

You can read Shaer's whole interview with Wimmer here.

And Chapter & Verse readers, please remember that the Monitor’s weekly Books podcast is now available at iTunes. To download, just go to this link at iTunes:

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