“In Other Words” – Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s The Sound of Things Falling

To the Editor:

Edmund White’s generously discerning fiction and criticism accommodates what some might consider the alien, the foreign, the translated. No surprise, then, to read his approving review of Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s significant novel, now translated by Anne McLean as The Sound of Things Falling (Aug. 4). Yet White seems embarrassed by the genre he’s reviewing: “Even in translation, the superb quality of Vásquez’s prose is evident, captured in Anne McLean’s idiomatic English version.” Even in translation! While the Colombian author’s prose is “superb,” the Canadian translator’s is “idiomatic” – a default quality of the acceptable.

When will reviewers, even enlightened and well-disposed reviewers like Edmund White, ever consider a proper rhetoric for reviewing translation, even for praising it? Will they ever consider the cultural constraint they impose on American readers by speaking down to translation?

Ronald Christ
Santa Fe, NM
New York Times Book Review
Sunday, August 18, 2013, p. 6.

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