Resource List: Reading and Reviewing Literary Translations

resource list for reading and reviewing translations

This is an ongoing resource list of best practices around reading and reviewing literary translations—topics that often come up in discussions with readers of my weekly newsletter, We Are All Translators.

If you know of a resource that isn’t listed below, please share it in the discussion area below. Thanks.

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NOTES:

1. I don’t necessarily agree with ALL of the practices recommended in the links below. However, together, they represent various schools of thought and show an ever-evolving body of work around how to read and/or review literary translations.

2. While I’m glad to see, over the last few years, how reviews of translated books are no longer about what’s been “lost in translation” or how “faithful” a translation might be to the original, I wish more book reviewers would read some of these works below. What we need more is conversations around the reception, position, and effects of a translated work on the receiving culture. We need to understand better how a translated work might be facilitating (or not) the flow of cultural information across geographical and linguistic boundaries.

Essays about Reading and Reviewing Literary Translations

‘Blunt-Force Ethnic Credibility’ by Som-Mai Nguyen. Astra Magazine. June 2022.

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‘How to Read Like a Translator’ by Joshua Sperling. Public Books. September 2021.

‘Are Translators Ventriloquists?’ by Eric Fishman. Rain Taxi. Spring 2021.

‘Translation and Translation Criticism: Probing a Reciprocal Interrelation’ by Viraj Desai. Translation Today Vol. 14, Issue 2. December 2020.

‘Lily Meyer and Mona Kareem on Their New Series, Close-Up: An Experiment in Reviewing Translation’. Asymptote Journal. May 2020.

‘On Criticizing Translation: An Interview with Tim Parks’ by Allison Braden. Asymptote Journal. May 2019.



‘How We Review Translations: In defense of an endless task’ by David Stromberg. Public Seminar. April 2018.

‘The Tiff: How Should We Review Translations?’ by Maia Evrona and Sue Burke. Asymptote Journal. October 2015.

‘Lost in the Book Review’ by Esther Allen. In Other Words #44. 2014 (note: working to get a link or PDF for this.)

‘On Reviewing Translations: Confessions of a Book Reviewer (of works in translation)’ by Jonathan Blitzer. Words Without Borders. April 2011.

‘On Reviewing Translations: Susan Bernofsky, Jonathan Cohen, and Edith Grossman’ by David Varno. Words Without Borders. March 2011.

‘On Reviewing Translations: Daniel Hahn’ by Daniel Hahn. Words Without Borders. March 2011.

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Translation Today Vol. 5 Issues 1-2. Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore. 2008. (note: almost the entire issue focuses on reviewing translations)

‘The World as India’. The St. Jerome Lecture on Literary Translation. In Memoriam W. G. Sebald. from At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches by Susan Sontag. December 2007.

‘How to Read a Translation’ by Lawrence Venuti. Words Without Borders. July 2004.

‘The Task of a Translator’ by Walter Benjamin (tr. Harry Zohn). [first printed as an introduction to a translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux Parisiens (1923); this copy-text is from The Translation Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence Venuti (Routledge, 2000)]

Books about Reading and Reviewing Literary Translations

Sensitive Reading: The Pleasures of South Asian Literature in Translation by Yigal Bronner (Editor), Charles Hallisey (Editor), David Shulman (Translator). The University of California Press. January 2022.

How to Read World Literature by David Damrosch. Wiley-Blackwell. September 2017.

Literary Translation by Chantal Wright (chapter two in particular). Routledge. February 2016.

Literary Translation and the Rediscovery of Reading by Clive Scott. Cambridge University Press. March 2015.

An Approach to Translation Criticism (Benjamins Translation Library) by Lance Hewson. John Benjamins Publishing Company. September 2011.

Literature in Translation: Teaching Issues and Reading Practices edited by Carol Maier and Françoise Massaridier-Kenney. The Kent State University Press. November 2010.

Evaluation and Translation: Special Issue of the Translator by Carol Maier. Routledge. November 2000.

Translation Criticism: The Potentials and Limitations: Categories and Criteria for Translation Quality Assessment by Katharina Reiss (tr. by Errol F. Rhodes). Routledge. June 2000.

More books related to literary translation and language.

NOTE: If you purchase one of the above books, a tiny affiliate fee might come my way. You don’t have to, but it will be a way to show your appreciation if this list has been helpful to you. Thank you. ~Jenny Bhatt.

Other Resources

Reading in Translation: Translations reviewed by translators.

The Art of Reviewing Literature in Translation‘. Tara Wanda Merrigan with Jeremy Tiang, Emma Ramadan, Samuel Martin, Kevin Blankinship, and Shelley Frisch. National Book Critics’ Circle. November 2021.

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Jenny Bhatt is an author, a literary translator, and a book critic. Currently, she is a Ph.D. student of literature at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has taught creative writing at Writing Workshops Dallas and the PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship Program. Sign up for her free newsletters, We Are All Translators and/or Historical Fiction Craft Notes. Jenny lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Texas.

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