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the Complete Review the complete review - literary criticism/translation

Performing without a Stage

Robert Wechsler

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To purchase Performing without a Stage

Title: Performing without a Stage
Author: Robert Wechsler
Genre: Literary Criticism
Written: 1998
Length: 320 pages
Availability: Performing without a Stage - US
Performing without a Stage - UK
Performing without a Stage - Canada
  • The Art of Literary Translation

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Our Assessment:

B- : informative and broad discussion of the art of translation, with the writing a bit too superficial

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Washington Post A 14/6/1998 Michael Dirda
Publishers Weekly C+ 9/3/1998 .

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers.

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The complete review's Review:

       Performing without a Stage is not quite a vanity book, but Robert Wechsler is the publisher of the Catbird Press, i.e. the publisher of this, his own, book. One of Catbird's specialties is Central European literature -- primarily Czech fiction -- and so publisher Wechsler is familiar with questions and problems of translation. He is less interested (and less interesting) in writing about the theory of translation. What makes this book worthwhile is his emphasis on the art of the translator him or herself -- the difficulties of the profession, not just regarding the words themselves.
       Wechsler does provide a good introduction to questions of how to translate -- whether to do so strictly literally or whether to stray farther from the literal in trying to capture the spirit of a piece -- and in his presentation of a passage from the Iliad in over thirty translations he shows us how many different approaches there are (and how significant the historical period when a translation is made is). A great supporter of translation and its practitioners, Wechsler's love of it shines through, although his writing is a bit to ra-ra enthusiastic, and his expression sometimes too pedestrian. Nevertheless, he makes important points about how difficult translators have it, especially in the U.S.A., where there is a paucity of foreign literature available and translators get little respect (or money).
       We at the complete review hate translation. We want to read works in their original versions, because a translation is inevitably an interpretation (as Wechsler acknowledges), and we want to be the ones doing the interpreting. Regrettably we must rely on translation, since we are by and large illiterate (knowing only a few of the world's languages). We still prefer strictly literal translations, trying to mirror the original, and we'll take a footnote explaining an unclear meaning over a more suitable but not literal translation of a word or sentiment any time. Nevertheless, Wechsler's support of translators is welcome, and for anyone interested in the subject it is indeed a book that we can recommend. The many comments by actual translators were a bit much for us, but they do lend the book some authority. On the whole the parts on being a translator are more interesting than his more theoretical beginning, but the book offers a quite valuable insight into this profession. Useful also are his recommendations and comments about other literature in the field.

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Performing without a Stage: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Born in 1954, Robert Wechsler is publisher of the Catbird Press.

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