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This item is taken from PN Review 243, Volume 45 Number 1, September - October 2018.

AT UNIVERSITY IN 1968 I read the Penguin edition of Albert Camus’s Exile and the Kingdom translated by Justin O’Brien, originally published a decade earlier. I was especially taken with the story ‘Jonas, or the Artist at Work’. Wanting to read it again a year or two ago, I acquired a much later Penguin translation. The book was unrecognisable to me. Either memory played me false, or the gulf between the two versions was deep indeed. Half a century separated my readings and almost half a century stood between the two translations, with all the changes in language and custom entailed. Camus was alive when O’Brien published; indeed he was already at work when Camus received the Nobel Prize in 1957, the year the stories were first collected in France. O’Brien was a male translator; the later version was by Carol Cosman (2006).1

My Camus experience came to mind when I read Benjamin Moser’s evaluation of Kate Briggs’s This Little Art (Fitzcarraldo Editions, $20) in the New York Times Book Review of 1 July. His piece released a social media firestorm and provoked an orchestrated reply signed by nine of the little art’s big guns, including Susan Bernofsky, Lydia Davis, Karen Emmerich and Lawrence Venuti.

I knew Moser as a re-translator of the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector whose work featured in PNR in Giovanni Pontiero’s translations in 1986 when Carcanet was publishing his versions of Lispector’s major works. I did not warm to Moser’s collaborative translations, but they cut the mustard with New Directions in New York and have been instrumental ...

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