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This item is taken from PN Review 246, Volume 45 Number 4, March - April 2019.


Letter to the Editor
ROBYN MARSACK writes · Dear Editors, I am writing in belated response to the editorial in PNR 243 (Sept–Oct 2018) as an occasional translator and an admirer of Kate Briggs’s This Little Art. I would not want PNR readers to dismiss the book after reading comments that seemed to be based more on Benjamin Moser’s review of it in the NYTBR, rather than a direct encounter with This Little Art itself. It is a pity that this editorial, which obviously wishes to take issue with ‘some of the easier rhetorical gestures of contemporary essay-writing’ – and may be right to do so – has chosen the responses to This Little Art as the vehicle.

First of all, Briggs does not behave like ‘a primary artist’. Indeed, her whole ‘meditation’ – a term to which I’ll return – considers the translator’s relationship to the original text; it is the crux of the matter. The translator, she suggests, is a ‘producer of relations’. (Even the blurb calls translation, as described in the book, ‘an intensely relational activity’.)  As a translator, her relationship has been principally with Barthes, but also more recently with Zola, and in her book she describes the Dutch translation group she belongs to; there is a faint implication in the criticism that two volumes of Barthes scarcely qualify as a basis for her exploration.

On the very next page from what Moser calls her ‘assertion’ (not an ‘argument’, you see) that we are in need of translations, Briggs offers a reason for this need: ‘the translations we ...

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