If Canadians Think So, It Must Be True


| 4/7/2008 8:56:00 AM


We need more novelists and poets to be translators, writes Stephen Henighan in the April Quill & Quire (article not available online). While he’s addressing mainly his Canadian audience, his observations certainly pertain south of the border: Multilingualism, as he makes clear, used to be part and parcel of a thriving literary culture.

In the 19th century, many Europeans would have read in both their native language and in French, while in times previous, a working knowledge of Latin and Greek predominated among the literati. More recently, translators have acted as aesthetic gatekeepers, spurring affection for Russian literature in the 1930s and for French existentialism in the 1950s and ‘60s.

These days, however, as Henighan points out, two of the most “internationalized cultures—the Anglo-American and the Muslim-Arabic—have the planet’s lowest rates of translation activity,” a claim that lends itself to our image of East-West misapprehension.

Though such socio-politics are central to the argument in favor of translating literature, Henighan emphasizes the creativity associated with multilingualism. He mentions, for two examples, the work of Jorge Luis Borges and Isabel Allende. Both honed their idiosyncrasies through the study and translation of languages foreign to them. Translation is therefore vital not only for the health of communication between cultures, but also for the renovation of literary style.

Michael Rowe





Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!




Facebook Instagram Twitter