Translation as Transhumance by Mireille Gansel
A remarkable and illuminating memoir by French translator Mireille Gansel, faithfully rendered in English by Ros Schwartz
Translation as Transhumance is a remarkable and illuminating memoir by French translator Mireille Gansel, faithfully rendered in English by Ros Schwartz. Sparse yet richly told, the memoir borrows from the form of the novella, depicting in an almost impressionistic manner Gansel’s evolving relationship with the act and art of translation.
Gansel’s life is a fascinating one: the daughter of exiled Hungarian Jews, she had relatives across Europe whose textured and inflected German told of a Mitteleuropa no longer in existence. As a student writing her dissertation on the playwright Bertolt Brecht, Gansel crossed into East Berlin each night, and she later translated the work of East German poets unable to find publication in their home country. The emotional heart of the book, though, is Gansel’s time in Vietnam during the war, translating the culture’s poetry in defiance of America’s threat to 'bomb ‘em back to the stone age.'
Interspersed with this narrative are Gansel’s insightful reflections on translation, a process she views as both deeply poetical and alive with political potency. This is a book full of fascination and joy for anyone involved in or simply curious about translation. Beyond this, with its call to look beyond our own borders, it is a remarkably prescient book for our times. 'In these times of solitude and solidarities: translation, a hand reaching from one shore to another where there is no bridge.'