Why Translation Matters argues for the cultural importance of translation and for a more encompassing and nuanced appreciation of the translator’s role. As the acclaimed translator Edith Grossman writes in her introduction, My intention is to stimulate a new consideration of an area of literature that is too often ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented.”
For Grossman, translation has a transcendent importance: Translation not only plays its important traditional role as the means that allows us access to literature originally written in one of the countless languages we cannot read, but it also represents a concrete literary presence with the crucial capacity to ease and make more meaningful our relationships to those with whom we may not have had a connection before. Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar. As nations and as individuals, we have a critical need for that kind of understanding and insight. The alternative is unthinkable.”
Throughout the four chapters of this bracing volume, Grossman’s belief in the crucial significance of the translator’s work, as well as her rare ability to explain the intellectual sphere that she inhabits as interpreter of the original text, inspires and provokes the reader to engage with translation in an entirely new way.
Grossman is at her eloquent best not when she makes plaintive, resentful demands that the "bloated international conglomerates" owning the major publishing houses face up to their responsibility to foster literature in translation, but rather when she reveals her joy in her work and her true inspiration…In the end, Grossman warmly…and gratefully rehearses the twofold answer to the question of her title: translation matters because it is an expression and an extension of our humanity, the secret metaphor of all literary communication; and because the creation of any literary translation is (or at least must be) an original writing, not a pathetic shadow or tracing of the inaccessible "original" but the creation, indeed, of a secondand as we have seen, a third and a ninthbut always a new work, in another language.