New books at a glanceMethod in Translation History Manchester: St Jerome Publishing, 1998. xiv + 220 pp. ISBN 1-900650-12-6 £24..
Reviewed by Michael Cronin
Table of contents
Historians are conventionally presented as experts on the past. History itself, however, shows us again and again that historians are listened to not so much for what they have to say about the past as to what they can tell us about the present and what they might tell us about the future. For Anthony Pym, present commentary and future speculation, are not aberrations but essential aspects of the historian's calling. One of the four general principles for translation history enunciated by Pym is the priority of the present, "We do translation history in order to express, address and try to solve problems affecting our own situation" (p. x). This does not involve a crass projection of the present on to the past—the past must retain its capacity for surprise—but is simply an acknowledgement that the point of departure for historical analysis is always the here and now of the researcher. Method in Translation History is a description of the methodological issues that any researcher in translation history must bear in mind as they investigate the practice of translation through time. In addition to a concern for present, the other general principles guiding the approach to translation history advocated by Pym are attention to causation (why translations are produced in the first place), a focus on the human translator and the foregrounding of interculturality as a constitutive feature of translators' identities. The book will become required reading for anyone considering research in the area of translation history. Methodological questions are clearly outlined, examples are given from the author's own research in translation history to illustrate points made and jargon is studiously avoided throughout. Pym's passion for his subject is infectious and Method in Translation History is a book that will enthuse as well as enlighten prospective researchers.