Book reviewTranslators Through History Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins/Unesco Publishing, 1995. 345 pp. ISBN Hb: (Eur.) 90-272-1613-4 / US 1-55619-694-6 Hfl 150,-; US$ 85.00/ Pb: (Eur.) 90-272-1616-9 / US 1-55619-697-0 Hfl. 56; US$ 31.95 (Benjamins Translation Library, 13).
Reviewed by John Milton
Table of contents
Translators Through History and its French counterpart are the result of a project suggested soon after the founding of FIT (Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs) in the early 1960s, but, with the history of translation taking a back seat in the seventies and eighties, it has only come to fruition in the nineties, now we have suddenly woken up to the value of historical translation studies and the importance of the translator. And indeed it is a mammoth project, much greater than its 345 pages (277 of them text), may lead us at first to believe, involving a veritable army of contributors, translators and revisers. Each of the nine chapters covers the translators' influences in a general area: the "Invention of Alphabets"; the "Development of National Languages", the "Emergence of National Literatures"; the "Dissemination of Knowledge"; the "Reins of Power"; the "Spread of Religions"; the "Transmission of Cultural Values"; the "Writing of Dictionaries"; and "Interpreters and the Making of History". Each chapter (except "Translators and the Writing of Dictionaries") has a number of collaborators, one of whom has overall responsibility for the chapter. Thus "Translators and the Reins of Power" was written by André Lefevere, in collaboration with Lourdes Arencibia Rodriguez (Cuba), Michel Ballard (France), Anthony Pym (Spain), Clara Foz (Canada), Sherry Simon (Canada), D.J.M. Soulas de Russel (Germany), George Talbot (England) and Colette Touitou-Benitah (Israel). Each of the authors' contributions is joined into a homogenised text, divided through sub-headings, so we are left guessing as to who contributed exactly what. Obviously, Translators Through History wishes to avoid being (yet another) collection of papers, and attempts to present a readable continuous text, avoiding jargon and technical terms, to an audience [ p. 179 ]that is not confined to translation scholars, as is mentioned in the Introduction. Another obvious worry of the editors is to avoid being too Eurocentric, and a considerable number of contributors are from outside the traditional centres.