A fascinating collection of essays and conversations on the changing nature of language. From award-winning, internationally known scholar and translator Ilan Stavans comes On Self-Translation,a collection of essays and conversations on language in its multifaceted forms. Stavans discusses the way syntax is being restructured by texting and other technologies. He examines how the alphabet itself is being forgotten by the young, how finger snapping has taken on a new meaning, how the use of ellipses has lapsed, and how autocorrect is shaping the way we communicate. In an incisive meditation, he shows how translating one’s own work reinvents oneself in another tongue. The volume includes tête-à-têtes with Pulitzer Prize–winner Richard Wilbur and short-fiction master Lydia Davis, as well as dialogues on silence, multilingualism, poetry, and the durability of the classics. Stavans’s explorations cover Spanish, English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and the hybrid lexicon of Spanglish. He muses on the meaning of foreignness and on living and dying in different languages. Among his primary concerns are the role and history of dictionaries and the extent to which the authority of language academies is less a reality than a delusion. He concludes with renditions into Spanglish of portions of Hamlet, Don Quixote, and The Little Prince. The wide range of themes and engaging yet informed style confirm Stavans’s status, in the words of the Washington Post, as “Latin America’s liveliest and boldest critic and most innovative cultural enthusiast.”
“On Self-Translation is a beautiful and often profound work. Stavans, a superb stylist, offers erudite meditations on translation, and gives us new ways to think about language itself.” — Jack Lynch, author of The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of' “Proper” English, from Shakespeare to South Park
“Stavans carries his learning light, and has the gift of communicating the profoundest of insights in the simplest of ways. The book is delightfully free of unnecessary jargon and ponderous discourse, allowing the reader time and space for her own reflections without having to slow down in the reading of it. This is work born out of the deep confidence that complete and dedicated immersion in a chosen field of knowledge (and practice) can bring; it is further infused with original wisdom accrued from self-reflexive, lived experiences of multilinguality.” — Kavita Panjabi, Jadavpur University
About the author
Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and the author of many books, including Borges, the Jew, also published by SUNY Press.
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