Hopscotch Translation Series: Mark Polizzotti's "Sympathy for the Traitor" w/ Chris Clarke

Please join us for the 8th installment of our
Hopscotch Translation Series

—a discussion of— 
with MARK POLIZZOTTI (the author) and translator CHRIS CLARKE!


An engaging and unabashedly opinionated examination of what translation is and isn't.

For some, translation is the poor cousin of literature, a necessary evil if not an outright travesty—summed up by the old Italian play on words, traduttore, traditore (translator, traitor). For others, translation is the royal road to cross-cultural understanding and literary enrichment. In this nuanced and provocative study, Mark Polizzotti attempts to reframe the debate along more fruitful lines. Eschewing both these easy polarities and the increasingly abstract discourse of translation theory, he brings the main questions into clearer focus: What is the ultimate goal of a translation? What does it mean to label a rendering “faithful”? (Faithful to what?) Is something inevitably lost in translation, and can something also be gained? Doestranslation matter, and if so, why? Unashamedly opinionated, both a manual and a manifesto, his book invites usto sympathize with the translator not as a “traitor” but as the author's creative partner.

Polizzotti, himself a translator of authors from Patrick Modiano to Gustave Flaubert, explores what translation is and what it isn't, and how it does or doesn't work. Translation, he writes, “skirts the boundaries between art and craft, originality and replication, altruism and commerce, genius and hack work.” In Sympathy for the Traitor, he shows us how to read not only translations but also the act of translation itself, treating it not as a problem to be solved but as an achievement to be celebrated—something, as Goethe put it, “impossible, necessary, and important.”

"Lively, readable, and often funny … a likably idiosyncratic sequence of essays on a topic that is of more importance than ever in our globalized world … Polizzotti makes one feel that creating and reading translated literature can be a genuinely pleasurable experience."
—Emily Wilson, New York Review of Books

"Sympathy for the Traitor is a swift, lucid, and engaging tour of what translation is and does. Polizzotti reviews two thousand years of thought on the subject, sweeps away contorted academic theorizing, and makes an unbreakable case for sympathetic readability. And then, acknowledging the many peculiarities of the mind-meld that is translation, he goes on to visit the farther reaches of translingual exploration. This little book deserves to become a standard text."
—Luc Sante, author of The Other Paris

MARK POLIZZOTTI has translated more than fifty books from the French, including works by Gustave Flaubert, Patrick Modiano, Marguerite Duras, André Breton, and Raymond Roussel. A Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the recipient of a 2016 American Academy of Arts & Letters Award for Literature, he is the author of eleven books, including Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995; revised ed., 2009), which was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction; Luis Buñuel’s Los Olvidados (British Film Institute, 2006); Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (Bloomsbury, 2006); and Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto (MIT Press, 2018). His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, New Republic, Wall Street Journal, ARTnews, The Nation, Parnassus, Partisan Review, Bookforum, and elsewhere. He directs the publications program at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

CHRIS CLARKE grew up in Western Canada, and currently lives in Philadelphia. His published work includes translations of Pierre Mac Orlan (Wakefield Press), and Oulipo members Raymond Queneau (New Directions), François Caradec (MIT Press), Olivier Salon, and Jacques Jouet (Toad Press). He was a recipient of a 2016 PEN/Heim  grant for his translation of Marcel Schwob’s Imaginary Lives (Wakefield Press), and his translation of Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano's In the Café of Lost Youth (NYRB) was shortlisted for the French-American Foundation Translation Prize. Chris is a doctoral candidate in French at The Graduate Center (CUNY), and became a member of the Outranspo in 2014.

Event date: 
Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto Cover Image
ISBN: 9780262537025
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mit Press - January 29th, 2019

Sleep of Memory (The Margellos World Republic of Letters) Cover Image
By Patrick Modiano, Mark Polizzotti (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780300238303
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Yale University Press - October 16th, 2018

Dictionary of Gestures: Expressive Comportments and Movements in Use Around the World Cover Image
By Francois Caradec, Philippe Cousin (Illustrator), Chris Clarke (Translator)
ISBN: 9780262038492
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mit Press - November 27th, 2018