Why Retranslate the Classics?

New York City - Jan 17, 2015

featuring Susan Bernofsky, Edith Grossman, and Damion Searls. View photos here.


On a crisp winter’s evening in January, some 110 people congregated at the New School’s elegant auditorium in downtown New York to celebrate Asymptote’s fourth anniversary. In keeping with this momentous occasion it was our biggest event yet, and the audience had the pleasure of listening to three of the most respected contemporary literary translators into English discuss their work in retranslating the classics of Western Literature. Susan Bernofsky (Kafka's The Metamorphosis), Edith Grossman (Cervantes's Don Quixote) and Damion Searls (the Paris Review Daily’s language columnist and a translator from four languages) each read from excerpts of their retranslations of classic works and discussed what inspired them to undertake this challenging task. After these individual presentations, our speakers engaged in a enlightening and entertaining panel discussion moderated by Asymptote’s director of outreach, Tara FitzGerald, that considered in more detail the evening’s driving question: Why Retranslate the Classics? The subsequent audience Q&A sparked a lively discussion that spilled over into a cheese and wine reception held in the spacious lobby of the auditorium. A great time was had by all, drawing to a close only when it was time for the auditorium to close its doors.