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 lucid and erudite, but above all it is engaging, entertaining and illuminating … as exhilarating and invigorating as a lungful of chill, pure air in a classroom grown musty with dogma.
, THE SPECTATOR
With impressive breadth and scrupulous detail, translator Polizzotti offers a manifesto about what translation is, what it should be, and why it is important … Polizzotti’s book is suffused with expertise and displays his decades of experience in incisively capturing the nuances of an esoteric discipline, while also offering a passionate defense of his trade’s larger value.
There is no such thing as a perfect translation, claims Polizzotti, adding: “And so much the better.” Translation deserves to join other forms of artistic expression on its own terms, but the process should “start in homes and in schools.” This book has the potential to inspire such a change.
, Financial Times
Sympathy for the Traitor is lucid and erudite, but above all it is engaging, entertaining and illuminating and Polizzotti’s manifesto is as exhilarating and invigorating as a lungful of chill, pure air in a classroom grown musty with dogma. He eschews the dour fingerwagging that translation is somehow ‘good for us’, as though it were literary cod-liver oil, and revels instead in those voices that offer ‘a particular delight, an irreplaceable thrill of discovery that is available nowhere else’. As he persuasively argues: if literature in translation is valuable in today’s world, it is because such minds and voices are exceedingly rare, and we cannot afford to be ignorant of a single one of them.
In Sympathy for the Traitor, his acute, pugnacious manifesto, Mark Polizzotti takes issue with the adage traduttore traditore: translators aren’t traducers or traitors, ghosts or parrots, or helpmeets, but writers in their own write (as John Lennon put it). The longstanding ideal of the good translator’s self-effacement behind the towering original fails to take full measure of their vital role in recognising their parity with the author: ‘It takes respect for one’s own work,’ Polizzotti writes, ‘belief that one’s translation is worth judging on its own merits (or flaws), and that, if done properly, it can stand shoulder to shoulder with the source text.’
—London Review of Books
To Polizzotti, a translator deserves notice as an artist, no matter how hidden her art may be. The ability to hide one’s voice is an art, and it’s one readers should learn to look for. In other words, Polizzotti asks readers not to suspend belief, but to catch ourselves in the act of believing.