Susan Bernofsky on Artists as Translators

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Susan Bernofsky
26 Feb 2015 – Pew Center for Arts & Heritage

On the occasion of the American premiere of Felix Mendelssohn’s 1841 revision of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion—presented by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia with Center support—we invited author and German-language literature translator Susan Bernofsky to discuss the practice of artistic translation.

Mendelssohn’s revision was designed to popularize Bach among mid-19th-century audiences and included such modifications as replacing the boy choir with adults, and shortening the overall length of the piece.

Much like Mendelssohn brought his own creative sensibility to bear on his translation of the work for his generation, Bernofsky argues that translating a literary work requires a great deal of interpretation and flexibility, as well as sensitivity to contemporary language and culture. Artistic translations “bear the mark of their translators to a far greater extent than the layperson might assume,” she says.

Read the full article here.