Gregory Rabassa  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Gregory Rabassa (March 9, 1922 – June 13, 2016) was a prominent American literary translator from Spanish and Portuguese to English. He taught for many years at Columbia University and Queens College.

Life and career

Rabassa was born in Yonkers, New York, U.S., into a family headed by a Cuban émigré. After serving during World War II as an OSS cryptographer and receiving a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth, Rabassa enrolled as a graduate student at Columbia University, where he eventually earned a doctorate. He taught for over two decades at Columbia University before accepting a position at Queens College.

He works primarily in Spanish and Portuguese. He has produced English-language versions of the works of several major Latin American novelists, including Julio Cortázar, Jorge Amado and Gabriel García Márquez. On the advice of Cortázar, García Márquez waited three years for Rabassa's schedule to become open so that he could translate One Hundred Years of Solitude. He later declared Rabassa's translation to be superior to his own Spanish original.

Typically, Rabassa translates without reading the book beforehand, working as he goes.

Rabassa had a particularly close and productive working relation with Cortázar, with whom he shared lifelong passions for jazz and wordplay. For his version of Cortázar's novel, Hopscotch, Rabassa received a National Book Award for Translation.

Rabassa currently teaches at Queens College, where he is a Distinguished Professor. In 2006, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

He has written a memoir detailing his experiences as a translator, If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents, A Memoir.

Selected translations

See also

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