Writing

At the intersection of translation studies and Latin American literary studies, The Translator’s Visibility examines contemporary novels by a cohort of writers – including prominent figures such as Cristina Rivera Garza, César Aira, Mario Bellatin, Valeria Luiselli, and Luis Fernando Verissimo – who foreground translation in their narratives.

Drawing on Latin America’s long tradition of critical and creative engagement of translation, these novels explicitly, visibly, use major tropes of translation theory – such as gendered and spatialized metaphors for the practice, and the concept of untranslatability – to challenge the strictures of intellectual property and propriety while shifting asymmetries of discursive authority, above all between the original as a privileged repository of meaning and translation as its hollow emulation.

In this way, The Translator’s Visibility show that translation not only serves to renew national literatures through an exchange of ideas and forms; when rendered visible, it can help us reimagine the terms according to which those exchanges take place. Ultimately, it is a book about language and power: not only the ways in which power wields language, but also the ways in which language can be used to unseat power.

Here’s what a few admired colleagues say about The Translator’s Visibility:

“The history of Latin America is bound with the histories, philosophies, and practices of translation that have taken shape across the continent-in and into distinct academic, economic, social, cultural configurations. The Translator’s Visibility: Scenes from Contemporary Latin American Fiction, Heather Cleary’s lucid, illuminating and strikingly original study, shows how contemporary novelists in Latin America have shaped their fictions around this complex and differentiated history, producing not only some of our time’s most compelling narratives, but also nuanced and far-reaching accounts of translation’s sometimes violent and always disruptive expression in the global cultural and economic market. It will be a model for critics in years to come.”

–  Jacques Lezra, Professor and Chair, Hispanic Studies, University of California at Riverside

“In her up-to-the-minute investigation of translation as it is foregrounded in recent Latin American fictions, Heather Cleary, herself a remarkable translator, apprehends a rather savage array of louche conducts, among them the dismantlement of the author, the disruption, interruption, corruption, and rupture of systems of intellectual property, the resistance to intelligibility, and the parasitic undermining of legitimacy. Obviously very much at home in this seditious underworld, Cleary provides a lucid and celebratory guide to its denizens, the unreliable narrators and translators, pseudo-originals, pseudo-translations, marginalia, prefaces, afterwords, and (especially) footnotes that conspire to overturn the world literary order in general, and in particular the weary tenets that translation is separate from writing, and fiction is separate from theory.”

–  Esther Allen, Professor, Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, Baruch College

“The margins in my copy of The Translator’s Invisibility are full of scribbled praise for Cleary’s sparkling sentences and the ideas they unfold about how translation, as both practice and trope, upends the demands of property and propriety nested in the concept of propriedad intelectual, and about how fictional texts featuring translator-protagonists can help shape new understandings of the always collaborative, sometimes contested activity that authorship always is. Cleary’s readings of the novels she examines are brilliant; her reworking of the concept of untranslatability—which moves it away from the ‘economy of equivalence’—extremely welcome; and her writing full of humor and panache. The Translator’s Visibility is a book I’ll be recommending, returning to, and teaching with for years to come.”

–  Karen Emmerich, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University

“Heather Cleary’s contribution to the Fictional Turn in translation studies pushes the conversation on Latin America’s critical and creative engagement with translation to new and exciting extremes, with a socioeconomically grounded focus on ‘the asymmetries of discursive authority, the conditions under which cultural goods circulate, and the persistent dichotomy between the so-called “creative” traditions of the metropolis and derivative “translating” cultures at the periphery.’ Transformative scholarship; highly recommended.”

–  Douglas Robinson, Professor of Translating and Interpreting, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Available digitally on 12/10/2020 and in hardcover 01/14/2021.
Order it directly from Bloomsbury here.

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…and here’s a selection of my book reviews and essays:

A list of my columns on literature in translation for LitHub’s BookMarks is available here.

“Collaboration” for Two Lines 30: The Future of Translation
Two Lines 2019

There’s No Place Like Home (Including Home Itself)” (Interview with Samanta Schweblin)
Literary Hub 2019

The Secret Bookstores of Buenos Aires
Literary Hub 2016

Canadian Gothic: On Samuel Archibald’s Arvida
Three Percent BTBA Judges Blog 2016

On Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83
Three Percent BTBA Judges Blog 2016

On Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World
Three Percent BTBA Judges Blog 2016

On Yoel Hoffman’s Moods
Three Percent BTBA Judges Blog 2015

Beyond Borges: 5 Argentine Writers You Should Know
Literary Hub 2015

Mario Bellatin’s Jacob the Mutant
Music & Literature
 2015

Mario Bellatin’s Shiki Nagaoka: A Nose for Fiction
Words Without Borders 2013

“Carlos Fuentes’s Vlad”
Words Without Borders 2012

“The Geometry of Dissent: on the novels of Juan José Saer”
The Quarterly Conversation 2012

“César Aira’s Varamo
Words Without Borders 2012

“Sergio Chejfec’s My Two Worlds
Big Other 2011

“César Aira’s The Literary Conference
Big Other 2010