Arthur Goldhammer on the art of translation

Thursday, September 3, 2020 - 16:10 in Mathematics & Economics

Surely there are more direct routes to becoming a respected French-language translator than going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a Ph.D. in mathematics, getting caught up in the Vietnam draft, and then ditching a teaching career and moving to France. But for Arthur Goldhammer, it was a circuitous path that made perfect sense. A New Jersey native with no formal French-language training, Goldhammer translated more than 125 books on French history and politics, as well as classic texts by Albert Camus and Alexis de Tocqueville, for leading academic publishers including Harvard University Press. In 2014, he achieved some celebrity after producing an English version of a book about global inequality by a young French economist named Thomas Piketty. That opus, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” sold more than 2 million copies. Piketty’s follow-up, “Capital and Ideology,” published this year, was Goldhammer’s last translation before retirement. Besides translating, he’s...

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