Gregory Rabassa is one of the most prominent translators of Latin American literature into English. Born in Yonkers, New York, in 1922, Rabassa obtained his degree from Columbia University and, since 1968, has held a position as professor of Romance Languages and Comparative Literature at Queens College, City University of New York. In the early sixties, Rabassa began to translate some Latin American short stories to be published in a literary quarterly where he worked as assistant editor. Then, he was asked by the editor of a publishing house in New York to translate a couple of sample chapters of Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela. He was subsequently commissioned for the translation of this important Argentine novel and his English version, Hopscotch, was first published in 1966.
Gregory Rabassa has been translating ever since the publication of Hopscotch. Among his most recognized translations are One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez; Paradiso, by José Lezama Lima; and The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, by Joachim Maria Machado de Assis. Other authors whose works Rabassa has translated are Miguel Ángel Asturias, Manuel Mujica Láinez, Clarice Lispector, Mario Vargas Llosa, Demetrio Aguilera-Malta, Dalton Trevisan, Jorge Amado, José Donoso, Luisa Valenzuela, Luis Rafael Sánchez, and Osman Lins.
Besides translating works by authors who are already established as part of the Latin American literary canon–his translations include many works of the so-called Latin American Boom–Rabassa has always been interested in promoting writers who are not internationally well-known. He has also translated fiction by European authors, such as Juan Goytisolo and Juan Benet from Spain, and Mario de Carvalho and António Lobo Antunes from Portugal.
In all, Rabassa has translated over 40 works of Latin American literature, from both Spanish and Portuguese. He has received numerous awards for his translations and has worked actively to help make the translator’s profession more visible. His translator’s memoir, If This Be Treason: Translation and its Dyscontents, was published in 2005. With his work, Rabassa has contributed greatly to the dissemination of Latin American literature to an English-speaking readership.
María Constanza Guzmán
School of Translation – Department of Hispanic Studies
York University, Glendon College