Michael Henry Heim — The Man Between

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I wanted to share some news about a very special book from Open Letter Books that will be publishing in October: The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim & A Life in Translation.

For those who are unfamiliar with Heim, he was a truly astonishing translator: for starters, he translated from eight different languages. And not only that, he was known for making some of the most beautiful translations possible from some of the most difficult-to-translate writers. We’re talking Thomas Mann, Hugo Claus, Milan Kundera . . .

In addition to that, Heim was a tireless advocate of translation: he educated a new generation of translators as a professor at UCLA, and he also established the PEN Translation Fund out of his own pocket. He was also a mentor to many, a friend, and inspiration . . . This is some truly legendary stuff, and translation would simply not be anywhere near where it is today if not for his efforts.

So it’s really wonderful that Open Letter has put together a tribute to Heim’s life and works. And we at Two Lines Press are extraordinarily proud to be a part of this book.

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When our parent organization, the Center for the Art of Translation, moved into its new offices back in 2011, we wanted to host an event to celebrate the occasion, and Heim was exactly the person we wanted to have at the center of this event. Even though he was at the time sick with the stage IV cancer that would eventually end his life, Heim made the journey upstate to San Francisco and gave a very inspiring speech about the “three eras of translation.”

Far from a dry academic lecture, this speech is a concise, engaging overview of the last 50 years of translation in the U.S. (Heim couches it in terms of three eras). It also ends with a call to arms to translators everywhere, with actual concrete ideas and goals that they can work on. It’s exactly the sort of thing that we should hear more of in the translation community.

When Esther Allen later got in touch with us to ask to include the speech in the book, we all immediately agreed that it would be a true honor. (And Esther has done a fantastic job annotating the speech throughout.)

In addition to that, this book is packed with all sorts of other things that will be of interest to translators and the translation-loving (all Heim-related, of course). Here are some images of the table of contents to whet your appetite.

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