Translation as Transhumance is half-memoir, half-philosophical treatise musing on translation’s potential for humanist engagement. One of the great contemporary French translators, the author has lived her life as a risk-taker.
Going back to her childhood in post-war France, she reflects on her origins as a translator. Gansel’s travels took her to important places at seminal points of the 20th century, such as her encounters with banned German writers in 1960s East Berlin. During the Vietnam war, she went to Hanoi to work on an anthology of Vietnamese poetry.
The book offers a fascinating account of wartime danger, hospitality and human kinship as the city under bombardment. Gansel is brilliant at conveying the sense of exile and alienation that is the price paid for the privilege of not dwelling exclusively in the comforting home of the mother tongue, as she explores her relationship with French, which she has come to know very differently because of her activities as a translator. Her lyrical, delicate text offers a profound engagement with humanist values and a meditation on communication.