2006 National Medal of Arts
Literary translator, Brooklyn, NY
Gregory Rabassa is one of the most prominent translators of Latin American
literature into English, bringing Latin American literature to English-speaking
readers worldwide. He is best known as the translator of Julio Cortázar's
novel "Rayuela" (Hopscotch in English), for which he
received the 1967 U.S. National Book Award for translation.
Gregory Rabassa has been translating since 1966, also the year in which
Hopscotch was published. Among his most recognized translations
are One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez;
Paradiso, by José Lezama Lima; and The Posthumous Memoirs
of Bras Cubas, by Joaquim 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.
In addition to translating works by authors considered part of the Latin
American literary canon, Rabassa has translated many works of the so-called
Latin American Boom. In all, he has translated more than 40 works of Latin
American literature, from both Spanish and Portuguese. He has also brought
the fiction of European authors such as Juan Goytisolo and Juan Benet from
Spain, and Mario de Carvalho and António Lobo Antunes from Portugal
to an English-speaking audience.
Born in Yonkers, New York, he grew up in New Hampshire where he attended
Dartmouth College. In 1942, he enlisted in the army and served in North
Africa and Italy with the Office of Strategic Services. Rabassa earned his
doctoral degree from Columbia University in 1954. Since 1968, he has been
a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures
at Queens College and in the Ph.D. Program in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian
Literatures of the Graduate School and University Center, CUNY.
In 2001, the PEN American Center honored him with a career achievement
award (The Gregory Kolovakos Award) for his contributions to the appreciation
of Hispanic literature. He sits on the editorial advisory committees of
several literary journals, including Brasil/Brazil, Review: Latin American
Literature and Arts and Hopscotch. In 2006, he received the
PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir for his book If This
Be Treason: Translation and its Dyscontents.
2006 National Medal of Arts recipient and literary translator Gregory Rabassa accepts his award from President and Mrs. Laura Bush in an Oval Office ceremony on November 9, 2006. Mr. Rabassa's citation reads, "His masterful English translations of some of Latin America's finest contemporary literature continue to enhance our cultural understanding and enrich our lives." White House photo by Paul Morse.
< 2006 National Medal of Arts press release
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