This Little Art


Product Details

$20.00  $18.60
Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publish Date
5.0 X 1.0 X 7.7 inches | 0.85 pounds
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About the Author

Kate Briggs is the translator of two volumes of Roland Barthes's lecture and seminar notes at the Collège de France: The Preparation of the Novel and How to Live Together, both published by Columbia University Press. She teaches at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam.


'Kate Briggs's This Little Art shares some wonderful qualities with Barthes's own work - the wit, thoughtfulness, invitation to converse, and especially the attention to the ordinary and everyday in the context of meticulously examined theoretical and scholarly questions. This is a highly enjoyable read: informative and stimulating for anyone interested in translation, writing, language, and expression.'
-- Lydia Davis, author of Can't and Won't

'Not so much a demystification as a re-enchantment of the practice of literary translation, that maddening, intoxicating 'little' art which yokes humility and hubris, constraint and creativity - in Briggs's passionate telling, you can practically see the sparks fly.'
-- Deborah Smith, translator of Han Kang and winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2016

'In This Little Art, a digressive, scholarly, absorbing 350-page essay, Kate Briggs roams across the vast terrain - practical, theoretical, historical, philosophical - of translation. Briggs's writing is erudite and assured, while maintaining a tone that is modest and speculative; this paradox encapsulates something of the essence of translation, which is always contingent (no translation is ever definitive) yet also - for its time at least - authoritative. ... There have been many books written about translation, but few as engaging, intriguing or exciting as Kate Briggs's exploration, with its digressive forays, infinite self-questioning, curiosity, modesty and devotion to the concrete - the very qualities, as it happens, that distinguish the translator's labour.'
-- Natasha Lehrer, Times Literary Supplement

'This beautiful book, part memoir, part love letter, gives a glimpse of the art of translation, as Briggs recounts her struggle to render into English Roland Barthes's late lecture courses... Lucid and engaging, Briggs's book is essential, not just for translators, but anyone who has felt the magic of reading.'
-- Publishers' Weekly, starred review

'This Little Art is rich, full of insightful anecdote and surprising analysis. But what sticks with me, what I have learned and retained from this teacher who was never my teacher, from this book that was never a textbook, is a vivid sense of how often the normal moves of translation critique miss almost everything that is worth noting about the "little art" they seek to elucidate, especially when they forget the importance of pace, when they disregard the fact that the writing-again that is translation is also a writing-anew, and when they ignore the motivations, affect, and singularity of individual translators.'
-- Jan Steyn, Music & Literature

'Though it does not present itself as a memoir, a how-to guide, or a scholarly monograph, This Little Art derives its magic precisely from being all of these and more: gifting us not only with a genre-bending work of imaginative criticism, but also a fitting metaphor for all that the work of translation is, and can be.'
-- Theophilus Kwek, Asymptote

'[A] wonderful book ... deeply, velvety rich and utterly life-affirming.'
-- Manchester Review of Books

'This Little Art reads like a jubilant tribute to that vital impulse that marks the reader's attempt to engage with the pleasure of the text at the very basic level of language, a delight that derives from the minutiae of writing's unfolding, the joy of seeing both how contingent language is and yet how absolutely necessary it appears in the works of writers and their translators ... Briggs has written a testimony about the possibility of reading a text so intensely that one feels tempted to recreate it.'
-- Carlos Fonseca, BOMB

'In This Little Art, Kate Briggs looks at the "everyday, peculiar thing" that is translation, testing it out, worrying at its questions. She deftly weaves her recurring threads (Roland Barthes, Crusoe's table, The Magic Mountain, aerobic dance classes) into something fascinatingly elastic and expansive, an essay - meditation? call to arms? - that is full of surprises both erudite and intimate, and rich in challenges to the ways we think about translation. And so, inevitably, to the ways we think about writing, reading, artistry and creativity, too. As a translator, I'm regularly disappointed by what I read about translation - it feels self-indulgent, irrelevant in its over-abstraction - but This Little Art is altogether different. It comes to its revelations through practicality, curiosity, devotion, optimism, an intense and questioning scrutiny, as the work of a great translator so often does.'
-- Daniel Hahn, translator of José Eduardo Agualusa and winner of the International Dublin Literary Award in 2017

'An awareness of the linguistic layers between character and narrator, writer and reader, writer and reader and translator, signals the adventure promised in Briggs' text... [Briggs's] playfulness includes riddles ('What rhymes with Barthes?'), everyday epiphanies, and a game of word 'tag' as chapter titles are carried over. We may find Briggs sitting comfortably alongside contemporary writers exploring the boundaries of non-fiction: Maggie Nelson, Mary Ruefle, Rebecca Solnit.'
-- Sohini Basak, MAP Magazine

'This Little Art maps the current landscape and disputed territories of literary translation with exquisite precision. With xenophobia on the rise across the western world, the complex art of translation has achieved a new level of relevance for English-language readers and Briggs has crafted an excellent exploration of the reasons why.'
-- Idra Novey, author of Ways to Disappear and translator of Clarice Lispector

'There is no other book on translation quite like This Little Art. It is a triumph and a joy; an ever-shifting kaleidoscope trained on a process which is too often invisible; and a reminder that choosing between one word and another is the basis not only of translation, but of working out what we think about the world.'
-- Review 31