Another book from my 20 Books of Summer books list (intro post here) and I’m doing really nicely with books from other people as the last one came from Ali, this one was passed to me by Kaggsy of the Bookish Ramblings (see her review here; I managed not to record when it came in, although she offered it to me on 13 July and I recorded it in my State of the TBR on 01 August (I have three and a half of the print acquisitions recorded there left to read and all are on my 20 Books pile)), and the one I’m currently reading, “White Spines” was from Paul Half Man Half Book!

This is the thirteenth book I’ve completed from my 20 Books project (and I’m currently reading Book 14) and also comes off my TBR 2021-2022 total. I feel like I’m making some progress now, although for every slender novel there’s a hefty work of non-fiction to come …

Anna Aslanyan – “Dancing on Ropes: Translators and the Balance of History”

(late July 2021 – from Kaggsy)

My own work as a freelance translator and interpreter has never, to the best of my knowldge, tipped the scales of history. But it has given me ample food for thought, allowing me to see more vividly the figure of the translator surrounded by precarious events in which they cannot help intervening. It is this image that I would like to outline in these pages. (p. 3)

This interesting book collects various stories and themes from the worlds of translation and interpretation and discusses them in detail, usually linking them to work the author has done in her various roles in the business. Starting in the Introduction with the idea that a mistranslation stopped Japan surrendering before the atom bombs in World War Two (as with so many things, an oversimplification), she goes right back through history, looking at the groups of people who were variously untrusted or trusted too much, protected or (often) in danger – here she talks of the Afghan interpreters who of course have been in even greater peril since the recent withdrawal of troops who relied on them then were forced to leave them behind.

The author’s own experience is woven through the book; for example, she uses the same strategy with manipulative speakers as her forebears have, offering to stand aside and let them do it themselves. This offers a very human aspect to counteract the historical sources and works really well. I enjoyed the section on localisation, as that’s something I do in my own work, in my case localising from US to UK English but also doing cultural localisation or even transcreation (being more creative with the content to fit it to a different culture).

Again not keeping from the political, she talks about the state of the business for state interpreters in the law etc., and, connected in the drive to lower costs, the rise of automated and machine translation, although ending with a positive note. Nothing was too technical or complicated for the average reader, and it was an interesting and engaging read.


This was book number 13 in my 20 Books of Summer 2022!

This was also TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 4 Book 7/28 – 21 to go!